Ratings and Reviews: How to Respond to a Negative Comment

As a general rule, it’s a poor idea to publicly respond to negative comments on online ratings and reviews sites with anything beyond 1) an expression of regret that the commenter did not have a good experience and 2) an invitation to discuss the matter directly offline.

Why?

  • You’re highly unlikely to change the commenter’s mind.
  • You’re in effect inviting another negative post and/or argument.
  • Criticizing dissatisfied clients/customers and self-justification don’t come off well.
  • There’s rarely a clear upside.

One of the few occasions when a detailed response to a negative comment can be highly effective is when:

  1. The original less-than-flattering comment is clearly intended as a helpful critique, AND
  2. You’ve addressed the issues raised in the comments in ways that will benefit all current and potential customers/clients, not just the commenter.

I was very pleasantly surprised and impressed recently by the response of an Austin food wagon operator to a comment I posted on Yelp about my experiences with his business. My main beef (so to speak) was that while I loved the food, the wagon had few options and was often out of main ingredients, which made it hard to justify driving across town.

The response was pitch perfect:

Hi Jay,

I read your review and I thank you for your kind words.  We have been working out the issues with the running out of food and so far, everything has been working out perfectly.   It is my hope that we have everything you desire, each and every time you visit us, though limited space and unpredictable traffic flow can often throw us a curve ball, so far we’re staying ahead.

I hope you will give us another shot sometime in the future as we’ve expanded the menu to include Eggplant Parm and Turkey Pastrami specials, with several new ideas in the works.

Should you have any concerns about “do they have…today?”, please feel free to call before driving out this far at 512-516-3660.  If you do come back, please ask for me, it would be a [pleasure] to meet you.

Thanks for your time, your kind words, and your continued support.

Sincerely,
J.K. Bellucci
All City Subs

It’s a textbook model of an effective response to a negative comment because:

  • It opens courteously and maintains that tone throughout,
  • It acknowledges the issue,
  • It expresses the proprietor’s values and commitment to customers,
  • It lists specific steps taken to address the situation,
  • It respectfully offers a helpful suggestion for how to avoid the issue in the future, and
  • It closes graciously.

After that, I’d be an a** if I didn’t go back again.

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