Sally S. began grooming at a young age. She honed her craft, saved her money, and found a mentor in the grooming business. After a time, Sally opened her own grooming salon, Sally’s Soggy Dog. Business ran great for a while with just a few novice mistakes; a missed tax filing here, a disgruntled customer there, but Sally learned and Sally’s Soggy Dog prospered.  As Sally’s business grew, so did her dependence on additional staff. She found that more and more her services were carried out by employees and she did not have control over every customer interaction or grooming service.

And then the day came that Sally got her first bad review on social media. It went something like this:

I just came from Sally’s Soggy Dog and oh my gosh, this place sucks. I dropped my dog off at 11 and when I returned from lunch he wasn’t done – in fact, he was waiting in a cage. When I asked how much longer, some girl mumbled that it would be a while. Don’t go here – these people are terrible. 

–Barbara V.

Sally read the review and immediately was flooded with emotions. She was furious, embarrassed, concerned, and bewildered. How did this happen? She valued the connections she created with customers at Sally’s Soggy Dog and had pride over the quality of work her staff normally completed.

Here’s where our story takes a turn. How Sally handles this very public, very deflating opinion could determine the ongoing success and define the reputation of her business. Some Sallys would respond immediately, defending the honor and quality of work at the shop. Some Sallys would Google, “how to write a response to a bad online review.” Some Sallys may ask friends and family to help draft a response which would deflate the original opinion. Which Sally are you?

To handle adversity such as a bad review, it takes a calm, rational approach which highlights the values of your establishment. Authenticity can be visible to readers — even on the internet. Think about what makes you and your business unique and special in the first place. Are you known for the quality of work you do? Perhaps you are known for your personal touches at customer service or the timely manner you complete grooming services. Whatever is your truth, this is the time to draw upon it and allow it to shine through in your response.

A qualified business owner would look at the review and certainly determine if there was merit to the reviewer’s opinion. If so, then it’s okay to let them know. Sometimes an apology is all that is needed to appease a customer who felt slighted in some way. After reviewing the situation, you should be able to determine if the reviewer has a valid complaint. If it’s frivolous, they will know it, and hopefully you will too and can respond appropriately.

Here are some samples of different approaches to Sally’s bad review: 

Dear Barbara, 

I have reviewed the circumstances of your visit and must apologize that we did not meet your expectations for Fluffins. It’s not you, it’s us. We failed. How can we prove ourselves to you? We need another chance to impress you – let’s set up a time to get it right!

Dear Barbara, 

After reviewing the details contained in your review it appears that you chose the wrong place to go for lunch. We would have suggested a sit-down meal with at least 3 courses so that we had ample time to complete Fluffin’s groom yesterday. I highly recommend Beefy’s down the street. Next time, if you let us know you are going through drive-thru, we will offer an express service. Also, you can pick us up lunch.  Thanks so much!

Barbara, 

I reviewed your service yesterday and am regretful that you do not appear on our records. Perhaps you used another groomer and have mistakenly blemished our sterling reputation. No apology needed, but we are happy to help you in the future!

Mrs. V., 

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to groom Fluffins. We take our services seriously and our clients are important to us. We are sorry that we didn’t communicate the time we needed to complete the service. In the future, let’s discuss your expectations more thoroughly so we can exceed them.

Each sample response allows Sally to have a public conversation with the unhappy customer. As with any differing opinion, it is always important to acknowledge how the other person feels and then state your viewpoint and offer a solution. After all, tomorrow is another day and an unhappy customer today is an opportunity to open a dialogue which can turn them into your biggest  advocate.  It’s all in the Word Play. ✂