Apology-CoverAn apology doesn’t solve everything, but it’s a place to start. When a disagreement occurs between friends or clients, an apology doesn’t mean you’re weak or wrong, but moves you towards a resolutionof the problem at hand. Nothing kills the sincerity of an apology like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but . . . ” If a customer writes a negative review on your company’s Facebook, Yelp, Google+ or Angie’s List page, there’s a right way to address the review and a wrong way. Here’s how to properly address a negative review online.

Say You’re Sorry and That’s It

Acknowledge Negative Reviews

There are three sides to every negative review; yours, the customer’s and the truth. However, when people are browsing your company page on a review site, they don’t know that. They see a negative review and frankly they aren’t stopping to think about anyone else’s point of view. They see someone had an unpleasant experience with your business and they don’t want to have the same experience. You need to address negative reviews. You cannot let them go unanswered. It makes your business look unresponsive, as if providing great customer service isn’t a high priority for your company. When it comes to replying to negative reviews, use the following tips:

The Customer has a Right to Their Feelings

Most sites allow the business to respond to reviews, so take advantage of this feature to offer an apology. Whether the customer is in the right or wrong, they have a right to feel what they feel. Don’t discredit their feelings by telling them they are wrong to feel dissatisfied. They do. That is the fact.

Start your response to a negative review with I’m sorry. For example, “I’m sorry you were unhappy with the service we provided you,” or “I’m sorry you felt dissatisfied with the work we performed.”

DO NOT say, “I’m sorry you’re unhappy, but . . . ” and go into why the customer shouldn’t be upset. This isn’t the place to hash out the disagreement, present your side of the story or throw customer under the bus. You might think you’re doing the right thing by defending your company, but your behavior actually looks childish and defensive.

Take the Discussion Offline

After you have expressed your sincerest apologies to the customer, suggest taking the conversation offline. Politely ask them to call your office or email you so you can attempt to resolve the situation privately. Publicly you establish an image as a company willing to address customer service issues. Having a longer discussion over the phone or through email is a much better solution than allowing potential new customers to see how combative you are online. Your defensive stance makes prospective customers wary of working with you for fear of being treated the same way if they are not completely satisfied.

Issue Resolved? Ask for a Follow up

If you have resolved the issue be sure to ask the customer to post a follow up comment. That way other people will see you are customer focused. Some customers will never be satisfied no matter how hard you work to rectify the situation. Continuing to engage with them on social media just fuels the fire. If you have tried and cannot make them happy, move on.

Don’t Dwell on One Review

Smart consumers know not to put too much weight on one negative review if the majority of reviews are positive, and the company seems to be responsive to situations as they arise. Take control of your online reputation by actively soliciting reviews from clients who like working with you. Maintain a positive, helpful and sincere tone in all public responses. And most of all, focus on delivering the very best service and the reviews will take care of themselves.