4 Tips for Responding to Negative Company Reviews

Online reviews are the modern-day word-of-mouth marketing, and the same principle rings true: ­What people say about your brand matters.

At some point, most employers will receive a negative company review. While many businesses understand that replying to reviews is critical to maintaining – and enhancing – their employer brand, they often struggle with crafting an effective response.  

According to Indeed research, 83% of people say reviews influence where they apply and 46% say that a company’s reputation significantly impacts their final decision to accept a job offer. Moreover, job seekers are never short of reviews to peruse – in Canada alone, there are over 600,000 reviews on Indeed’s Company Pages.  

Given the extent to which people review companies and the influence they have on potential candidates, it’s important to keep these four tips in mind when responding to negative company reviews.

  1.     Respond in a timely fashion

Responding to negative reviews promptly shows the reviewer (and potential job candidates) that you’re listening, that you care and are open to constructive feedback. Responding to a negative review can help alter the perception of the reviewer and prospective job seekers – if you do it right.

In fact, a Harris Interactive study found that when companies responded to negative reviews, 34% of reviewers deleted the negative message, and 33% replaced it with a positive review.

While you want to prioritize punctuality, don’t rush to hit “reply.” Instead, think carefully about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Reviews and responses are public, so you must adopt the mentality that you are not simply replying to one reviewer, but the community at large.

Of course, things can get hectic. So, if you happen to reply later than you had hoped, apologize for the delayed response upfront.

  1.     Acknowledge feedback positively

Always kick off your response by thanking the reviewer for taking the time to provide feedback on your business. Every review – whether negative or positive – is an opportunity to gain insight into your company’s practices and employee perception.

Try to turn the negative review into a constructive conversation. First, acknowledge the reviewer’s negative experience and apologize when you feel it’s warranted. Secondly, draw attention to the positive aspects of your company.

For example, if there are certain programs in place or initiatives your company is taking that would help employees overcome the challenges outlined by the reviewer, explain what those are. It’s always good to show that you’re listening and making efforts to improve.

In the following example, an employee expressed ambivalent feelings toward the company; on the one hand, the employee enjoys working with their team, but feels as though they are not getting the recognition that is deserved. The company responds by acknowledging the issue, while also providing a solution for how the employee might overcome this challenge with management.

“Thank you for taking the time to review our company. You couldn’t be more right when you say our people are amazing. We agree! We’re lucky to have found so many outstanding performers who are also fun to be around. Thanks for your comments about employee recognition. Lately we’ve been putting more emphasis than ever on recognizing and rewarding performance, and your feedback is the perfect reminder of how much that recognition matters. Please feel free to talk to your manager about any concerns you have and ask them to help you set and achieve your goals. A conversation like that will not only be productive, but will also help you get noticed!”

  1.     Be empathetic

It’s imperative to empathize with the reviewer. Showing genuine compassion for reviewers can help humanize your business and at the same time, showcase your personality and employer brand.

It’s easy to come across as defensive, so be aware of your tone and craft an empathetic response that expresses your sincerity.

Show the reviewer that you have put yourself in their shoes and have asked yourself how you would feel under those circumstances.

Let the reviewer know that you understand why they’re feeling frustrated. For example, the following is a well-written response to a reviewer who spoke highly of a company and role, but pointed to a negative aspect of the company – the emotional hardship of working with seniors. The reviewer acknowledges this challenge, provides an empathetic response and shows future employees that they value their employees.

“Thank you for caring for our residents. Working with seniors is very rewarding but has its challenges, especially when you are caring for those with dementia. I’m glad you were part of a strong team who worked to help residents stay involved and enjoy life. Best of luck to you, and thank you for sharing your time with us.”

Depending on the severity of the situation, and to avoid settling the matter on a public forum, ask them to contact you directly so you can find a resolution, which brings us to our next point…

  1.     Bring the conversation offline

Try to keep the public dialogue to a minimum. There are two main reasons why you’d want to take the conversation offline: firstly, if the matter is serious and you require additional information, talking to the reviewer directly will allow you to arrive at a resolution more efficiently. And secondly, if the reviewer rebuts to your response, it’s best to hash things out in a more private manner, with less eyes on the conversation.

Indeed recommends that you establish an employer email alias that is generic, such as feedback@company.com, so that you can comfortably share your contact information in your online community.

Keep in mind that it’s impossible to respond to every review, so focus on the ones that are genuine in nature and offer constructive feedback. Don’t engage with combative reviewers – unfortunately that is a battle you can’t win.

In the following example, the company acknowledges the challenges of working with a large – and growing – company, and asks the reviewer to reach out to them privately so that they can hear more about their experience. Listening to employees is the best way to improve business practices and show future candidates that you’re willing to adapt.

“Thanks for your feedback! We are moving fast and appreciate your patience with some of our growing pains. There is much opportunity for career growth across teams within the company, and we’d love to understand any issues you’re experiencing. Please feel free to confidentially message us at inside@ourcompany.com.”

While negative reviews can potentially tarnish your reputation, an effective response can help offset this effect. According to an Indeed survey, over half (53%) of Canadian workers said that their perception of an employer would become somewhat more positive if an employer responds to a negative review online.

To ensure the most constructive reviews gain the most visibility, encourage your current employees to rate the reviews on your page as either helpful or unhelpful. Reviews that are more helpful will appear on the top of your company page and will thus be highlighted to job seekers.

No one enjoys reading a negative review of their business. But instead of regarding negative reviews with dread, try to look at them as opportunities. Not only do reviews (both negative and positive) allow you to get into the minds of your former, current and future employees, they also help you identify areas that need improvement. One thing is for sure – employees talk. At least, in the form of a review, they’re talking to you in a space where you can address the concern. And if you respond in a timely manner, acknowledge their issue and show empathy, you’re well on your way to altering their perception of you as an employer.