How to Respond to a Negative Comment in a Way that Generates More Business

Some people just love to hate. That hate can affect the reputation of your brand and cost you your next client.

Imagine going into the office on Monday morning to discover that someone has written a scathing one-star review of your company on a site that you regularly generate leads from and currently have a five star rating. The woman who wrote the review was not a client, but someone who had asked that you meet with her and provide a quote. This woman received quotes from multiple companies and had confused you with another. This does happen. It did happen to a client of mine and I got a call of him in a panic.

How do you handle these public negative comments or reviews, especially when they are not true? Rest assured, if you truly do run a good company this is not something you’ll have to deal with on a regular basis. If not, well…that is a conversation for another time.

Here are four steps to ensure that you handle that negative comment or review in a way that builds your brand.
  1. Don’t panic. Don’t rush. Don’t delay. When you first see that negative comment or review you’ll go into shock—don’t panic. Shock will then trigger an emotional response which is why you don’t want to rush your response. You also don’t want to delay responding more than day, ideally you want to respond within 12 hours because otherwise, it makes you look like you either don’t care or that you are admitting guilt.
  2. Write your message in Microsoft Word. We need to avoid the dreaded ‘accidental click’ at all costs. In order to do this, write your response in Word, Notepad, or any other word processing tool. Your reply should be concise, positive, and respectful of their emotions. Responding to a negative comment is not about who is write or wrong, it is about how you handle challenging situations and demonstrate respect for others.Be sure to apologize for the bad experience and acknowledge that you may have made a mistake. Address blatant lies without calling them as such. You’ll do this by referencing a specific phrase that the poster used and explain why it is unlikely that this happened—specific policies or processes that you company has in place.You want to address all important information written before inviting them to call you to figure this out. The reason for this is the perception of your next potential client who is reading this. If they see that someone has had a problem and your only response is “We’re sorry. Please call us to figure this out” it doesn’t show the next person viewing the comment how the problem was handled or resolved. Instead it could just look like you are covering it up. Another problem with “We’re sorry. Please call us to figure this out” is that it puts the initiative on the client who had the bad experience. Regardless of whose fault it is, it’s your job to take responsibility for fixing the situation and protecting your brand.
  3. Send it to someone you trust. This gives you the opportunity to step away from the response and get feedback to ensure that you did not respond emotionally or accusatorially.
  4. Follow up accordingly. Make it a priority that you or the appropriate person in the company reaches out to the person to have a conversation. Sometimes something really did go wrong and you have the opportunity to fix it, other times, people just need to be heard and that can make all the difference.
Remember the company I mentioned at the beginning? Here is how we handled it.

I wrote a reply to her review on behalf of the company addressing her concerns and suggested that perhaps she had confused him with another company. We cited specific processes the company had in place to ensure that some of her issues don’t happen with his company. We offered to meet with her again and he even called to follow up. To this day, he has generated more business from how he handled that negative review than he has from any other marketing he’s done.
Really, How Well Do Your Customers Know You?
Mel DePaoli Graduates the University of Washington Executive MBA Program