“Not a normal human being” (How NOT to respond to negative reviews)

Watching a business owner meltdown over a negative review is one of those unique phenomena that can make you cringe, laugh and feel embarrassed all at once. In our blog series – “How NOT to respond to negative reviews” – we’ll take a look at some poor responses and breakdown what to do/what not to do with bad reviews. That way, your business never shows up on here. 😉

This ugly interaction between an unsatisfied traveler and hotel owner has more than its fair share of problems.

Problem 1: The response is rushed. Everything about this response, from the tone it takes to the numerous typos, suggests the owner didn’t take the time to think about an effective response. It reflects poor professionalism to anyone reading the review. (Now, this might have been intentional because the owner wanted to be nasty, and we’ll get to why that’s not a good move next).

Give yourself a moment, then respond. Yes, time is of the essence when your business’ reputation is on the line. Calm down, think of a response that reflects the values you want others to see in your business, and proofread it.

Problem 2: The owner gets hostile.  “There must be something wrong with you.” Yikes. The owner makes public what should have just stayed in his head. The reviewer is clearly being irrational complaining about the hotel not having a bathroom for his/her dog, yet the owner manages to make him/herself seem just as irrational with the response.

Take the high road (even though it’s hard). Again, this discussion is public, so calm down. It will only look good to prospective customers that you can handle a negative review with grace. You might dislike the reviewer and don’t want to say sorry because you weren’t wrong, but you can express regret for the bad experience. That way, you’re also showing empathy and not being fake about it because you do regret that someone wrote a 1 star.

Problem 3: The finger pointing. The rest of the owner’s response mostly consists of accusations (not to mention the impossible claim of having zero complaints in 18 years). This shows immaturity and can exacerbate the issue, potentially leading to a back and forth argument.

Respond with the facts, politely. In this case, the owner should have highlighted the hotel’s commitment to quality and outlined the policies in a matter-of-fact fashion. This approach works in defending the reputation of the hotel, without coming off patronizing or defensive. Any other discussion of what may have happened during the reviewer’s stay is subjective and should be out of the public eye.

It’s fair to assume this hotel owner lost the business of this reviewer and potentially anyone who came across the response. If you run into a similar situation, try to remember these tips or use this handy infographic to figure out the best way to respond to a negative review.


Doctors Reply Poorly Too

We’re back with another misadventure in “How NOT to respond to a negative review”. This time, a doctor is faced with a seriously frustrated patient and throws a fit. 

Here’s why the doctor’s response is no bueno:

The doctor doesn’t seem to know about HIPAA: The reviewer remains anonymous perhaps as a way to act rude and not be held accountable or face any retribution. It’s not fair. But any medical professional should be well versed with the confidentiality and privacy laws surrounding patient medical information (in the US it’s known as HIPAA). Although the reviewer is the one who willingly discloses some details of his or her medical information. the doctor should have acted in the patient’s best interest and attached contact information to immediately take the conversation offline rather than insult back (“childish and abhorrent”) and maybe prod the patient to reveal more information.

There’s no room for a conversation: Even though the reviewer comes off as intense, they appear to bring up some legitimate frustrations. They certainly aren’t being a “cyber bully” as the doctor puts it. Medical facilities, no matter the size or scope of practice, are often very complex and may have strict policies that can be frustrating but necessary to keep things organized. Following treatment plans can also seem needlessly tedious if left unexplained as well. The doctor closes the door on an opportunity to clearly explain the policies and treatment plan that may have been the source of frustration in the first place, both by responding unprofessionally and by failing to post contact information to further the discussion offline.

The doctor goes on an ego trip: While it’s certainly tough to hear criticism, it inevitably happens to the best in the business. Instead of responding professionally, this doctor chooses defensive and demeaning language to try to belittle the reviewer. The finishing line is a dead giveaway that this doctor is simply carrying an inflated head on his/her shoulders. In situations like these, it’s always best to stay humble, make an apology, and keep it professional.

Though the reviewer makes churlish remarks, the doctor’s poor response seems to validate the reviewer’s accusations. If this doctor had responded politely and offered to address the frustrations privately, it’s possible the reviewer would have edited or taken down this review or at least let potential patients see the doctor is in fact professional.

For more in this series of “How NOT to reply to a negative review”, check out:

7 Free Marketing Tools for Local Businesses

Local businesses often ask us how they can do a better job marketing their business online. However, businesses don’t always need to invest in big advertising spend or fancy tools. Here are 7 free marketing tools any business owner can use.


1. Yelp’s free, real-time email notifications for new reviews

Engaging in friendly communication with negative reviewers of your business can be a powerful way to earn back business and demonstrate professionalism in a public forum. Yelp offers free, real-time alerts each time a new review is left on your business. This allows you to see when a review is left and respond in a more timely manner. If you have multiple Yelp listings, you may want to set up an email distribution list for routing the alerts to the right folks. This would also help you avoid the hassle of resetting the email address of the recipients if employees leave the company.

2. Hootsuite Free Plan

Many businesses use social media to build their web presence and engage their audience. Managing high engagement across multiple social channels can feel chaotic without organization. Hootsuite offers a free plan that allows management of 3 different social media platforms, allowing you to login with one password and instantly switch between each profile. The management tools include basic analytics, scheduled social media posts, and integration of two RSS feeds.

3. Reputology’s Review Generator

For a limited time, Reputology is offering a free tool that helps you convert your satisfied customers into promoters for your business. You can create a feedback form that is shared and offered to your customers. If the customer reports being unsatisfied, the form directs their info to you, allowing you to address any concerns before they post their complaints online. If your customers indicate they are happy, they can route them to a review site where they can share their experience with others. This allows you to build your business’s reputation while addressing any existing problems.

4. Free Google My Business Listing 

Google may not be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of review sites, but Google has surpassed all other sites by number of new reviews. You want to create a free Google My Business so that your business appears when people submit relevant Google searches in your area or using Google Maps. Customize your profile by adding quality photos along with well written descriptions that will show up close to the top on a Google search. Google Maps will also use GPS to prompt visitors to write reviews, so having a listing on Google My Business can help you gain traction on your online ratings.


5. Facebook Business Page

Second only to Google in terms of number of new reviews, Facebook is often overlooked as a review site, but it is a valuable platform for free marketing. Make your page look great with quality photos of your business, detailed descriptions, and regular posts that share engaging content to your audience. You can also add a call-to-action button that makes it easy for visitors to be directed to your business’ full website.


6. Instagram

Business profiles on Instagram can gain lots of traction by producing visually compelling content to draw in and engage consumers. And some have taken advantage of Instagram’s video feature to create short videos that are fun and humorous, like Dapper & Wise Roasters in Portland, OR. This sort of sharable content has helped this small coffee roaster with suburban roots to gain a substantial following relative to other roasters that have been in the competitive Portland coffee scene longer.

7. American Express Openforum

American Express Openforum is a valuable resource that features advice, tips, and informational articles from guest writers across various industries. This site is a great spot to turn to for any small business owner looking for some free guidance, and answers some of the tougher questions such as how to handle negative reviews, what to do if someone is boycotting your business, and more.