Negative reviews are part of today’s business reality. Consumers are more likely—over four times more likely, in fact—to spontaneously leave a negative review. If you’re monitoring your social profile, negative reviews are not a matter of if, but when.

Rather than worrying about the damage that less-than-stellar reviews can cause, take the approach that you’re being given a chance to turn the situation around. According to a customer experience study by software giant Oracle: 

22% percent of consumers who receive a retailer response to their online complaint will end up posting a positive review—and 34 percent end up deleting their negative review altogether.

Moreover, research shows for every consumer that didn’t think a store should respond to bad reviews at all, almost 17 more said seeing a thoughtful response to someone else’s negative review would make them more confident the store would take good care of them.

So, the inevitable has happened, and your store has received a negative review. Take a deep breath and follow our AIM system to craft a steady response:

DO’S

Acknowledge their frustration: 

Just like positive reviews, the first step is to acknowledge someone has taken the time to comment on your business and you’re aware they aren’t happy. It will be appreciated by the reviewer, and noticed by future and potential customers. There’s no need to reiterate the complaint, but acknowledge their frustration—even if you believe they are incorrect, misinformed or overreacting.

EXAMPLE:

“John, I’m sorry to hear about the unexpected delay in your delivery.”

“It sounds like we didn’t get you the help you expected and deserve, Kathy.”

“I’d be frustrated if I were you, too, Tom.”

Initiate a resolution: 

This is not the place to discuss specifics—you probably don’t have all the information you need to fully solve their problem at this point anyway. In addition, the details necessary to fully resolve the issue are often not appropriate to share online. But you do want to show publicly that you want to make it right and how you’re going to get the ball rolling.

EXAMPLE:

“We would like to make this inconvenience up to you.”

“If you could see fit to give us another chance, I’d like to ensure you get the assistance you need personally.”

“We can—and should—do better by you.” 

Move the conversation to a private platform:

As mentioned above, the real work of solving the problem will take place offline—it’s time to move the conversation to another medium. Which one you choose will depend on the situation itself, whether or not you can identify and have the contact information of the reviewer, and the platform where the review was left.

EXAMPLE: 

“I see we have your phone number on file. I’ll be calling you today to discuss every option available to get you your new furniture as quickly as possible.”

“My cell phone number is 555-5555. If you would like to come back in, I welcome you to call me and arrange a time that’s convenient for you so that I can personally apologize and ensure you get the exceptional service we strive for during your visit.”

“I will reach out to you momentarily by private message so we can connect and I can learn more about how I can help.”

DON’TS

Be emotional or overreact. Being criticized isn’t fun. Even so, you need to put your ego aside and be diplomatic, professional and polite about how you respond.

Include SEO terms in your response. In these types of exchanges, you want to avoid having them appear in searches.

Wait too long. Yes, take a deep breath and avoid firing off a heated response. A negative review can, however, spiral out of control if you’re too slow. Social media sites like Facebook or Twitter can reach thousands of people at the click of a mouse. By responding promptly, you’re making sure that your side of the story is being seen, too. The Oracle survey mentioned earlier found 50 percent of consumers give a brand only one week to respond to a question before they stop doing business with them.

Try to delete comments or block users. On most review sites it’s not even possible to delete a bad review or disallow a user. Many do have escalation paths that you can use to request a review be removed. Unless the review includes profanity, racist comments or other offensive content, or it’s truly false or defamatory, you should avoid trying to suppress it—no matter how tempting. You probably won’t prevail anyway; a much better use of your time is to craft a thoughtful response that illustrates publicly how reasonable and accommodating your business is.

Always remember, when you respond to a reviewer, it’s not just a one-on-one situation. You’re communicating to everyone who uses that review site and everywhere the interaction gets shared. It’s a powerful tool that needs to be wielded with care.