How to respond to negative online reviews with practical examples

Are you the manager of a restaurant or hotel and don’t know how to respond to negative reviews from your customers? Don’t worry! Negative reviews offer important marketing opportunities that you can use to your advantage.

In fact, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in these cases is to fall into the temptation of removing the comment thinking that you are saving your business reputation in this way. In reality, it is exactly the opposite!

Read this article to understand how to respond to negative online reviews effectively.

explore how to respond to negative reviews

That’s what I’m going to tell you:

  • What are the general steps to follow when and how to respond to negative reviews, so as not to risk gross mistakes and losing customers?
  • Specifically, how to handle a negative review on Google, TripAdvisor, or Booking.
  • What to do if the reviews are false.
  • Some examples of responses to negative reviews, from which you can take inspiration.
  • A little trick on how to turn negative reviews into positive ones.

If you are interested in learning more about the best techniques for effectively moderating online user comments on your web pages, then I recommend you take a look at the Digital Coach® Social Media Manager Course.

How to respond to negative reviews

Nobody likes to receive criticism about their work, especially when the driving force is the passion and constant commitment with which they try to get the most out of their work every day. However, nobody is perfect and a few oversights in the course of one’s career can happen to anyone.

What makes the difference in these cases is how one manages to respond to negative reviews. Getting nervous, ignoring the messages, or even responding rudely are certainly not helpful behaviors for resolving the issue in style and even coming out with one’s head held high.

If you are looking for a way to respond to negative reviews in a winning and polite manner, safeguarding your business’ reputation, pay attention to the steps I will outline below.

These are general indications that are valid in all kinds of circumstances and constitute a good starting point to begin addressing the issue in an authoritative manner.

Remaining calm and positive

As we have already mentioned, receiving negative reviews can be an opportunity to highlight one’s integrity and how one cares for one’s customers in all circumstances.

This is why getting heated is never helpful, if you feel upset about the negative comment that has just been made to you, first of all, you need to regain your composure. A small pause and a few deep breaths can be the best allies to clear your mind and face the situation with the right positivity.

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Analyze carefully the comment made to you

Now that you are calm and relaxed, try to take your time to understand the comment, as it can often happen that you misinterpret what the customer intended to communicate.

Read the review at least two to three times and then carefully check whether the circumstances that have been described actually happened. Analyzing the situation by looking for a match with reality is a fundamental step, as it will allow you to discern which negative reviews are useful and which are false reviews by so-called ‘trolls’ (which we will deal with later).

Providing a response in the shortest possible time

The first signal you can offer a dissatisfied customer is sure to show him that his opinion is important to you.

A good way to show this is certainly to offer him an answer as quickly as possible so that he can immediately find common ground and discuss what happened.

respond immediately

Therefore, it is important to avoid aggravating the situation by neglecting your review for too long or even worse by ignoring it.

Apologize to the customer and thank them for the review

Although it may not come naturally, the best way to start responding to negative reviews is to apologize for the inconvenience, especially if what prompted the review is an actual fault.

There is nothing to be ashamed of, some inconveniences at work can happen, but what is important is to take responsibility.

This will immediately help ease the tension and re-establish a bond with the customer who will immediately feel reassured.

apologize to customer

Furthermore, thanking him for the review, even if negative, will show that you did not suffer the accusation by being defensive, but rather welcomed it as a valuable opportunity to improve the quality of your service.

Demonstrate to the customer that you have understood what their discomfort was

After showing the customer that his opinion is important by thanking him and apologizing to him, the next step is to show him that you have fully understood his feedback and that his case has been taken seriously.

A very good procedure, in this case, is to reply to him by picking up on all the points of dissatisfaction that his comment touched on, without leaving out any details.

Providing a solution to the problem

Once you have shown that you have understood what the heart of the problem was, what the customer expects in order for him to return to you is that you provide him with a solution to the problem he has exposed, so as to reassure him that if he decides to return he will enjoy an improved service.

provide solution to problem

This will not only help you to recover an unsatisfied customer but will certainly help to improve your online reputation in the eyes of potential customers who read the review and who will also be reassured that it was your priority to solve this problem, which will clearly no longer exist in the future.

End the message on a positive note

This last step is a very effective ploy to entice the customer to give you a second chance and to show the network how you resent what happened.

end message positively

As a gesture of amends, you can in fact conclude your response by inviting the writer of the review to come back to you with a discount on the next service, or perhaps a free gift. This gesture will make your intervention not just a set of words, but materialize into something effective.

How to respond to negative reviews on:

Now that we understand what the basic rules to follow are, we will delve more specifically into how to respond to negative reviews depending on the site you are on, analyzing its main features.

Google

On Google, user reviews of a given business fall under the company’s ‘Google My Business tab. These reviews can be found next to the tab in Maps and in Search. When the business owner decides to respond to such a review, his or her response will appear immediately below the user’s comment, labeled ‘Owner’s Response’.

This platform prevents the removal of negative reviews unless they are false; but even then, the deletion process may still be long and difficult. So the best thing is always to be able to provide an effective response.

google user

A useful thing to know about how to respond to negative reviews on Google is that Google itself comes to our aid, which advises us to respond by always trying to establish a relationship of trust with users.

You must therefore relate in a polite and professional manner, expressing your gratitude for the opinion you have given and behaving more like a friend than a salesman. In particular, some aspects you need to pay attention to while replying to your interlocutor are:

  • not share your personal data,
  • do not use an angry tone,
  • take responsibility for their mistakes but avoid blaming themselves for mistakes they do not deserve.

Regarding this last point, it may indeed happen that you receive negative reviews on your Google tab from competitors in order to gain customers at your expense. In this case, there is no problem defending yourself by publicly unmasking the false comment, without revealing the name of the competitor. Acting in this way will allow you to destroy the credibility of negative reviews without attracting dislike.

Finally, to be more authoritative, it is always a good idea to sign your answer using your name or the name of your business.

If you are particularly interested in improving your visibility on Google, I also recommend you take a look at the article: “How to advertise on Google”.

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor is the best-known review platform for restaurants and hotels. In fact, this site is recognized by potential customers as the main source of information on the experiences offered by various restaurants and hotels.

Almost 90 percent of TripAdvisor users said they are more likely to trust restaurants that respond to all reviews, even negative ones. So regardless of whether the reviews are positive or negative, it is always good to find time and a way to respond to all customers who have used your service.

Here are some tips on how to respond to a negative review on TripAdvisor:

  • As usual, calm is your best friend, take a deep breath and then proceed to examine the comment from an objective point of view;
  • A warning sign that this is a real criticism is to check how many times the same problem has already been reported, and whether it is an increasing trend.

If the problem highlighted actually corresponds to a real area for improvement, the next step is to explore with your team a method of applying the necessary changes.

Subsequently, when replying to the customer, we must then set out in detail the changes that have been made as a result of his comment and also try to answer any further questions that users may ask themselves in the future when reading this discussion. Again, do not forget to apologize to the customer.

tripadvisor platform

Otherwise, if the problem is due to guests’ wrong expectations of the scope of your business, you will probably need to rework your communication plan, starting with the description on the website and publications on social channels.

In any case, regardless of how action had to be taken, the important thing is to ensure that the problem does not recur later by continuing to monitor reviews.

Finally, on TripAdvisor, the process of deleting negative reviews, unlike on Google, is simpler and more specified. On TripAdvisor, one can in fact request the deletion of a review if it falls into one of the following 3 categories:

  • the review was wrongly associated with your activity;
  • does not comply with the TripAdvisor rules;
  • if there is a reasonable suspicion that it is a fake review.

If you want to explore in more detail what the mechanisms and functionalities of this platform are, read TripAdvisor marketing “Evolution of the Way of Traveling”.

Booking

Booking is the most popular online hotel booking service, which conveniently provides its users with reviews left by previous visitors.

To understand how to respond to negative reviews on Booking, it is useful to know that this platform basically refers to the TripAdvisor guidelines that I explained above.

Booking, however, unlike both Google and TripAdvisor, also has some precise and strict rules that must be respected:

  • it is only possible to reply to reviews that contain comments;
  • If you wish to respond, you must do so in the same language in which the review was written, or in English. Answers in other languages will not be published;
  • After replying to a review, before the reply can be published, it must be examined by a special staff member in order to check that the message complies with the guidelines imposed by the platform.

booking online service

Bearing this last point in mind, all the more so on this platform one must pay special attention to the words and tone one uses when responding to customers.

If necessary, it is better to take your time to clear your mind before you start writing.

In particular, Booking does not approve of responses that:

  • contain inappropriate language;
  • offer discounts or try in any way to convince customers to book at their business;
  • contain personal information, either their own or that of the user;
  • mention a competing website;
  • mention the activity’s website;
  • mention Booking in a critical light;
  • attack the veracity of the review;
  • criticize the client’s choice to write anonymously.

Finally, even on Booking, negative reviews can only be removed in special cases:

  • in the event of non-performance by the establishment due to cancellations or overbooking;
  • if there is a reasonable suspicion that it is a fake review (in order to harm a competitor);
  • whether it represents a ransom attempt by the user (however, written evidence is required).

If you want to find out more about how to promote your hotel online you might also be interested in: “Google Hotel Ads, How and Why to List your Hotel”.

How to respond to a fake review

We now come to a different possible case: the need to know how to respond to a fake review.

If, on analyzing the comment and verifying its correspondence with reality, you have realized, without any doubt, that it is an unfounded criticism, you still have to provide the interlocutor with a response. However, it will not be necessary to waste too much time, as his intent is only to annoy.

The response in this situation should be brief and concise, without of course omitting why the criticism is unfounded.

First of all, it is also necessary to show the customer that you appreciate his or her comment, although obviously, in this case, it is not constructive criticism.

Then simply explain why you disagree, and why your service is good. This will show other web users that you really believe in the quality of what you offer. So when the accusations do not stand up, there is no problem in responding clearly by denying the accusations. Of course, in doing so, one must not fail in the courtesy owed to any customer.

A good way to end the message, in this case, might be to state that, although the allegations seem unfounded to you, you will still proceed with a precautionary check.

Examples of responses to negative reviews

Now that you have come this far, I will give you some hints on how to respond to negative reviews depending on what you need:

Example response in which one apologizes to the customer and thanks him for the review:

“Dear customer, we appreciate your taking the time to provide us with your feedback. We are sincerely sorry about your recent negative experience, we take this kind of thing very seriously as it is an opportunity for us to improve.”

Example answer in which you show the client that you understand what his discomfort was:

“We are sorry that despite the simplicity of our dishes the waiting time to receive your order was so long. Our staff do their utmost to ensure the best possible service for all our customers, but unfortunately, when the room fills up significantly on certain occasions the service is slower due to the large number of guests.”

Example answer in which you provide a solution to the problem:

“Regarding your comment on the noise of our air conditioners, we would like to inform you that, following your feedback, we are in the process of replacing all our units with more modern and certainly quieter models. The operation will be completed by the beginning of September. The entire hotel staff hopes that you will come back and find us more comfortable.”

Example answer to end the message on a positive note:

“We hope, however, that you will give us a second chance. The next time you want to come back and taste our specialties we will reserve a special table for you, together with the opportunity to choose a bottle from our complimentary wine reserve!”

Example of a false negative review response:

“Dear customer, we appreciate your taking the time to provide us with your feedback. We are sincerely sorry about your recent negative experience. Our hotel prides itself on offering the most varied breakfast buffet service and the best possible quality standards. After several years in business, this is the first time we have experienced an event like this, but one can never be too careful.”

Turning negative reviews into positive ones

If you have come this far, the problem of having a negative review associated with your business should already have been successfully solved.

There is, however, a further useful step: learning how to turn negative reviews into positive ones, even gaining an advantage.

Let us start by saying that people are usually more likely to leave a negative review when something went wrong than a positive review when everything went well. So it is often necessary to try to entice customers to share their good experiences publicly.

The most trivial way to do this is simply to ask! Whenever you notice a customer particularly satisfied with your service, there is no harm in asking them to leave an online review.

This is especially true when the customer in question is the very one who previously left you the famous negative review!

If by reading this article you have managed to bring him back to your hotel or restaurant and have subsequently shown him that you have made an improvement to your service, following his review, there is no better opportunity to ask him to leave a new review, to comment on his new experience.

Congratulations, you are now ready to face any kind of negative comments on online platforms and even be able to benefit from them!

The best of luck!

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