Negative church reviews might make you feel angry or dejected, but they can sometimes be an opportunity for growth.
The key is to deal with them professionally and not come off as the church that can’t handle any criticism. Sadly, negative reviews are going to happen, no matter how great your church may be.
Don’t worry. Every brand, including churches, get these types of reviews. Set yourself apart, though, by handling them with grace.
If you don’t think that reviews matter that much, see G2’s list of customer review statistics that prove the do matter.
Determine If A Response Is Necessary
While a general rule of thumb is to never ignore negative church reviews, sometimes, they don’t require a response. For instance, a negative review in all caps that makes about as much sense as an infant talking to you, it’s okay to ignore this one.
You’ll likely have the occasional negative review that doesn’t provide any feedback at all to explain why they left it. Another might simply be “just wasn’t the right environment for me.” For reviews like this, a simple response of “Thank you for visiting. We’re sorry we weren’t right for you.” works well.
Responding to nonsense reviews isn’t worth your time. People who see those tend to ignore them anyway.
Block Trolls And Bullies
If you’ve ever read comments on major news, entertainment or niche sites, you’ve seen trolls and bullies hard at work. These are people who literally keep their phones in hand or stay at a keyboard just to see if they can start an argument.
It doesn’t matter how you respond to these people. They’re only out to make others miserable and ruin the reputations of any brands they target.
Why are they targeting your church? It could be something as simple as they don’t believe in God and want to keep others from attending church.
For obvious trolls and bullies, block them if possible. While you can’t always do this one public review sites, you can do this on social media. These aren’t legitimate reviews anyway.
It’s a good idea to have a clear policy in place on your social media accounts and website that says trolls and bullies will not be tolerated. This way if anyone complains, all you have to say is they violated the rules and point to them. This also shows other reviewers that you’re serious about not getting pushed around.
Never Respond Immediately
First things first – don’t wait for days to respond. However, don’t respond the moment you read negative church reviews. It doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll likely have a negative comment in mind. This is not the professional way to handle the situation.
Ideally, you want a positive, respectful response that shows you care. Being negative back with a knee jerk reaction is just going to escalate the situation.
It’s important to note that people do read the responses to negative reviews. If they see your church is acting badly, they’ll be more likely to believe all the negative reviews, even if they only make up a tiny fraction of all your reviews.
Give yourself a moment to clear your mind and think rationally. Don’t respond until you feel like you can do so without any bias. If you’re still struggling after 30 minutes to an hour, ask someone else to help you.
Actually, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion before responding to negative church reviews.
Never Get Defensive
The quickest way to show you’re wrong is to get defensive. It’s also one of the fastest ways to turn a review into a major argument. This probably isn’t the way you want people checking out your church online to see you.
The last thing you want is for people seeing this and thinking your church is close-minded, disrespectful and opposed to polite discussions.
Even if this is the complete opposite of your church, one negative exchange where you get defensive is enough to turn people away from your church.
This is another reason not to respond immediately. Otherwise, it’s incredibly easy to get defensive, no matter how hard you try not to.
At the same time, avoid jumping into debates. Often times, negative reviewers try to bait you into public debates to discredit you. For these types of reviewers, their goal is to ruin your reputation. Don’t let them succeed.
Even if you have dozens or hundreds of positive reviews, a lengthy debate will make more of an impact on those seeking a new church. For most people, a debate seems like your church showing its true colors.
Put an end to any review discussion that tries to turn into a debate. It’s not about who’s right or wrong. It’s about being respectful and professional no matter what.
Apologize If You’re At Fault
Apologizing isn’t always easy, especially on a public platform. However, showcase your church’s humility by apologizing.
Actually, you should apologize even if you’re not at fault. Something as simple as “we’re so sorry you had a bad experience,” shows that you feel bad that something happened. Even if the bad experience was the reviewer’s fault, apologize.
Placing blame at any point may make your church seem judgmental and unforgiving. Being able to apologize shows that you care about people and want to make things better for them. This will help drive more people to your church.
However, always make sure your apology sounds sincere. Sarcasm isn’t always obvious online, but it is noticeable sometimes.
Ask For More Information
Show reviewers that there comments matter to your church by always asking for more information on negative church reviews. For instance, if someone gives you one star and says they had a terrible experience, ask them to elaborate.
Tell them you want details so you can investigate the problem and find a solution. Perhaps an usher was incredibly rude or every time they call to ask a question, they were hung up on.
You can’t learn from negative reviews or find solutions if you don’t know what happened. You can discuss details publicly or ask them to send the details privately. Either way, show them you’re serious about addressing their concerns and that alone will make them see your church in a better light.
Make The Discussion Private
Sometimes, it’s better to take the discussion private. This is especially true for reviewers who already seem angry or if you need to exchange any personal details, such as peoples’ names.
Politely ask them to take their comments private as you work to resolve their issue. This also makes longer discussions much easier without anyone else trying to comment in between your exchanges.
Never Ask Them To Change Their Review
The worst mistake you could possibly make is asking a reviewer to change their review after pointing out they were wrong or in exchange for something.
Not only is this ethically wrong, but the reviewer will let others know. Even if you ask them to please change their review in a private discussion, they can screenshot the discussion and share it publicly.
Instead, accept the negative review and work to resolve the issue. If the reviewer wants to change their review, they will. Otherwise, leave it alone.
See If It’s An Opportunity To Improve
As useful as reviews are for people, they can easily be a nightmare for your church. However, it’s all in how you see them. Change your perspective from “everyone thinks we’re a terrible church” to “this is a great opportunity to improve our church.”
Maybe a few new visitors have left negative church reviews about daycare staff or the inability to tithe online. These are areas you can improve in. From implementing online tithing to investigating the daycare issues, you have the opportunity to make your church even better for the next visitor.
You can’t possibly know every negative detail about your church. After all, you might be just a little biased. So, listen to negative reviews and see if there might be some truth to them. It’s a humbling experience, but one that pays off when you see more visitors becoming members and more positive reviews.
Offer A Solution, If Possible
For some reviews, there isn’t any real solution. For others, try to find and offer a solution. Maybe your handicap ramp is in need of repair or services tend to last well past when they should.
Fix the problem and invite the reviewer back. Explain what you did to remedy the situation and how much it would mean for them to give you another try.
It’s important not to nag them. Just provide a comment about what you did with a kind invitation. Even if they don’t respond, you’ll know that you did all you could. This also looks good to others who are reading over the reviews.
Personalize Your Response
Have you ever read reviews and every single response is nearly identical? For instance, many brands either say “We’re sorry you had this experience. Please contact customer service at blah blah blah.” or “We’re glad you like our brand.”
It’s easy to tell that these are just default responses. They don’t make people feel cared about.
While major brands might be able to get away with this, your church should offer a much more personalized experience. You’re not a corporation. You’re a family and community.
Showcase this by offering personalized responses to every negative review. You can even respond to positive reviews too.
Ensure your response addresses the problem and explains the next steps to take. Do this and you’ll even help calm angry reviewers. Not always, but at least sometimes.
Always Be Respectful
No matter what a review says or what language is used, always be respectful. If you respond and the reviewer continues to be unreasonable and abusive, end the conversation. Explain that you’re trying to respectful and further explore what’s wrong. However, if they can’t do the same, you won’t be able to help them until they calm down.
Explain Why You Think This Happened
If possible, explain why you think whatever the negative church reviews say happened. For example, if your vestibule looks like a bomb went off and it’s difficult to maneuver due to construction, a reviewer might complain about the state of disarray.
Explain to the reviewer and others that your church was undergoing construction and doesn’t normally look that way. Apologize for the inconvenience, state when the construction will be over and invite them back.
Acknowledge And Research
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge there may be a problem with your church. To respond quickly, though, acknowledge the review by saying you apologize for their experience and you’re going to investigate to figure out what went wrong.
Then, do your research. It’s a good idea to offer the reviewer some type of timeline for when you’ll have the results of your investigation.
Obviously, when you do figure out the cause of their complaint, post it so everyone knows that your church does follow up and address problems.
Follow Up After A Discussion Goes Private
It’s incredibly frustrating to see negative reviews and not see what happened after the discussion went private. Negative church reviews are a great opportunity to show every person who views them that your church cares.
After a resolution has been found, post a follow-up publicly. This shows that you did indeed address the concerns and have since resolved the issue.
Post Any Changes You’ve Made As A Result
Finally, be proud when you resolve a problem. Respond to reviews with what you’ve done to fix the issue. Also, have blog posts with screenshots or links to the negative reviews along with details about how your church has changed for the better as a result.
Since everyone won’t find you on social media or review sites, let them see how you handle negative church reviews via your blog. Plus, it’s a great way to add new blog content too.
Are any negative reviews about your website? Or, do you want to start showcasing reviews on your church’s site? If so, contact us today to learn how we can help.
I know many churches that have figured out how to delete all negative reviews. To me, this is not right, but it goes on all of the time. There are crafty and wily pastors who know how to get negative Google reviews removed, and they’ve been doing this for years. If I am looking for a church, I want all of the reviews to be posted – not just all of the five-star glowing ones. To me, when pastors stoop to this level, they are acting deceitfully. People have the right to be able to read all reviews, but when pastors go to great lengths and expense in order to have them removed, the public is only presented with one side and cheated from reading what other reviewers have said. As a rule, any time I see a church that has nothing but 5-star reviews, a red flag goes up in my mind. No business, no restaurant, etc., gets all 5-star reviews. There are always going to be people who present another side. When I see a church that receives nothing but 5-star reviews, this tells me that someone at the church is intentionally having those reviews removed because the leadership is trying to hide something. As a rule, I avoid churches like this and will not even consider visiting them.