Ugh! The pit in your stomach when that one-star review pops up!

Maybe you get an alert on Google or an email from Yelp, and you are so excited to open it, but then boom. It’s a negative review.

Can you relate?  I can, and it’s definitely not fun. Before we dive into some general tips for how to respond to negative client reviews, here’s the number one piece of advice that I have on reviews in general:

1. Respond to Every, Single Review from the Most Negative to the Most Positive

This is such a game-changer in terms of building client rapport and your business, so let me repeat that again: You should respond to EVERY review. Not just the negatives ones (yes, you need to respond to all of those) but also the positive ones.

Think of this from a consumer’s perspective. Let’s say you’re going on a trip, and you’re looking for a great hotel. Of course, you expect to see a few one- or two-star reviews (it’s almost impossible for any service-based business to avoid!). But then, you see the hotel manager has responded to that negative review, and not only responded, but done it with the utmost professionalism and grace. You scroll on and realize that they’ve responded to every review on their page. Good or bad. Polite or ugly.

Doesn’t seeing that patience and dedication make you feel so much better? They’re fully transparent that they care what their customers think, they’re honoring their values even on Yelp, and they’re taking the time to try to make every experience as ideal as possible.

Yes, it’s time-consuming to respond to every reviews, especially if you’re dealing with multiple platforms like Yelp and Google business reviews. But it is worth it.

2. Set Up Alerts for New Reviews to Save Yourself Headaches

Now that we’ve established why you should respond to every review, you might be wondering: How am I going to find the time to look at all of my reviews on every platform?

Most platforms allow you to set up alerts so that when someone — anyone — writes a review good or bad, you receive an email that lets you click through to read it immediately. Typically you can change your notification preferences under your account settings.

If you do find that one of your review platforms doesn’t offer automatic notifications, schedule a “meeting” with yourself once a week to check each of your platforms and tackle any new client reviews. You can even create a bookmarks folder of all the sites you need to check, so you can quickly shuffle through them.

3. When It Comes to Responding to 1-Star Reviews, Don’t Let Emotions Get to You

Easier said than done, I know. Honestly, the best way I’ve found to avoid responding out of emotion is to give it some space. Take a few hours to compose yourself, and only then respond. Focus on keeping your tone professional no matter the circumstance. Read it out loud to see if anything sounds or feels discourteous or terse. You’ll be able to hear it in your voice. When in doubt, ask for a second opinion from someone you trust.

4. Respond Within 48 Hours

While you should give yourself a few hours to process any bad review, don’t take too much time. I recommend responding within 24-48 hours — 48 hours being the absolute max.

5. Stick to the Facts

We do not want to turn this into an online argument. Be professional and stick to the facts. Think about what a potential new client will see when they read the exchange. Responding to negative reviews is two-fold: it shows the frustrated guest that you take their feedback seriously, but it also shows future guests that you genuinely care about them and their business. 

6. Always Start Your Respond to a Review with a Big Thank You

Anytime a client gives you feedback, whether it is good or bad, it’s a giant gift. It helps you become more aware of blind spots in your business, and it allows you to also allow you to become a better business owner.

7. Apologize. (That Period Is Intentional)

I know there are many situations that could warrant a one-star review, including some incredibly unwarranted ones. But your response should still say thank you and sorry. Apologizing doesn’t mean you did anything wrong or that you need to take the blame for something you didn’t do. It means you’re going to apologize for having an experience that disappointed them and that was not up to your standards, either. One way of phrasing this: “Thank you for sharing this with me. First, let me say that I’m so sorry you had a negative experience. It’s so important to me that every one of my clients leaves feeling thrilled with the work I do, and I’m so upset to hear we fell short for you”. Then you can respond with the facts.

8. Follow Up with the Client by Phone or Email After You Respond Publicly

This is possibly the most important step to answering a negative review. I have found that most clients just want to be heard. By taking time out of your day just to personally listen to their opinion and feedback about their experience, it shows how much you care.

9. Self-Assess

Ask yourself always: What can I do better? How could I communicate better? How do I ensure this doesn’t happen again?

This is key. You will never please everyone. No one is perfect, but that includes you. So treat negative Yelp reviews or Google reviews as huge learning lessons. After each one, ask yourself how you can prevent it from happening again. Then make those changes. It will help lower the risk of you ever receiving another one-star review.