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How to respond to negative reviews

How to respond to negative reviews

Online reviews are a pivotal part of any word-of-mouth marketing program. They form a considerable portion of your online presence and the online content about your business; in many cases, businesses generate more reviews than blog posts. This is A Good Thing™, search engines love frequent, recent, unique content and reviews are just that.

While negative reviews can initially be distressing when you read them, it's important to remember that negative reviews are good for you. They provide valuable feedback about your business, they add credibility to your positive reviews (who believes in a perfect 5-star average anyway) and they allow you to speak to a customer who is on the verge of churning.

Negative reviews are good for your word-of-mouth marketing campaign and provide value to your business, but it's also essential that you regularly address them. A negative review can still be damaging to your brand if you don't respond to the reviewer and present your company in a good light.

Reviews are an example of one-to-many communication with your customer; this is true for positive and negative reviews; otherwise they would not be considered useful for word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. By responding to a review, you are not just responding to the reviewer - many future potential customers read the review and your response and judge your company based on this interaction.

A good review response should show the reviewer (and order readers) that your business is responsive, respectful and credible. Taking steps to solve the problem, or ensure the problem does not happen to other customers. It should be relatively quick - try and respond within 48 hours.

There are three main ways to respond to bulk communication, such as support tickets or online reviews;

Freeform responses - let your team go at it and be entirely human; slow, but customers appreciate the effort.

Email templates - which are very fast but suffer from impersonality and when viewed in bulk reduce customer opinion of the company

Frameworks - slower than templates, but faster than freeform. Provides a measure of personality while also giving your team separate steps to work through when answering.

We recommend using response frameworks, for one-to-many conversations (reviews, tweets) and that's what we are going to cover here.

How to write a negative review response

  1. Use their name
  2. Apologize and sympathize in your response to the negative review.
  3. Move the conversation offline.
  4. Thank them for their candid feedback

Use their name

When speaking to unhappy customers, it’s vital to humanize yourself and the company. Using their first name in the response makes the conversation (and it is a conversation) more informal and ideally reduce the underlying tension inherently involved with giving and receiving criticism.

Example 1: "Hey Andrew!"
Example 2: "Hi Alice!"
Example 3: "Good afternoon, Alvin!"

Apologize and sympathize in your response to the negative review.

Acknowledge their concerns. Even if their concerns are false or unfounded, it's important to empathize with their bad experience. Again, apologies, sympathy, empathy all help humanize you and your company; most people feel comfortable attacking a brand, but uncomfortable attacking a person. By reducing the level of tension in the conversation, you help the reviewer be more accepting of having a discussion to resolve this issue.

Example 1: "I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience."
Example 2: "I understand, I apologize about the negative experience you had."
Example 3: "I'm disappointed to hear about your unfortunate experience.

Move the conversation offline.

Provide contact info with someone at the business so they can discuss the problem in person. With negative feedback, it's essential to move the discussion from one-to-many (all future readers can read your conversation) to one-to-one, so that discussion about the negative experiences of your company has reduced public exposure.

Example 1: “My name is [name], and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number/email].”
Example 2: [first name], if you want to talk directly to me, please contact me at [work email
Example 3: If you want help with [the issues], please reach out to our success team at [success email], and we are going to help you work through all of these things.

Thank them for their candid feedback

While you aren't necessarily going to feel the joy that they are blasting about the failings of your company on a public medium, many negative reviews do provide positive value for you and your business. Being grateful for their feedback should is entirely reasonable, and it's important to let them know that you appreciate that they are willing to bring their complaints to your attention.

We do not recommend using your company name at this point, as it increases the SEO-ability of this review and it is more likely to appear in search results.

Example 1: "Thank you for the useful feedback. We try hard to provide a good experience here in Singapore and appreciate you taking the time to tell your story"
Example 2: "We appreciate your comments! It's important for us to learn when we let our customers down so that we may improve in the future."
Example 3: "Thanks a bunch for your review! I have submitted a bunch of requests to our team to help improve all of these things."

Please remember to be polite, respond quickly and most of all, be personal! This framework is not meant to be a copy and paste template for every response; your customer took the time to write a review, you need to take the time to read it and respond as if they were giving you the feedback in person.

We hope that you can take this framework and start responding to positive reviews more regularly; by making this small action, over time, you hopefully are going to build more loyal customer relationships, grow your customer base and boost your SEO juice with all of this rich user-generated content.

Good luck getting more reviews!