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Tackle negative online reviews with these 7 steps

Sales person inserting card into Clover Station

We’ve all read a negative online business review, or may have posted one ourselves. But as a small business owner, have you thought about how you should respond to them? In some instances, not addressing a negative comment can do more damage than the comment itself.

Keep these steps in mind when responding to a negative review about your business.

  1. Be genuine, respectful and calm with your response – For any review you respond to, be sure to keep your response professional and specific to each situation. Don’t copy and paste the same response to multiple critics. You want to come across as an owner that is concerned about your business and customers, not a robot blindly responding to comments.

  2. Acknowledge and thank the reviewer – Address the reviewer with a personal greeting and thank them for their business. Customers want to have their voice heard and acknowledged for taking the time to leave a review. Even after their transaction, they still want to be treated as an individual that made the decision to do business with you.

  3. Apologize and take responsibility – If warranted, be sure to take responsibility and apologize for the customer’s experience with your business. Keep it short, don’t make excuses and never place or direct blame towards the customer. The way you address the review will be seen by potential customers and may influence whether or not they want to do business with you in the future. If your response is defensive or angry, potential customers looking into your business may assume you treat others this way as well.

  4. Tell them how you plan to learn from this review – Let the reviewer know you plan to make your business better by learning from their experience. Try to be as specific as possible to the reviewer’s personal experience with your business. If their complaint was about service, state how you plan to improve your customer service in the future.

  5. Take the conversation offline – If the issue your customer described is complex or personal, or if you would like more information from them, publicly ask them to contact you directly so you can respond appropriately. This will signal to all that you are responsive and invested in your customers’ satisfaction but avoid lengthy, potentially unpleasant exchanges for all to see.

  6. Ask the reviewer to give your business a second chance – If the opportunity allows, ask the reviewer to give your business another chance so you can provide a better experience. Hopefully, you will be able to change the reviewer’s opinion on your business and perhaps they will now recommend you in the future.

  7. Make it easy to monitor review sites – There are many online review sites, so there are inevitably going to be sites with comments that you are unaware of and unable to respond to. Try to focus on popular review sites and set up alerts so you are aware when something new is posted about your business.

If you use a Clover® device, there are tools that can help you with online reviews. The Yelp for Business Owners app is one popular example for keeping track of and responding to reviews.¹ It provides metrics, allows you to publicly or privately respond to reviews and lets you post photos as well as other information related to your business.

Remember, any response to a negative customer comment is better than no response at all. In most instances, you can turn a dig at your business into an opportunity to grow it.


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