Online Reviews have become a core component of the digital profile for local businesses. Potential customers will read, on average, 10 online reviews for an individual local business before making a decision to become a patron. Many businesses, however, fear opening themselves up to online reviews due to concerns about negative reviews. It may seem like not listing your business would prevent receiving reviews online, but not being part of the process will actually put your local business at a disadvantage.

Negative reviews will happen for any business, but they don’t need to be the downfall of a business online. Instead, take control of the process, by actively managing and responding to them. There are a few basic steps to handling negative reviews so that your business may get the best outcome from them every time – just follow Vivial’s Review Response Formula.

Claim your profiles or listings

Before you can start responding to reviews, you have to claim your business listing. Even if you have not created the listing, your business has probably already be added to major platforms (often by a customer). Therefore, claiming your profiles and listings is critical in order to take control of your social reputation. If you are a new business, and your business location has yet to be listed, it’s also easy to set up your new profiles.

Major platforms that your business needs to be listed on, and monitored, include Yelp, Google (through Google My Business) and Facebook. Beyond searches directly within the networks, listings within these top platforms appear in search engine results, where consumers are regularly looking for review and business information.

Once your listings are claimed, you can then take control of your profile, and begin to actively respond to all reviews, directly influencing consumer opinions about your business.

Step 1: Recognize the issue

Negative reviews almost always follow a negative experience, but are not written out of spite, but rather because these customers do not feel they were heard by the local business. Even if you do not feel your business did anything wrong in the interaction, you first step is to acknowledge that the customer did not have a satisfactory experience and that you are sorry for that.

This does not mean you are admitting any particular fault, but that you empathize with their experience. Beginning every response to a negative review with an apology and a recognition of the issue often goes a long way in helping to overcome it.

Take a look at how Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery, a 4 1/2 Yelp star rated restaurant in Denver (with over 323 reviews after having been in business for a year and a half) responds to a negative review. They immediately apologize and show empathy for the customer:
apologizing in a negative review response

Step 2: Respond succinctly and politely

The second part of a negative review response is being straightforward, yet polite in your response. While it might be difficult to keep a level head about your reply, because it feels like your business is being attacked, the last thing you want to do is exacerbate the issue, especially in a public forum.  The more defensive you are in a response, the less likely any response will appear sincere and you further limit the likelihood that negative review could become a positive one.

Therefore, after your acknowledgment and apology, you want to politely address the specific issue and, if possible, offer any resolution you are able to.

Honda of Thousand Oaks’ (California) Facebook Page has 452 likes and has received a 4.4 out of 5 stars from 31 reviews on the social network. They aim to resolve every issue they receive, like this one:
responding to negative reviews with a short reply

Step 3: Move the conversation offline

The last part of the equation is to take the conversation offline to resolve the issue. Give each reviewer the ability to contact you further about a situation that’s not in the public eye. This may be a Facebook message, Yelp message or an email to a stated email address.

By taking the conversation offline you can find out more details and most importantly take any heated public forum out of the equation. An offline conversation also gives you a direct access line to correct and further resolve the issues.  Offline resolutions are often then reflected online – and the negative review could even become a positive one! 33% of negative reviews that are responded to turn positive.

Edgar Snyder & Associates, located in Pittsburgh, PA, has 16 reviews on Google with a 4.6 out of 5-star rating, they recently responded to a review, quickly sharing information on how they can resolve the situation offline:
responding to negative reviews offline

Follow our formula

Consumers will be looking at your online reviews, it’s just a part of not only online marketing, but an aspect of being in business in this day and age. With 79% of consumers trusting online reviews as much as a personal recommendation it’s important that your local business is taking negative reviews seriously and responding to them quickly and appropriately.

It’s important to take the time to not only reach out to negative reviewers but all reviewers and additionally, every comment on social networks (an extension of reviews and customer communication). By using a tool like Vivial Social, you can have one easy to manage to-do list of social tasks to tackle every day, never letting a review or social comment slip through the cracks again.


  • ohh great…………

    • Cami Bird

      Why the oh great?