Reframe Bad Online Reviews

March 2022 |

Turn those dreaded negative reviews into an opportunity to build your business.

When you get negative reviews online, it’s tempting to simply ignore them. Those angry, critical proclamations can be so distressing that you might even decide to stop reading your reviews altogether.

Resist this urge, says Robert Sanchez, CEO of Digital Empathy, a veterinary website design and marketing firm. “You should respond to every review you get—but the most important thing is to respond to the negative ones,” he says. “If a potential client sees a one-star or two-star review with no reply, it creates a very bad first impression.”

Responding to negative reviews—no matter how unfair they may seem—can present a golden opportunity. You can strengthen your relationships with those upset clients, while demonstrating to the world how professional and caring you truly are.

Reframe and Reply

First, reframe in your mind what a negative review actually means. “These reviews aren’t really about you—they’re about how that person is feeling at that particular moment in time,” says Sanchez.

Difficult outcomes in a pet’s care, or not being able to afford a recommended treatment, are situations that understandably make people feel terrible. “A lot of times their anger is a cover for sadness, and you’re a convenient target,” says Sanchez.

When you read a bad review, try asking yourself how that person is feeling. Next, make a commitment to reply to all your reviews. At least once a week, go through Google and Facebook and reply to every review, Sanchez advises. For positive reviews, say thank you and express how much you care about the clients and their pets. If a customer writes about a bad experience at your practice, try this formula:

Three-Step Formula

Sanchez recommends including three components in replies to all negative reviews:

Step 1: Empathize. Express how sorry you are that they are going through this. “Really, truly empathize with them,” says Sanchez. “They are calling out in pain—whether or not they’re right to do it with you.” Show that you are empathetic and in control.
What to write:  “I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I know this is difficult.”

Step 2: State your values. This is for the benefit of the online community observing the exchange. “Keep in mind that there are two different populations you are serving—the client who has a conflict, and the entire rest of the community,” says Sanchez.
What to write:  “We care deeply about providing the highest level of care for all the pets we see, and Buster is an important part of our family.”

Step 3: Take it offline. Squash any potential for an online argument. “Don’t let the conversation turn into a back-and-forth,” says Sanchez. “You will not win.”
What to write:  “We really want to work with you and make sure we’re doing right by you and your family. Would it be all right for our practice manager to give you a call?”

Using this strategy to reply to negative reviews can help you retain current clients and attract potential future customers. “Reply in a way that will make them think, ‘That’s exactly what I’d want to see from the veterinarian I decide to visit,’ ” says Sanchez.