Social Media and Your Business: When to (and When Not to) Respond to Negative Social Media/Reviews

Social Media and Your Business: When to (and When Not to) Respond to Negative Social Media/Reviews

by Jane Haskins, Esq., June 2019

If your business has a social media presence, you're bound to get some negative reviews. Receiving negative reviews can hurt your feelings and make you angry. They may seem unfair.

Person giving a one-star review

But it's a mistake to ignore these reviews and hope no one will notice them. Research shows that 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, and that number is 95% for consumers ages 18 to 34. Plus, businesses' responses to reviews are read by 89% of consumers. This means that the way you respond—or don't respond—to a negative review can have a big impact.

Here are some tips for managing your online reviews.

Responding to vs. Ignoring Negative Reviews

As a general rule, always respond to negative reviews, and do it quickly. This means putting someone on your team in charge of monitoring reviews on all the social media sites where your business has a presence.

Responding promptly shows customers that you care about their experience and want to make things right for them. This means a lot to the person leaving the review, and it's also a good way to show potential customers that, when things go wrong, you work hard to resolve any issues. If you ignore negative reviews, customers who read them get the message that you don't really care.

With that said, there are some negative reviews that don't merit a response. You don't need to respond to trolls who repeatedly leave nasty comments, to obscene reviews, or to reviews that don't seem to have anything to do with your company or products. Some social media platforms allow you to delete these reviews.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

First, take a nice deep breath. If the review makes you angry or upset, walk away and come back when you feel calmer. Remember the mantra, “The customer is always right," and be polite and accommodating. Here are some guidelines:

  • Start by saying you are sorry the customer is having difficulties. Note that you can say this without admitting your company did something wrong.
  • Personalize the message by referring specifically to the situation the customer described in the review. This shows the customer you've read the review and care about the customer's issue.
  • Offer to resolve the situation.
  • Take the conversation away from your public social media feed. Rather than having a string of public comments about the details of this customer's issue, ask the customer to continue the discussion via message or email. This keeps negative reviews from crowding out the positive ones in your social media feeds.
  • Fix the issue to the customer's satisfaction. Follow up your conversation by addressing the problem. Your customers are more likely to trust you if they see that you truly care about their issue and stand behind your product or service.

You can and should respond to positive reviews, too. It's a great way to interact with customers and show them you appreciate their business.

Learning from Negative Reviews

Reviews are a window into the way your customers view your products and services and the overall customer experience you provide. Negative reviews can be a strong signal that you need to do some things differently if you want your business to succeed.

For example, if customers consistently say the service is slow at your restaurant, you can talk to your employees and find out what's causing the issue. You may discover you need to hire more cooks or servers, get new kitchen equipment, or improve staff training. If customers complain that a part broke on your product, they may have helped you discover a manufacturing issue. Pay attention to the comments you receive—both positive and negative—and you will learn volumes about how you can do better in the future.

Following Up

After you've taken action, follow up on negative reviews to confirm that your customer is satisfied. This helps you improve your customer service process and avoid receiving another negative review from the same person. Some companies follow up with a survey, while others strive to bring the customer back by offering a discount on future products or services.

Consider asking now-satisfied customers to update their negative reviews to show the problem was solved, or to delete their negative reviews altogether. Some people write negative reviews out of anger and frustration, and—once their problem is fixed—they are actually quite happy with your company.

No company gets 100% positive reviews online. But, by responding promptly to reviews and resolving problems quickly, you can minimize their impact and earn your customers' trust.

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