Best Practices For Responding To Negative Reviews

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Everything you need to know when it comes to responding to negative feedback online.

People writing negative reviews want to be heard. They want someone to know that they were disappointed with their experience and want their issue resolved. You need to address customer comments in a way that is personal, authentic, and truly helpful. It can be surefire way to turn an upset customer into a loyal brand ambassador.

Should your brand be responding to negative reviews online?

The short answer is (usually) yes. As a business, you’ve made a commitment to your customers. And whether they are complaining or singing your praises, they are the lifeblood of your company. You’ve got a responsibility to uphold. After all, if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. In this blog we will discuss the do’s and don’ts of responding to negative online reviews, when to respond, when to opt-out, how to identify the issue that caused the negative feedback in the first place, and what to do next.

Now, where do we start?

→ Access Now: Negative Feedback Creates Positive Change [Free Guide]

First Things First: Identify The Issue

If you don’t understand what went wrong, you won’t be able to write a sincere and helpful response. After you read the review, the very first thing you’ll have to do is identify where it was that things went wrong on your end. The customer is always right, right? This is a line you’ve heard a time or two before. Fortunately or unfortunately, it holds true in today’s digital age more than ever before. Your response will be out there for all the world (including your potential customers) to read. Before you post, make sure that what you write is genuine and addresses the actual concerns of your customer.

Best Practices: The Do’s and Don’t of Responding

Consumers today can sniff out a canned customer service response from a mile away. They’ll know if you’re “responding because brands today are supposed to” or if you mean what you say, are saying it with heart, and are offering a solution. Here are a few best practices to use when responding:

Do: Truly listen to both the spoken and unspoken concerns expressed in the review.  There’s often more to the issue than what is explicitly stated. Dig a little deeper. Look at what other reviewers are saying. If you’re getting similar feedback from a few customers, chances are you’ve got a real problem on your hands. (And if that’s the case, we’ll address it in the next step.)

Don’t: Ignore comments.  If you fail to acknowledge what your reviewers are staying, it makes you look negligent and like you don’t care about your customers. Each and every comment is a clue on your company’s path to success. Make sure you treat them as such.

Do: Be prompt.  Depending on the nature of the complaint, and how much work is needed before a genuine and helpful answer can be crafted, response time should be anywhere from a few hours after the complaint was posted to one week. Anything longer ends up looking like you’re not listening.

Do: Address your customer by name, if possible.  Then sign the response at the end with your name. In doing so, you are building a relationship and fostering trust with your customers. She feels like she is a real person who matters to you. In giving your name, you become a real person connected to her as well. Rather than feeling like she is dealing with a faceless organization, she feels she’s being taken care of by someone who cares. And you do.

Do: Be specific in your response. By providing a customized response tailored to the individual complaint, addressing the exact issue expressed in the review, you’ll reassure the customer not only that they made the right purchase decision, but also that they are dealing with a customer-focused organization that operates with integrity. That is to say, you’re a company that cares and is committed to doing what’s right.

Don’t: Delete comments. Hiding or deleting negative reviews is a surefire way to destroy the trust in your company that your brand has worked so tirelessly to build over time. The last thing you want is another negative comment that says, “They deleted my original comment (or review)!”

Do: Offer to take the complaint offline. Propose another method by which the customer can contact you. An office telephone number or customer service email address are great ways to do this.

Do: Spell check.  A little typo can go a long way. So can a little conscientiousness. Your response is contributing to the voice of your brand. And you want to make sure your voice conveys both professionalism and respect. Something like a quick spell check can make sure your initial faux pas doesn’t become an even bigger one.

Do: Say thanks! Manners matter, not just when someone is singing your praises, but equally when they’re giving you constructive criticism. And you do sincerely appreciate the feedback. It’s that honesty that is going to help your company springboard forward.

Brand’s Often Struggle Knowing When Not To Respond

Every once in a while, you’ll get a negative review and after you do some digging, you find that what the reviewer has written simply isn’t true. Thankfully, this is rare. But it does happen. Sometimes, a reviewer will be having a bad day and decide to take it out on your brand.

So what should you do in this case?

Sometimes, the best response is none at all. If you are reading something that you honestly know is not true, fake, or just flat out wrong, we suggest you chose to ignore it. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons:

It frees up time to focus on reviews that actually deserve a response. You have limited time and the customers with valid complaints or concerns are the only ones who should get it.
Responding often adds fuel to a fire that you don’t want to burn. The less attention (and oxygen) you give it, the quicker it will burn out.

Now, if the unruly reviewer calls out a member of your team by name, you may want to stand your ground and respond. When doing this, however, remain professional. After all, this is your company’s reputation we’re talking about. So if you must explain your side of the story in a less than ideal situation, be quick, be brief, then let it go.

→ Access Now: Negative Feedback Creates Positive Change [Free Guide]

Getting Your Act Together

The final, and most important, step you’ll take in the process of damage control is to identify the problem on a systemic level and take action to correct it. The issue that resulted in the negative review may be on the service, operational, or product development level. Be a detective. It’s your job to get to the root of the problem. Sometimes the actual issue didn’t originate in the department you’d first assumed. Was the customer complaint really the delivery department’s fault or was it an error within the online ordering system itself? Do a little digging before you mark the case closed. The extra time could end up paying huge dividends in the end.

Once you’ve addressed the issue, keep monitoring for similar negative feedback in the future. Iterate, iterate, iterate until you get it right. When you do solve the issue, the silence you’ll hear will be golden. An even better scenario: you may just find you’re now getting positive reviews in that area you fixed. Like a broken bone, it’s the areas in which our systems are broken that we often end up strongest in the end.

In the end, the people writing negative reviews want to be heard just like everybody else. They want someone to know that they were disappointed with their experience and want their issue resolved. In addressing their feedback in a way that is personal, authentic, and truly helpful is a surefire way to turn an upset customer into a loyal ambassador of your brand.

Want Help Managing Your Brand’s Online Reputation? 

Learn more about Online Reputation Management (ORM) tools like Reputation Studio to see how to consolidate customer reviews and Q&A into a single platform to manage customer interactions on every channel.  Our revolutionary workflows and process builder automation provides faster response times and advanced review and response analytics.

Looking for more ways to engage with consumers? Download Reputation Studio’s complimentary eBook, Using Consumer Engagement To Drive Revenue.