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How to Respond to a Negative Review

Doug Ackerman

There's a ton of value to be had from reviews. Even negative reviews. But what's the best way to approach your response?

Every online business will receive negative reviews once in a while.

There’s no getting around it. They’ll spring up like a small crack in the window of your website.

Handle them in the wrong way and the crack might spread.

Deal with them like a pro and your window will mend and shine brighter than ever before.

To be clear, we’re talking about service reviews, not product reviews. Take a look at all the benefits reviews can do for your business.

They provide a chance to: * win back a customer you might otherwise lose * prove to website visitors that your reviews are genuine * communicate your dedication to customer service Added credibility, more sales, increased transparency. These are just some of the benefits our customers tell us they experience from honest customer feedback and reviews.

That being said, a whole page filled with negative reviews won’t look good.

But if they’re the exception rather than the rule, they’ll actually do more good for your business than harm.

What’s the best way to handle negative reviews?

From experience and feedback from our own customers, we’ve got a pretty good idea for the right approach to take.

Should I respond to negative reviews at all?

How to respond to a negative review

It happens to the very best of businesses that at one point or another they receive a negative review about their service.

Perhaps the customer hasn’t received the right item. Or has experienced delays in delivery.

Or weren’t able to get through to anyone on the phone when they called. Or felt misled in what they were actually purchasing.

There are any number of reasons why we all, from time to time, feel like we’ve not been treated fairly.

When your company receives a negative review, you’re left with two options:

  1. Ignore the comment at the risk of visitors deeming you uncaring towards service issues.
  2. Respond to the review & fix the customer’s problem, proving your dedication to service.

We prefer the second option.

Responding to criticism promptly and professionally directly underneath the original review lets prospective customers see that you care about your customers, and work to improve your business.

As Jonathan Ford explains, it also proves to prospects that you’re not cheating. By cherry picking the reviews you display.

Even if you don’t feel that the review is valid. There is much to be gained from responding the right way.

Before you write a response

Photo of a man chilling on the beach

Let’s imagine you’ve just received a negative review. What should you do next?

Step 1. Pause

There’s not much point in attempting to handle the situation whilst you’re still emotionally charged.

Negative reviews can feel like a personal attack. So take a moment to allow clarity to return before doing anything else.

Step 2. Look into the problem

Once you’ve regained composure, you’ll want to figure out where you stand.

Try to avoid making assumptions. Check the validity of the negative review.

What does the customer feel let down by? What is the underlying issue? The product? The delivery? Service?

Get the full picture of the situation and let that help guide your actions.

Step 3. Apologise

Discovered that the complaint is legitimate? Sincerely apologise and explain what steps are being taken to fix the problem so it doesn’t happen again.

Think that the customer is wrong, or at fault themselves? Sincerely apologise for their experience, perhaps explain any steps you will take to avoid this happening again. And see if you can resolve the problem.

In both cases you may not be able to resolve the situation with the customers in question.

But prospective customers will appreciate that you’re being proactive in your attempts to resolve issues.

Apologies will go a lot further to convincing prospective customers to purchase from you than denying fault.

Step 4. Fix the problem

In fact, you’ll want to fix the problem twice

And it’s always best to handle direct communications with your customers via telephone rather than email.

Firstly you’ll need to solve the reviewer’s problem.

Even if that means involving other members of your team. Make it your responsibility to ensure that a solution is found promptly.

When speaking directly with the customer to discover a solution, check that your customer is happy with the solution you’ve offered before you end the call.

Summarise what you both agreed as an outcome and go through the steps being taken towards it.

If you’ve made a deal, don’t assume that both of you have the same idea of what has been agreed.

Follow that up with an email.

Secondly you’ll need to figure out whether this is a problem other customers might experience.

If it is, fix that too.

Step 5. Check

You’ve fixed the problem, within the timeframe that you agreed with the customer. That should be it done and dusted, right?

Not quite.

Circle back to the customer with a courtesy call. Check whether they are satisfied with the solution to the problem.

This step might feel like extra work. And you might question its value. But there are a couple of big reasons why you should do it anyway:

  • If they're happy with the solution, the call will be quick and they'll become a loyal customer because you've shown them you really care
  • If they're not happy with the solution, they'll thank you for checking with them rather than waiting for them to chase you up again

How to write the perfect response

Photo of a laptop and some hands

Let’s look into crafting your perfect response to a negative review. What you’ll want to post underneath the review on your website.

In summary we’re aiming to:

  • remove any sense of a defensive tone from the response
  • communicate the fact that you’ve taken on board feedback in the review
  • apologise sincerely, even if you believe the customer is at fault
  • explain steps you will take to fix the problem permanently
  • emphasise your company’s dedication to customer service

1. Thank the reviewer

Regardless of whether the review is fair, unfair or hurtful - your first priority is to thank them for taking the time give feedback.

“Hi Dan, thank you for taking the time to write a review of our service”

2. Apologise

We don’t need to admit guilt or wrongdoing - but we do need to accept the customer’s point of view.

Accept that their experience was poor and expectations were not met.

Make sure to avoid sounding insincere. > “…I’m sorry this has happened, and that your expectations were not met…”

3. Actions

To fix the problem we’ll need to invite the reviewer to get in touch.

All we need to do is explain that we want to make it right.

“…We’re dedicated to customer support and we would like to fix this problem for you. Please give us a call or contact our support at support@email.com and one of our team will get right back to you…”

4. Follow up

You’ve stated that you want to fix the problem. Now make sure that happens.

If you already have the customer’s contact information, you may not need to wait until they send an email in to your support address.

Proactively reach out to begin the process.

If you’ve said you will do something, make sure you do it. Within the timeframe your customer expects.

Otherwise you’re raising their hopes only to dash them.

Key Takeaways

Nobody writes a negative review for fun. It’s an emotionally charged action, and everyone hates doing it.

Responding to negative reviews brilliantly displays your business in a good light. And will influence purchase decisions of prospective customers.

Prospects who read a negative review with a professional response get a feel, before becoming a customer, of how your company deals with its customers.

Reading both positive and negative reviews gives them more to go on.

They’ll know that you try to avoid bad things happening. And will take steps to resolve problems if they arise.

And you’ll stand a good chance of winning back the reviewer as a customer for life.

Are you great?

Free CustomerSure ebook

Would you like to know the techniques we use to help service teams get great at customer feedback?

We’ve compiled them into a short, practical ebook you can start using in your organisation today. Download it for free now…

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