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Responding to Haters: How To Handle Negative Guest Reviews

Katherine Lewin Posted by Katherine Lewin on January 6, 2017

person typing on a keyboard

The Internet is a free-for-all for consumers wanting to leave comments and reviews. Inevitably, some of these online reviews could be negative. As a business owner or general manager, whether you are running a restaurant or a vacation rental or anything in between,  it can be difficult to know how exactly to respond to these negative guest reviews so that even when something went wrong, you can use it to your benefit.

 Luckily there are several simple strategies to excellent review management, and we have laid them all out here for you.

Show that you are genuine and you want your business to reflect that.

Even if you do get negative guest reviews, you can turn it into a positive by responding to the customer in a kind, calm and constructive manner. Most people are not looking for you to construct a perfect response - what they really want is for you to be understanding and honest. Looked at from this perspective, all kinds of online reviews are opportunities to respond in a transparent way and have a positive impact on your customers. They will come to respect and trust you and your business.

Responding in a professional manner to negative comments is sometimes easier said than done, especially when your business is your life and someone bashes it online for the Internet to see. Unless you’re the reincarnation of Mother Teresa, your immediate impulse will probably be to return fire. Don’t do it. Back away from the keyboard and collect your thoughts, especially if you think the customer complaint is false. Take your time. Acknowledge the person who left a negative review and say you appreciate the input. Then explain your side and add a human touch.

Turn the situation around by highlighting your strengths as you apologize.

Handled correctly, a negative online review is a golden opportunity to point out your business's many positive qualities and offerings.

For example: “We're truly sorry you had a bad experience with us. That was not our intention at all! We appreciate your feedback as we are always striving to improve. We hope you will give us a chance to make this right.” You can tell your story and make the reviewer feel heard and acknowledged.

Golden rule: Never be defensive, even if a customer is clearly incorrect.

Consider online reviews free consumer research.

The comments you receive online can show you what your customers expect from your business and how they think you could improve. Looking at it from this perspective can help both you and your business to grow in a positive direction. Keep a record of comments as you respond to them (or use a software to make this process much easier) and make notes of any suggestions, tips, questions or problems people mention. Your customers are giving you valuable information that you’d normally have to send out surveys to receive.

Hire someone to do your responding, especially as your business grows.

To get the most out of your online presence and stay on top of any negative guest reviews, consider hiring a social media manager to interact with the community. If you do decide to hire someone, make sure to set clear, consistent policies about how to respond to comments so everyone is on the same page and any PR disasters are avoided.

Having someone manage your social media presence can free you up to run other aspects of your business. Just make sure to check in now and then to see what comments are being made and what helpful information they’re revealing.

Whether it’s reviews for vacation rentals or your restaurant or any kind of business, if you're not chiming in promptly to online reviews, whether positive or negative, you could be hurting your business's image. Get involved, tell your story and speak up for your business!

Topics: Customer Service

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