How to respond to an unfavorable review vs. an untruthful review

It’s a fact that in today’s society of swiping, typing, texting, instant messaging (and I could keep going with the -ings), people feel more empowered than ever to voice their opinion. And, the bandwidth and instantaneous nature of social media and other digital platforms give people easy access to do just this – whenever, wherever and however they so choose.

On one hand, this arena for constant communication allows companies to build trust and foster relationships with its core audiences, especially customers, as well as current and prospective employees. But on the other hand – the hand that keeps CEOs, entrepreneurs and employers up at night –  is the free range that people have (and happily take) to share how they think or feel in an open forum.

Such is absolutely the case when it comes to company review websites like Indeed, Glassdoor, Yelp, and of course, Facebook. I’ve worked with several clients on responding to both favorable and unfavorable reviews. And while we may execute a slightly different strategy for each client based on their industry, company culture, state of the business or other pertinent variables, there are a few key things that I always suggest when it’s time to sit down and strategically respond to a review of a place you likely spend more time at than you do your own home – the workplace.

Develop key messages and treat them like the Holy Grail.

What makes responding to reviews a gut-wrenching challenge is when you’re trying to create something new to say every time. Just as the saying goes, don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s wise to have a list of several, well-crafted key messages that speak to the facts about your company. Facts prevail over falsities. Not only do these key messages come in handy when you’re responding to someone who loves your company,  but they also come into play when the love has been lost. It’s perfectly fine to offset a negative review with a message that has been used time and time again to talk positively about your company (as long as it’s relevant and doesn’t sound copied and pasted). The more someone sees the same message, the more likely it is to combat a reviewer’s comment that doesn’t align with that message.

Don’t seek to be right. Seek to resolve.

We’ve all read defensive-sounding comments to online reviews, and you may cringe at how the company responds. That’s most likely because the person responding to the review wanted to be right and ‘win’ on behalf of the company. I get it. Who wants to just lay down and accept defeat, or in this case a negative review? But, it’s important to remember that perception is still reality and today, everything you do and say is being constantly judged and scrutinized…in real time! So, the goal is not to argue your point and reign victorious. On the contrary, you should seek to understand (and acknowledge) the reviewer’s point of view, empathize where necessary and reinforce your company’s key messages. And when you can, try to course correct. The reality is that you may not always win the reviewer over to your side, but with the right response, you can say you gave it your best shot, and you can manage your reputation when the next person sees that review.  

Move the conversation offline.

It’s natural to want to respond to a review right there, in the moment, when you read it. But, you have to remain strategic at all times. If the reviewer continues the dialogue after you’ve deployed the above two steps, you should seek to move the conversation offline. You may have crafted the best response that you could have, but the more you respond, the more the other party will do so – and it’s usually to refute what you’ve said. In this case, it’s in your best interest to suggest a phone call or meeting to further discuss the reviewer’s comments. Could this be uncomfortable? Maybe. But if it salvages a relationship with a great customer or outstanding employee, it could be worth it.

All in all, responding to online reviews is just like any other business decision you have to make. You must take your time, think it through, then just do it. And if you need help, Obsidian is just an email away.