How To Turn Negative Reviews Into Positive PR

Stasia Dempster

Stasia Dempster

Have you ever read a negative review of your business and wondered how you should deal with it? Although it’s natural to be concerned about the impact it could have on your business, an effective strategy can help you approach bad reviews with confidence.

In this article, we’ll look at how you can actually use negative reviews to your advantage.

In a competitive environment, reviews can distinguish your business from your competition. Reviews are important for two reasons. Firstly, they offer tangible evidence that your product or service is reliable and will meet your customer’s expectations if they make a purchase. Secondly, reviews have a direct impact on your SEO performance.

An array of authentic, positive reviews across Google, Facebook and other websites is one of the best ways to cement your reputation and build trust in your brand. What happens, however, when you receive a negative review? What is the best way to approach this to ensure the credibility of your business remains intact?

As a small business owner, it can be easy to take negative reviews personally when you have invested blood, sweat and tears into a company from the ground up. Some business owners will bury their head in the sand when they receive criticism, pretending the negative review doesn’t exist.

These approaches can be extremely harmful to your company’s public image. Instead of seeing a less-than-favorable review as a threat, businesses should use them to their advantage, turning them into an opportunity.

Among consumers who read reviews, a staggering 97% in a 2019 BrightLocal survey said they read how a business responds to reviews. This demonstrates the critical importance of having a strategy in place to deal with reviews, whether positive or negative.

In this article, we’ll look at how – and why – a negative review is not to be feared (if you know how to effectively deal with them).

angry customers in store leaving bad reviews

Bad reviews are an opportunity to do good PR

A bad review may initially fill you with dread, yet these reviews present you with an incredible opportunity to showcase your business in its best light.

There are a couple of common mistakes which businesses make when responding to a negative review. Their tone is either a) disrespectful and unprofessional, or b) overly apologetic and insincere.

No matter how legitimate you feel your grievances are, getting into an argument with your customers online won’t result in a positive outcome for either party. It might make you feel a little better in the short-term, but the long-term consequences mean this approach is best avoided.

At the other end of the scale, acting like a pushover and apologizing profusely in response to negative reviews is also a risky approach. If every response to a negative review is a cookie-cutter, elaborate apology, it devalues the actual meaning of your apology.

Want to know the best approach when dealing with negative reviews? Engage and empathize. If the customer’s experience was legitimately bad, you should apologize sincerely and offer an explanation for what happened. Tell them (and everyone else reading the review) how you intend to make it right. If you feel like the customer is stretching the truth – or even outright lying – don’t be tempted to insult them. Think about how this looks to a neutral party. Provide an objective version of the events which occurred and think about how you can rectify the situation.

Most of all, demonstrate professionalism! Avoid typos and grammatical errors. Don’t use ALL CAPS. Every time you’re writing a response to a review, consider how it will look to potential customers when it is published. How do you want to be viewed by your audience?

An excellent opportunity to inform a captive audience

Sometimes, a negative review is based on incorrect information or assumptions. This could be because the reviewer simply misinterpreted a part of your service and was disappointed as a result.

If you choose not to reply to these reviews, you’re essentially allowing these falsehoods to perpetuate. The danger for other potential customers to make the same misinterpretations will only grow.

Therefore, it is essential to correct any reviews which contain misleading information about your product or service. Again, you don’t need to get personal about this – simply explain your practices and procedures, and eliminate the chance for any misunderstanding. Using your response to frame your business in a positive light is a subtle way of providing useful information without the need to advertise.

Learn your business’s weak points - and improve to increase future sales

A business is like a living entity. It needs regular work, adaptation and development in order to grow. Without this, your competition – who is willing to put in the work – will surpass you.

You should encourage your clients to leave reviews, whether positive, negative or indifferent. This gives you the chance to learn about what works well in your business, and what needs improvement. After all, if customers do not vocalize their negative experiences and concerns, how will you know what they want?

By using negative reviews or criticism to identify themes and weak points in your company practice, you can make effective changes to business operations. This is a basis for improving your product or service, consequently garnering more positive reviews in the future. When your changes are implemented and showing signs of success, you can even respond to the original review to demonstrate you are listening.

consumer leaving negative review on google

Opportunity to distinguish your brand from competition

Responding to a review offers you the chance to distinguish your brand from your competition.

Every business – whether recognized or not – has a ‘voice’. From the copy on its website to its output on social media, its audience comes to understand that the business ‘speaks’ in a specific way and with a certain tone.

This is why it is important to respond to bad reviews with authenticity. We consume so much information online that is very transparent when a company is wheeling out the platitudes in its customer responses.

Just be real. Be true to your brand and your values. Be honest. Both your existing and potential customers will appreciate it.

How you handle bad reviews can create audience trust

When people read reviews, are they only going to read the five star reviews? Or, perhaps more likely, are they going to look at the one or two-star reviews to see the problems others have encountered?

This means that it is more important to respond to less favorable reviews than it is to thank those who have left paragraphs of enthusiastic praise. You should prioritize the one and two star reviews over the five star ones. It gives you the perfect opportunity to present your business in front of a greater audience – your customers will learn more about you from your method to responding to adversity than they will when everything is perfect.

person leaving negative review on phone

Show your customers how much you care about them

Every customer of every business wants to feel respected, prioritized and heard. Potential customers will always choose to work with a company who puts them first. They want to know that your service was created to help them – not the other way around.

Every successful company has grown to be successful because they are all about customer satisfaction. They have the following qualities built into the foundation of their company:

  • Efficiency
  • Convenience
  • Value
  • Effective damage control

Responding to your reviews is a clear sign that, as a company, your customers are extremely important to you. You offer them the opportunity to provide feedback, and you take their suggestions to improve your business. What could be better than that?

Negative reviews can create positive word-of-mouth

Sometimes, a response to a negative review can create positive word-of-mouth, particularly if you have managed to correct the issue. Again, bigger brands have worked out that a key to customer retention is prioritizing the issues that matter to the customer. Put their needs before your own.

Additionally, in some instances, a great response to a negative review may result in the reviewer reconsidering their rating. Aside from keeping the customer at the heart of everything you do, the difference between a one star review and a four star review is worth your time and effort in responding.

Faithful followers may reply with fantastic experiences

Conflict can inspire action. Oftentimes, people will not become publicly vocal about something until they have a reason to be.

A clearly illegitimate negative review – such as a ‘planted’ review by a rival competitor, or an individual who has a reputation for exaggerating the truth – can act as a lightning rod for your loyal customers and spur them into action. You may find that it encourages them to make a difference by leaving a positive review for your business.

In conclusion

If your business does not currently have a process for responding to reviews, it is worth developing one. Asking for feedback helps you to improve your business processes, and having predominantly positive reviews can offer SEO benefits and increase your brand authority.

Remember that all is not lost if a customer leaves a negative review. There are countless ways you can use them to your advantage. In many cases, it is possible to  actually extract a more positive outcome from a negative review than you could with a generic five star review.

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