No matter how good of a job you do of serving your customers, bad reviews are part of doing business in this increasingly connected world. Maybe a customer was having a bad day and is looking for someone to take it out on, or maybe someone at your company actually made a mistake. Either way, it’s best to see a bad review as an opportunity to improve your online reputation and build overall brand equity.

Taking the high road and going the extra mile to appease an upset customer can help you repair a damaged relationship, make improvements through feedback, and boost the way you are perceived by potential customers who read that negative review.

Here are key steps to take when responding to a negative review.

  1. Take a deep breath and relax.
  • A bad review will stir up strong feelings in most customer service reps or business owners. But if you let yourself become angry and respond in a hostile manner, you will damage your brand reputation and hurt your business even more than that negative review.
  • Once you’ve written a response, have someone else review it before you post it. It’s good to have an extra filter to make sure that your words won’t be misconstrued and aren’t overly negative. Not to mention having it proofread for misspellings.

2. Think about it from the customer’s point of view.

  • Look at it from their perspective and think about why they were upset and what they wanted to achieve by writing this negative review. Many people really just want to be heard and know that you care about their experience.
  • Think about how they will perceive your response and whether it will resolve their concern. Some people simply won’t be swayed. Others might tone themselves down and be very easy to please once someone tries to help resolve their problem.
  • If the customer is leaving genuinely constructive feedback, it may be worth offering to follow up with them via phone or email to get extra feedback and gain a deeper understanding of their needs as a customer and what they want from your products and services. This is the kind of customer who wants to have a good experience with your business, in particular, and could become more loyal or even a brand evangelist if you take their feedback and make them feel heard and happy.

3. Be positive, friendly, and professional.

  • This is an opportunity to prove how great your business is.
  • Thank the customer for taking the time to leave their feedback.
  • Stress that you want every customer to have a positive experience and that you want to do your best to resolve the issue the customer is having.

4. Try to respond as quickly as possible.

  • The longer you wait to respond to a review, the less it seems like their problem is a priority for you.

5. Don’t just respond to the review, try to resolve the underlying issue that caused it.

  • Take responsibility for the issue and do what you can to resolve it. Be wary of giving out freebies or refunds as a means to resolve an issue. You don’t want it to appear like you are bribing the reviewer. You also don’t want to set a precedent.
  • Did the review highlight a change that you need to make internally? Did you make the change? If so, call it out. Show the reviewer and readers of the review that you care enough to be working to improve for their sake.
  • Resolving the issue could not only help you retain this person as a customer and make them a more loyal customer, it could also help show other customers that you are a responsive, high quality organization that they should also do business with.

6. Can you ask the customer to revise their review?

  • If a customer left you a negative review, but your response and handling of the situation made them a happy customer again, ask them to update their review to reflect that. And stress your appreciation for their updated review.
  • If they can’t be satisfied, then all you can do is show in your response that you tried. Other potential customers reading the review and response will be smart enough to see that you did you best to make the customer happy and they likely won’t hold the customer’s dissatisfaction against you.

Overall, the important thing to do is make a visible effort. Keep yourself open to the possibility that it won’t end the way you want it to and don’t let that get you down. When other people have a positive customer experience with you and make a point of letting you know, be sure to ask them to write a review of your business. Most people write reviews when they’ve had a bad experience, so having some extra voices singing your praises can go a long way toward drowning out the sound of your detractors.