(Unfortunately you'll have to hang the boxing gloves up for this one).

No matter how hard you try – there’s always going to be a negative Nancy leaving a detrimental review of your business online.

Naturally, there are times when businesses don’t perform at their best (sometimes everything just goes wrong for one person, we understand) and this is a learning curve for any business, but there are also cases where customers are unreasonable and leave an unjustified and inaccurate review. Sometimes even a fake review – the enemy.

However, it’s not the review itself that says a lot about a business, it’s the business’s response to the review that speaks volumes. According to BrightLocal, 97% of consumers search for a business online to look at reviews, and 30% say that a business’s response to reviews is the main thing they use to judge a business on. Keep reading for our top tips on how to respond to negative business reviews online.

Rule number 1 – always respond

Never leave a negative review without a response (or a positive one, for that matter). You might know that the review is inaccurate, false, unfair, or a fluke incident that doesn’t reflect the usual standards of your business, but that doesn’t mean that other people reading the review, i.e. potential customers, know that this is the case too. By not responding you are near enough admitting that the review is correct. It looks sheepish and accepting. Instead, a simple, well-constructed response can turn a negative into a positive.

Rule number 2 – don’t get too defensive

The best way to respond to a negative review is to stay calm and remain collected. No matter how much you’re seeing red, or how protective you are over your business – don’t get defensive. A defensive business looks like a guilty, unfriendly brand that can’t accept that it’s in the wrong. Try and look through the haze and collect your thoughts in a way that isn’t aggressive or angry, and instead direct them in a way that will gain the respect of others reading the negative review.

Rule number 3 – remember your manners

To get your review response off to a good start, it’s good practice to start your response by thanking the reviewer for taking the time to leave the review. Next, apologise for the fact that they had a bad experience with your business. This is good manners in the online review world and can gain a lot of respect from both viewers of the review, and also the reviewer themselves.

Rule number 4 – adapt your response to each case

One size does not fit all in the case of reviews. When going to respond to a negative review and all of the polite introduction is complete (rule no. 3), you can also insert a little text that rebuilds your brand reputation. For example, you could go on to say that, ‘customer service is of the upmost importance to our business and it’s something we are well-known for’, to show others and the reviewer that this isn’t your usual service.

If, however, a negative review is accusing your business of something that is false, unfair, or inaccurate, there is a way of putting this across without being too defensive. Always think about how the response looks to others – put all points across nicely instead of brushing off any accusations completely.

Where relevant, you could even offer them a complementary product/service/experience as an apology. This shows that your business really does care.

Rule number 5 – take things private

When it comes to responding to negative reviews, the last thing you want to do is spark an internet war. This could be detrimental to your business and this isn’t something that you want other customers to see. Instead, offer an alternative way of communication should they wish to make any further comments or reply to your response. For example, ‘If you would like to discuss this further, please get in touch by emailing/phoning us at [number/email].’.

Rule number 6 – keep things short and sweet

It’s important to know that the best way to respond to a negative review is to keep it short. The idea is that you don’t want to give the reviewer too much to reply to, and a long reply can encourage this. Instead, thank them for their review, apologise, assure them that this isn’t your normal service, offer an alternative form of communication, and sign off.

With these ‘rules’ in mind, you now have everything you need to know how to respond to negative business reviews. It’s imperative to your brand’s reputation that you keep on top of responding to your reviews, both positive and negative.

Brand reputation management doesn’t stop at responding to reviews on the likes of Google, Trustpilot, and Feefo. Check out our guide on damage control using social media for additional and effective ways to improve your brand’s reputation using social media!

Here at Zelst, we’re experts on advising our clients on review responses and monitoring the platforms that their reviews are left on. If you need some brand reputation management help, get in touch today.