IMPORTANT: The author has just been informed that OMSNIC recommends not responding to any bad reviews online. A response would confirm that you’ve seen the individual as a patient, which is a HIPAA violation. There have been cases where patients have gone after the responding surgeon, even with the most generic of replies. Please keep this in mind as you read the following article.-ed
Most business owners who use social media live in fear of the dreaded online negative review.
“I just got a bad review. It’ll be online forever. There go all my clients.”
“Look at this stupid bad review. Morons write these things and idiots believe them. I hate computers.”
“I can’t believe she wrote such a bad review. What the heck happened? Nobody’s going to believe me. I need Xanax.”
It takes a lot of effort to remain level-headed in the face of complaints. Reading negative press isn’t on anyone’s top ten list of fun things to do. Neither is writing responses to it.
Avoidance isn’t a Strategy
A well-crafted response to a bad review is extremely important. It can be more compelling than the best placed advertising. People don’t judge you by what other people write; they judge you by what you write back.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of demand for training in the subject. Most people just avoid the topic, hoping they won’t get negative press in the first place.
Not a smart strategy. Bad reviews happen to everyone. They’re like parking tickets: some are deserved and others are not. Everyone gets them eventually.
People don’t judge you by what other people write; they judge you by what you write back.
Guidelines for Good Responses
The following guidelines are designed to help reduce anxiety around negative online feedback. They also provide instruction on how to craft solid, meaningful responses representing you at your absolute best.
I’ve divided these guidelines into three groups: the Approach (readying yourself for the task), the Execution (writing a positive appropriate response), and the Extras (advice that doesn’t fit into the first two groups).
- Start by taking a deep breath. Settle into the task at hand. You’ll do fine.
- Remind yourself the true purpose of all this nonsense: to expand your reach, support your clientele, and spread good will.
- Avoid approaching reviews when you’re in a bad mood. You’ll filter them through an already negative mindset and be more likely to react instead of respond.
Bad reviews happen to everyone. They’re like parking tickets: some are deserved and others are not. Everyone gets them eventually.
- When you’re ready to be objective (I know it’s hard), decide if the complaint has merit.
- If there’s any merit whatsoever, address it in house and in your written response.
- If the complaint is fake or offensive :
- Ignore it.
- Respond in an impersonal, neutral manner. For example, “We’re sorry you feel this way. -or- We don’t have you on record as a client. Please contact our office if you would like to discuss it directly. Best Wishes.”
- Avoid offering compensation in an online response. It can open the door to copycats. If you feel an exchange is necessary, then do it privately.
- Be direct and sincere. Address the complaint without shirking responsibility. Most people just want their concerns to be heard and acknowledged.
- Craft the response and then sit on it. Give it time to steep. Writing and sending in one fell swoop smacks of reaction, not considered responsiveness. You’ll also miss a lot of typos.
- Never be afraid to include supportive content such as a useful pdf, a resource link, or a link to a document on your website.
- That said, keep your responses short but not terse. Follow the rules of good email communication listed in my other article: How to Write an Email that isn’t Confusing or Annoying.
- Complete the story even if you took it offline. It’s thoughtful to write a brief conclusion to the thread so people know it was handled.
Writing and sending in one fell swoop smacks of reaction, not considered responsiveness. You’ll also miss a lot of typos.
- Designate at least one staff member to check responses before pressing SEND. Never send a response without prior review by someone other than the originator.
- Make sure all staff know the chain of responsibility. If you don’t manage email and social media yourself, then designate one or two responsible individuals. Keep it tightly monitored. Even a single bad response can be a marketing nightmare.
- If the reviewer is satisfied with the resolution, it’s perfectly fine to ask for the review to be edited, updated, or removed.
Each time you take the high road with a well-crafted, thoughtful response, you increase your reputation for being fair, trustworthy, and by virtue of association, good at your job. Don’t hide from negative reviews. Try a new strategy. Use this article to help harness the long-term, positive opportunities they present.