Everyone has to deal with negative feedback. It’s how we grow.
Your business is the same, but that feedback hurts when it’s damaging your reputation. That’s why it’s important for you to know how to respond to negative reviews.
You may have read our overview of how to respond to reviews, but now we’re going in depth on how to manage negative reviews, turn them into learning opportunities, and maybe even change some unhappy customers’ minds.
If you missed the overview, here’s a quick recap of why responding to your negative reviews is important:
Ready to earn some loyal customers? Let’s walk through what you need to know about negative reviews.
Before we get into specifics, let’s cover the general best practices for responding to a bad review.
Respond to all your negative reviews. Sure, you can have some wiggle room with your positive reviews — nobody’s perfect, and having that kind of bandwidth is difficult. But if a customer walked into your store with a complaint, wouldn’t you spare some time to help them? Of course!
Since the stats show that many customers want you to respond to negative reviews, do your best to respond to all recent negative reviews.
Most customers want a response to their review in 24 hours. That makes sense — reviewers are less likely to double back and check a review platform after a couple days of crickets.
You need to be quick on the draw. If your team is spread thin, hire someone dedicated to reputation management, or if that’s not in the budget, consider outsourcing to a team capable of responding to your reviews. But that’s as a last resort, as you’ll see with our next point.
Customers are all about personalization. That’s why you should follow this hierarchy of who will respond to a review. Keep in mind that the larger your business is, the higher volume of reviews you’ll receive, and the more likely you’ll have to defer to another person in the hierarchy to manage review responses.
But also remember this: The further you have to outsource reputation management from your company's problem-solvers, the more difficult it will be to give negative reviewers a resolution. A manager can offer refunds and redeliveries as they please; a customer success team will have to escalate a review for a solution.
You’ve probably seen the form responses companies use for bad reviews: “We apologize for your experience, [NAME]. Please reach out to us at [NUMBER] so we can help you resolve this issue.” Having the right number of personnel addressing your reviews will help you avoid this sterile approach.
But don’t throw the template away. If you're overwhelmed by reviews, with even limited personalization, it can be an efficient response: “We’re sorry to hear about your bad experience, [NAME]. [Empathize with their statement here.] We’d love to get you in touch with [CUSTOMER SUCCESS ASSOCIATE] to resolve this issue. You can reach them at [NUMBER].”
You might not get it. At all. Your reviewer may be complaining about something completely out of your control, such as delayed shipping or arriving after your store's closing time. As ridiculous as their complaints may be, try to understand where they’re coming from. Responding with grace shows others that your customer service team can be the bigger person.
As entertaining as forum fights are, leave your nasty comments out of the replies. Responding to reviews is both PR and customer service, and all your future customers can see your replies. That’s why it’s best to move the issue to a channel where a negative reviewer can’t damage your reputation further.
After you give your heartfelt public reply, reach out to the customer through private message to continue the conversation. A phone call is preferable to talk about the customer complaints, but email can suffice. If you can’t get ahold of the customer because the review platform doesn’t offer that feature or the customer isn’t responding, leave your contact information so they can speak with you. Be aware that this won’t always be seen if you're DMing on a review platform, because some customers never revisit a review platform after their review.
Are you getting complaints for the same issues? Time to do some data analysis. Always collect reviews and organize them into buckets by the type of feedback. This can help your team see where there’s room for improvement.
Some review platforms don’t require customers to comment, like Google and Facebook; it’s an easy way to get more users to take the plunge and leave a review. But a bad review with no comments means that you don’t get any insight into where you went wrong.
This is what you can do to get some answers from a negative reviewer who doesn’t leave a comment:
Read also: The Pros and Cons of Google Reviews
Some reviewers will leave one-word or one-sentence reviews. This is common for review sites that don’t require a character account (again, such as Google and Facebook), but even those with character limits find angry customers trying to stretch the rules on content quality.
Since we’re focusing on responding to negative reviews, it’s probably for the best that this reviewer didn’t wax poetic. But on the other hand, you don’t know much about where you can improve.
Your response to a spammy review can be similar to a review with no comment, with only a couple key differences:
It can be hard to tell if you have a fake review on your hands. If you’re having trouble, check out our guide on how to spot and remove fake reviews for some clues.
Some review platforms will want you to respond first; others won’t. But if you can’t get what you believe to be a fake negative review removed, it’s in your best interest to respond. Here are some tips for making the most of this less than ideal situation:
This type of review can be one or two stars, but while the gist of the review is overwhelmingly negative, the reviewer also mentions some positive aspects of the product.
It can be tempting to latch onto the good in the hopes that it overshadows criticism, but you’ll still need to face their concerns as you respond:
Negative reviews tend to have higher word counts than positive reviews. Most negative reviewers believe that their whole story is integral to understanding their complaint. But as a result, their reviews end up taking a lot of real estate on your page, even when truncated with a “Read More.” Here’s how you can respond to your own Wordy Will:
You want that star average to rise, don’t you? Rescore requests are one method that companies often overlook — it seems easier to bury negative reviews with a landslide of positive reviews.
But don’t forget that going out of your way to help angry customers has its own reward. Remember, 18 percent of the negative reviewers that receive a response become a loyal customer. Seems small, but that’s one-fifth of angry customers willing to give you a second chance.
Here are the steps to earning more business and earning a higher rating through a rescore request:
And for our last tip: Don’t sweat it. Take the feedback seriously, of course, but don’t let it ruin your day. No matter how popular you are, you’ll always have a critic.
Check out your customer reviews and start responding to day to transform bad reviews into new opportunities.
Check out our other tips for responding to reviews and gathering more positive reviews: 8 Tips to Nurture Positive Online Reviews