Negative online reviews are a part of everyday life for multi-location businesses. Responding to negative reviews is very important, but not everyone knows exactly what to do. Some enterprise businesses do nothing; others outsource the job to an outside firm or worse, delegate the task to inexperienced junior staffers. You’ll want to keep a firm hand on the reviews coming in, and assign responses to trained and trusted team members.

Remember, when you respond to a negative online review publicly, you aren’t just replying to one person. Your answer will be seen by countless potential customers for years to come.

Depending on the size of your company’s enterprise, you may need to use ticketing or task flow tools to delegate and manage review responses. An editorial guide might be helpful, especially if reviews response is handled at the local level by store staff.

Here are the quick basics to responding to negative online reviews:

  1. Apologize for the experience the customer received. You can always investigate their claims with store staff offline, but the reviewer’s feelings and feedback matter.
  2. Offer to address the issue with store staff. Tell the reviewer you will make sure the problem doesn’t happen again, if you can guarantee that. This tactic depends on if your marketing team has any insight or influence with the regional or national group that manages store staff. Follow internal protocols for store-owned locations. Franchise locations may need a different strategy, especially if they have autonomy to respond to their own location reviews.
  3. Use personal and friendly language that sounds natural.
  4. Avoid cutting and pasting past responses.
  5. Stay positive and avoid defensive language.
  6. Thank the reviewer for their comments.

Taking It Offline (Sort Of)

While responding publicly is usually the best bet, there may be occasions where you wish to respond privately to a review. For instance, Yelp allows business owners to privately email each reviewer. As part of Yelp’s built-in spam prevention tool, business owners can send only one email to each reviewer until that reviewer writes back. Then the owner is allowed to send one more email, and so on, allowing the customer the choice to decide whether or not they want to receive emails.

There’s no doubt about it: negative online reviews can be harsh and often undeserved. But as the digital manager, it’s your job to set a clear strategy for your brand. With time and attention, your brand can shine in the land of online reviews. Good luck out there!

Olga is a Senior Manager of Marketing and Sales Operations at Connectivity. Her last post was about interviewing customers to improve your local business.