It’s a question that every franchise owner wants the answer to; how do you respond to a negative review without accepting blame, yet still show empathy for the reviewer’s experience? This can be a sensitive issue, but it’s one that franchisors and franchisees can properly address while taking their legal team’s concerns into account.

Below, you’ll find a few best practices for responding to reviews without accepting blame. We’ve also provided franchisors with a few templated responses that can be used to show empathy while encouraging the reviewer to move the conversation offline — away from the public eye.

Responding with empathy without accepting blame

It’s always good practice to show your customers that you recognize when they have a negative experience at one of your franchise locations. However, that doesn’t mean you have to accept fault for their experience. Franchisees can toe this line by apologizing for the negative experience — and not the specific issue — so as to avoid accepting any blame.

Additionally, try to move the conversation offline quickly by providing contact information and encouraging the reviewer to reach out. That will give your team a chance to understand the details and merits of the issue so you can address them accordingly.  

Every business has a few issues, and it’s understandable that franchise owners would want to avoid talking about hot button topics that customers often complain about. Even if you’re hesitant to address certain issues, there are ways to phrase the response so that you’re following best practices and conveying what you’d like to say (or avoid saying). Nevertheless, it’s always best to get ahead of any negative conversation and show that you’re proactively addressing online concerns.

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Examples of appropriate review responses for franchise brands

The professional services group at SOCi manages review response for some of the top national franchise brands, and the team has provided a few response templates that will work for any franchisor in need of response ideas. These templates can be used to construct responses that adhere to review response best practices while still abiding by the guidelines set forth by corporate/legal teams.

  1. Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback, [NAME]. Our team works hard to provide customers with the best support possible and we apologize that this wasn’t your experience. We’d like to better understand what happened and how we can make things right, so please reach out to us at [EMAIL or PHONE NUMBER].

  1. [NAME], we apologize for any misunderstanding. Most of our customers are highly satisfied with their experience with our team. We want to make sure this continues, so please email us at [EMAIL or PHONE NUMBER]. We look forward to connecting and turning your experience around.

  1. [NAME], we’re disappointed by your feedback. We’d appreciate the chance to go over your concerns and appropriate solutions, so please contact us at [EMAIL or PHONE NUMBER]. We’re confident that we can turn your experience around, and we look forward to getting it corrected.

  1. [NAME], your feedback is appreciated. It’s certainly not our intention to mislead our customers, so we apologize for any confusion. We’d be happy to speak with you and answer any questions you may have, so please contact us at [EMAIL or PHONE NUMBER]. We work hard to provide our customers with the best support and we hope you will give us another opportunity to show you that.

  1. [NAME] we’re very sorry to read that you’re unhappy with your experience. Your feedback is what drives us to improve and given the chance, we’d like to look into the issues you’re experiencing. Please email us at [EMAIL or PHONE NUMBER] our team would be happy to assist you.

  1. [NAME], we’re disappointed that we didn’t meet your expectations. Rest assured that we’ve made improvements since then and we’re continuing to make great changes. If you’d like to speak further about your experience, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [EMAIL or PHONE NUMBER].

The tools of an effective review response strategy

As you see in the templates above, the general steps to crafting an appropriate review response are to thank the reviewer for their feedback, apologize for their experience, and tell them how you’re going to follow up. These responses will only be effective, however, if you tailor them to the individual reviewers. Be sure to use the reviewer’s name and mention specifics from the review when possible. Also note that these responses are worded to reflect a certain tone of voice, but the actual tone used in your responses should align with your company’s overall brand personality and messaging.

Showing empathy is key because these responses will be seen by everyone who finds your business on a review site or a search engine. Other readers will see your response as a reflection of the kind of service they can expect from your staff. By using a reputation management platform like SOCi that’s built for franchise brands, you can receive notifications every time someone leaves a review on any of the major review sites and respond within one, centralized platform. A research report created by SOCi and the Local Search Association reveals that 89 percent of consumers are willing to change a negative review based on the business’ response. So, staying on top of your reviews is key to maintaining the positive public perception of your business. No franchise owner wants to deal with negative reviews, but they do present an opportunity to change the sentiment surrounding your business.

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