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Acknowledge and Apologize

According to a Forbes article…Yes, an apology is appropriate — even if you don’t think you did anything wrong. The reviewer’s experience is their own. You may argue with the facts of the situation (which you probably shouldn’t, at least publicly — more on that below), but you can’t argue with how they feel. It’s how they feel. A little sympathy goes a long way toward defusing the situation. If the reviewer is complaining about bad service, you can still apologize that they had a bad experience without supporting their criticism of your attention to detail. A simple “We’re sorry to hear about your experience” will do. A public and anonymous review platform is not the place to mount a serious defense. Yelp isn’t a court of law; you are not going to be awarded justice simply because you proved a reviewer wrong and effectively stated your case.

Add a Touch of Specificity

Even so, it’s often a good idea to briefly speak to the reviewer’s primary concern. Doing so shows that you’re paying attention to their review — that you hear them and care enough to tailor your response to their unique situation. If possible, this is also a good opportunity to contrast the reviewer’s bad experience with your company policy or what customers usually experience when they visit your business. Think of it as a way to address the reviewer’s concern while delivering a little backhanded compliment: “We’re usually known for our exceptional customer service and we regret that we didn’t live up to those expectations here.”

Move the Situation Offline

Very rarely will you be able to completely resolve a reviewer’s bad experience thanks to your empathetic online reply. In fact, trying to fix everything in one electronic response can often do more harm than good. Instead, aim to take the conversation offline. Provide contact information, including the name of a specific company representative, if possible. Doing so demonstrates your receptiveness to feedback and shifts the power dynamic by turning a monolithic organization into a personable one-on-one encounter. It also shows that your company takes customer service seriously enough to have someone in charge of addressing those problems.

Keep it Short and Sweet

When it comes to responding to negative reviews, less is more.Three to four sentences is a good rule of thumb. No matter how unfair a negative review, resist the urge to defend every point and prove your case. It may sound counterintuitive, but long-winded responses can actually legitimize the complaint, as if the review needed defending in the first place. For that reason, don’t go into detail (it can sound defensive) and don’t ask follow-up questions. You want to avoid saying anything that could further incite an upset customer and encourage them to add more detail and negativity to their review. While your response certainly matters for the individual who left the review in the first place, it’s actually much more impactful for the 89 percent of other customers who will be reading it for weeks or months to come. Keep that in mind as you’re responding to negative reviews and you’ll be much less likely to let your emotions get the best of you. And, if you’re tired of letting a small number of negative reviews represent your business, there’s always room for improvement.