How to Respond to Bad Reviews – Part 2 of 3

A well crafted response to a negative review can present a golden marketing opportunity.

Read here to see how to create your own “formula” for handling bad reviews. You’ll want to use your own words so it’s authentic, but here are some guidelines that will help you set aside your emotions and handle negative reviews like the PRO you are.

In Part 1 of this story, we discussed how to handle complaints that are legitimate, but let’s look at another scenario: reviews which are not legitimate claims against your work. Maybe they are your competitors or ex-employees, or even clients who never came in for a service because their demands were unrealistic and you turned them away. And then we’ve all encountered “that one guy” situations where someone is trying to get something for nothing, and no matter what we’ve said or done, all they want is their money back. This group can be handled slightly differently.

The Process

The most important thing to think about when replying to a review is to take the emotion out of the equation. Yes, you’re flustered…and embarrassed…and isn’t it ALWAYS the most demanding and difficult clients that do this kind of thing? “Why, oh why did I agree to take them? I knew better!”  OK, lesson learned…but what now?

1) Breathe! It’s not life or death. It’s one review. Don’t panic and do NOT rip off a reply immediately!
2) A client or a bad review CANNOT “ruin” or “take down” your business. (No matter what they claim!)
3) Negative reviews scattered through your positive reviews can actually work in your favor–if handled correctly.

Absolutely respond to them. It’s not a good representation of your business to see complaints that go unanswered. However,  giving a brief comment showing your willingness to work with them and make it right, is something those who are reading your reviews will like to see.  Try to respond to every single less than stellar review in a positive way.

Always use their names. This establishes that you see them as a person and it makes YOU a real person, too–not just a company. It helps readers see you are trying. If they are hiding behind a profile name, try to look up and use both their first and last name somewhere in the response.  (No–sorry, they don’t get to snipe from afar, anonymously!)

Always mention any written documentation you may have. Use phrases like “according to your intake form” or “in reviewing our text messages, I see…” or “our online booking system log shows….” and so forth. This puts everyone reading the review on notice that you are businesslike and have everything in writing, should it be necessary–the complainers and the potential new clients, alike.

The Sandwich

There is a tried-and-true theory that people accept bad news better if it’s sandwiched between two slices of “nice.” This technique is used by business managers the world over–we should use it in our businesses, too! So how does this work?

When responding to a negative review:

  • Start with a positive statement (see below for some examples)
  • Drop the hammer on their unfounded claims in a firm, professional way that you can document
  • Finish the response with sweetness and light

How it Works

Here are some examples taken from real-life scenarios. No names are given to protect the innocent, and dismiss the guilty!

1)  A negative review goes up and you do not show this person has ever been seen in your salon, or perhaps you recognize them as a disgruntled former employee or other “bitter Betty.”  Call them out…in a sweet way.

REPLY: [If you know their name–use it even if they hide behind a profile name] “Thank you Betty, for taking time to give feedback on our customer service–we do our very best to be sure all clients are given the best possible experience here at [your full business name–to remind the readers who you are]. In searching our client database, however, I am not finding you were ever our guest…perhaps you have mistaken our business for another?  We would relish the opportunity to offer you a fabulous experience – we have a promotional price on our Spa Package right now. Just contact us at [give your preferred booking info.] Looking forward to meeting you! Nancy Notplaying. ”

2) Client leaves 1 star review: She is incensed that she was ushered out of the spa and denied her right to enjoy the premises.  Her infant was screaming bloody murder in a quiet, dark spa. The website and signage in the spa state this is not a child-friendly environment and to please make other arrangements. Her service was quickly performed and she was encouraged to leave immediately, rather than partaking of the spa’s quiet room and other amenities as she usually does.

REPLY: “Mary, thank you for taking the time to leave us feedback about your recent experience at [Our Quiet Spa]. We truly do try to meet our clients’ expectations of the spa-like environment. Ms. Allaboutme, I truly regret your infant was upset, but I’m confident my staff did their very best possible by you. They completed your service before dismissing you so that others could enjoy their quiet time, as promised on our website and in our policies. We invite you to come see us again soon, when your child care arrangements allow. Book your next appointment at [give booking info]  Best wishes, Tina Pleasant”

3) Client leaves 2 star review:  She could not get the provider to come in off hours to suit her schedule, so she threatened to “ruin your business because your customer service is so bad.”  [as an aside, would you REALLY want to subject yourself to a waxing after you’ve completely irritated the waxer who has repeatedly told you “No, I don’t have availability for the next 2 weeks”?]

REPLY:  “Thank you Elaine, for taking a minute to post a review–we [at name of salon] continually seek feedback to promote excellence in our guest experiences. We deeply regret we were not able to accommodate your schedule, Mrs. Biggs–our clients love us so much they book weeks in advance and we usually run a waiting list. We’re always happy to add you to that list, if you like? Call us at (###) when your planned service is at least two weeks out and you’ll be assured of the time that works for you. Sincerely, Wendy Waxpro

4) PMU client posts that you “###ked up her face” and now she wants her money back.  Contrary to her reveal–which you recorded showing her smiling and saying her new brows are gorgeous and that she loves them.  And contrary to the fact that you explained that she was told it is a process not an event…and that her signed paper work explains that her final look won’t even reveal itself for a few weeks and that you have planned a follow-up appointment to make any adjustments. Despite everything you’ve told her, she just won’t be happy, and only wants her money back.  You should not budge on this one!

No matter what she says in her post, you should say:

“Thank you, Tina, for taking the time to post a review. Every business likes to be given feedback so they can hone their customer service. In considering your comments, I have reviewed your signed intake forms acknowledging we informed you the process of PMU takes several weeks to complete, as well as the video of your pleased surprise at how much you loved your brows the day we did them. We feel we can only resolve this matter with you in person. Ms. Cheatum, please call us at (###) to arrange the earliest possible time for you to come in so we can provide for your satisfaction.  Looking forward to seeing you soon, Bea Yoncare.”

Do not engage. Do not argue the points with her. Just smile, grit your teeth, and let everyone see that you are inviting her to come in so you can provide for her satisfaction.  What you do if she actually has the brass to appear is a different matter. But the readers will see that you are trying to help her.  You don’t have to point out how cray-cray she seems….readers can see that already. What you want them to see is you being polite and accommodating.

In every case, use the Formula:  The “bad news” of documentation contrary to what they’re claiming sandwiched between two slices of “nice.” And be sure you use their full names, if possible, and use your business name (for recognition) and give your booking link/contact (to make it easy for the extra readers to book with you.)

Refunds Are Another Matter
When someone says to you “you should stand behind your work”  it does not mean the same thing as “you should give my money back”! It means that you will do your best, adjust when necessary and “make it right” in an appropriate manner. In Part 3 of this series, we will talk about when a refund might be called for, the conditions you should set in that case and when refunds are off the table.