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9 Tips for Positively Responding to a Negative Review

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“I look at having a negative review as an opportunity to grow our business and improve our customer service,” says Donna Mead, Owner of Ken’s Automotive & Transmissions, in Frederick, Md.

Understandably, it may be difficult to view negative online reviews in the same way Mead does. A one-star review can bring down the cumulative rating of a shop and present unknown issues. 

Ashley D’Avico, owner of D’Avico’s Auto Repair in Wayne, Pa., views negative reviews similarly to Mead, and, through quick thoughtful responses, has continued to hold the top Google search result in her market organically, with the shop’s 200 reviews. 

Through researching the reviewer’s concern and crafting a deliberate response, negative reviews can become a learning opportunity—and a chance to save a customer from taking their business elsewhere.     


1. Research the concern.

Negative reviews should be responded to in 24–48 hours, Mead suggests. But before responding to the review, some research should be done.   

D’Avico says it’s important to go back to your process and look at things, identify what made the customer upset, and isolate the “why” behind it. 

“When I go into it (a negative review) I always think the customer is right, first,” Mead says. “I’m looking at it from [the perspective of], what did we do to let this customer down?”


2. Look for common denominators.

Before deeply looking into a review, shop owners should look to see if there is a common denominator between it and other past negative reviews that they have received, Mead says. Is there one specific part of the process that is being brought up multiple times, or one specific employee?

“Is it a customer service problem, a repair problem? What's the common denominator,” Mead says.

D’Avico says that if a shop receives a lot of negative reviews, the owner should go back to their processes and talk to his or her staff to see how things are going.

If the reviewer’s issue is unique, more research needs to be done on that specific review to find out the root of the isolated problem.


3. Interview your employees.

“When I receive a negative review online the first thing I do is interview my employees,” Mead says. 

She will speak with whichever employees interacted with the reviewer or worked on the reviewer’s vehicle to understand what may have happened and to see if they have any further information about the situation.

It is important to interview the employees separately, Mead says, so a group-like mentality or argument doesn't start.

Mead will ask her employee the following questions: What needed to be fixed on the customer’s vehicle? What do you believe happened in the situation? Do you believe you did anything wrong? Did the customer seem upset during the interaction?

“Figure out why it happened, so you can make sure it will never happen again,” D’Avico says.


4. Ask the customer.

In some cases, if employees are wishy-washy about the situation, Mead will call the customer that left the review to get more information from them. Although, this is rare and has only happened twice for Mead in the last 20 years. 

“I’ll call the customer and say, ‘Can you explain to me exactly what happened?’ after I’ve interviewed employees. I then go back to my staff and get to the bottom of it,” she explains. 

Between phone recordings, the repair order, and interviews, Mead says she can normally tell what the root of the issue was. 

Once understanding the issue deeper, Mead can correctly curate a response—or directly solve the issue.


5. Craft the response.

Writing the perfect response to a negative review takes practice, Mead says. But a well crafted response can turn an unhappy reviewer into a satisfied and returning customer.  

Even if the response doesn’t end up changing the reviewer’s mind, others reading the response will see that the shop cares enough about the situation to put itself out there, D’Avico says.

“We respond because we care,” Mead says. “We care about the customers’ experience and we care about what they like and don’t like. It helps us become a better shop so we can provide better service to the next customer that comes in.” 


6. Show appreciation.

Each response should have a theme of appreciation throughout. Mead says the importance of the ongoing appreciation is because the review is an opportunity for growth and a chance to better the business.

Both Mead and D’Avico start their review responses with a “thank you,” to the customer for taking the time to write a review, good or bad, and for sharing their experiences. The kindness and appreciation should continue throughout the response.   

“You want to kill them with kindness; you don't want to be negative,” says D’Avico, “You just really want to focus on getting to the bottom of it.”


7. Remove emotion. 

In order to calmly respond to negative reviews in the most productive manner, Mead stresses the importance of removing all emotion from the situation—and ultimately, the response. She explains that removing emotion comes along with not taking the review too personally. 

“Don’t take it personally, it’s not a personal attack,” Mead explains. “[The negative review] is an attack on how they (the customer) felt they were served, and that they didn’t get their value out of their visit.” 

She says the easiest way to remove emotion from a response, is to solely respond with the facts. Mead is able to accomplish this because she is the one in the shop responding. Since she is not directly involved in the physical repairs, she is able to use the information she gained from the employee(s), remove their emotions, and present the hard facts.

“That way, I’m looking at it as an outsider looking in,” she says. “I’m kind of a mediator between the employee and the customer.”


8. Make it concise.

The less said in the response, the better, Mead says. Not only will the short response help force the content to be hyper focused on the sole facts, but it will also help rid emotions and add to the professionalism. 

The reviewer’s concern should be relisted and addressed directly, she says.

Current and potential customers will be reading the shop reviews—the good, the bad and, especially, the ugly. Those individuals will also be reading the shop’s responses, Mead says. A short and professional response shows the potential returning or new customer that the shop is also professional, and concerned about quickly and directly solving issues.  


9. Go the extra mile.

In helping to resolve the reviewer’s issue, further actions can be included beyond a concise explanation.    

“I would do whatever I could to try and make [the situation] as positive as possible, and correct whatever wrong was happening,” D’Avico says. “We do whatever we can do for the customer to get them on our side again, and change the situation to become a more positive one.”

To ensure that the negative situation turns positive, D’Avico will leave her personal cell phone number, and tells the customer that they can call her 24/7, if they need her assistance. This exemplifies how much the shop cares about its customers. 

In one situation, a customer thought extra work was done on a vehicle that didn’t need it. In D’Avico’s response, she said she would be happy to take the car apart on her expense and show him exactly what was wrong to help solve the issue.

“You want people to know that you care, that you’re trying to make a difference, and that you care enough to make the change,” D’Avico says.

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