Lesson 4: How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Welcome back to our Reviews 101 learning series! We've covered a lot of ground thus far, from how to effectively monitor your online reviews to crafting appropriate responses to your positive ones. 

Now, we're turning our attention towards a somewhat tricky subject that many businesses struggle with — responding to negative reviews.

We know you pour a lot of hard work and effort into your customer experience, so it always stings when negative feedback about your business pops up online. Not only does it bruise the ego, but it also has the potential to dissuade prospective customers from seeing what your business is all about. 

ReviewTrackers recently reported that 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to their negative reviews within a week. On the flip side, 87% of businesses don't take the time to address any of their negative reviews.

Suffice to say, we strongly recommend going against the grain here and implementing effective negative review response strategies that show your customers that you care.

With that, let's dive into some effective ways you can address negative feedback from your unhappy customers, but not before explaining why you might be getting negative reviews in the first place.

First, Why Are You Getting Negative Reviews?

Before we can talk about how to respond to negative reviews, let's consider why they're being left to begin with. Just to be clear, an "it's not me, it's them" mindset likely won't make the issue of negative reviews go away.

Widewail analyzed 10,000 customer reviews to get a sense of why customers felt compelled to write a negative review of a particular business. While positive reviews typically included words such as "wonderful", "fantastic", and "exceptional", frequent terms used in negative reviews revolved around a personal interaction between the customer and an employee, with the term "managers" coming up frequently.

This goes to show that the customer's experience with your staff majorly dictates whether they're happy or dissatisfied with what you provide

We found that the word, "talk", (in the negative context think "talked down to") was the most frequently used word in the 10,000 reviews we looked at, which further highlights how the quality of your customers' interactions with employees is directly tied to customer satisfaction. 

So what does this all mean? For starters, curbing negative reviews needs to start with prioritizing the customer experience. Establishing a gold standard for employees on how they should handle customer interactions, whether in-store or online so that everyone is aligned on the importance of customer-employee engagements.

Of course, being committed to customer satisfaction won't completely stop negative reviews from trickling in. And when they do, it's important to know how to address them without causing lasting damage to your reputation.

Let's touch on some tactics to keep in mind as you consider how to respond to negative reviews.

Keep it Professional

You care about your business, which can make it hard to check your emotions at the door when addressing negative reviews online.

Even if a review is especially scathing, do your best to avoid being overly emotional or defensive. And if you're considering throwing some sarcasm or humor into the mix with a negative review response, reconsider.

Keep negative review responses professional and neutral. Show the customer that you're genuinely invested in their experience without expressing your personal opinions about how their thoughts made you feel.

To reframe your mindset, consider what your future customer would think of your response. Would they think you handled it with fairness and grace, or frustration? Yes, you are directly addressing a specific customer. But more broadly, because review platforms are public forums, you are putting on a show for all those who come later. Do your best to help the current customer while making sure all future customers will think you've handled a tough situation well. They'll be more likely to do business with you in the future, which is ultimately more valuable to your bottom line long term.

Widewail Tip: Working with a vendor partner can help add some emotional distance between staff and responses.

Don't Over Apologize

We've all heard the expression, "the customer is always right", but sometimes, they're simply not. Certain negative reviews will absolutely warrant an apology, but making a public admission of guilt isn't always necessary.

A lot of negative reviews will simply state that a particular customer is upset, without any specifics. You should apologize for the customer's unhappiness, but you should avoid admitting guilt for the material issue in public without further investigation.

Rather, your goal should be to engage with the customer and have a more in-depth conversation over the phone or email, away from the public eye.

Prospective customers will see these responses as fair, professional, reasonable, and more importantly that as a business you are willing to engage with unhappy customers and attempt to find a solution.

Review responses are forever so never attempt to ligate an issue in such a public forum.

Work to Make Things Right

While some negative reviews will be vague and unclear, others will make it very clear where the displeasure is stemming from. If a customer received a defective product or was provided with poor service, let them know that your team is on it and willing to make things right.

The below example is a great instance of a car dealership acknowledging the customer's complaints, expressing that it's beneath them, and providing a clear path forward towards resolving the issue.

Screen Shot 2021-10-21 at 10.29.59 AM (1)

We frequently see unhappy customers go on to change their review star rating after they've been helped, so take the time to remedy any negative feedback if you want to get your rating on the up and up.

Avoid Jumping to Conclusions

This ties back to not apologizing for a specific accusation to customers when the situation is unverified. Customers will often express they're frustrated without explicitly stating why. When this happens, don't speculate.

Widewail believes that moving customer conversations offline is always the best move, both for the customer and for your business. You should absolutely empathize with the customers' frustration, which is undeniably real. But don't have a public back-and-forth trying to figure out exactly why a customer is upset that the whole world can witness.

Include a phone number or email address for customers to use so they can articulate their frustrations in a more private setting.

Next Up: How to Get More Reviews

Thanks for reading! With the basics of knowing how to respond to negative reviews and positive ones alike, we can turn our attention towards getting more reviews on a consistent basis. 

Lesson 5 sheds light on proven review generation techniques, and how your business can start implementing simple yet effective changes to encourage more customers to share their thoughts.