Guide to dealing with negative customer reviews

Reviews and testimonials have always been a cornerstone of modern consumerism. People have a natural reflex to consult reviews before making a buying decision regarding a particular product, service, or business. Whether we are talking about the official website, a guest blog, social media accounts, business listings, or any other platform – online reviews matter. Professional digital marketers understand this, which is why they take the time to come up with strategies for dealing with negative customer reviews. In this article, we offer some of the most practical guidelines on how to respond to bad reviews from customers and overturn them in your favor.

An image of a man with a team of people with laptops in the background.
Having a guide to dealing with negative customer reviews is a good starting point.

Start by understanding how reviews and ratings work

With so many different reviews and rating platforms today, it can be difficult to keep up with each one simultaneously. That is why most companies opt for hiring a customer support team to handle relations with customers. However, not all companies have the resources to take that step.

As a business looking to expand and grow your brand, it is important to not spread your resources too thin from the very start. Instead, a company has to establish its online presence gradually, one review at a time. Each platform has its own uses and benefits depending on what a business wants to achieve.

  • Having a website blog focuses on establishing authority in your niche through content.
  • eCommerce websites usually have a review and rating section for each product they sell.
  • Social media marketing offers a chance to boost brand awareness through various networks and learn more about your customers.
  • Creating listings on business directories earn your business credibility through profiling.

These are just some of the main examples that companies use when building a strong reputation. Each of these options usually offers the chance for customers to leave comments and review products/services that a company offers. These reviews are the basis on which a majority of other users make the decision of whether or not they will convert into customers or not.

11 guidelines for dealing with negative customer reviews

Dealing with bad comments is not simply a matter of ethics and customer care – there is value in it as well. According to Google, companies can boost visibility and rankings through positive reviews and interactions with customers. And what is even more important for companies to remember is that reviews have a direct influence on growing a brand and generating new leads, both of which can have real-time impacts on a business.

Two women having a conversation in an office.
Having the right person or team to handle negative comments from customers is always a good idea.

Earning positive reviews for your business is only part of the journey. Good or bad – it’s crucial for businesses to take the time to respond to the comments you get through official channels. Responding to positive reviews is simple and usually comes down to finding a few kind words of gratitude. It’s dealing with negative customer reviews that can be challenging. With the high standards, most niches today maintain, modern consumers have high expectations, and they can often be very harsh when a product or service does not satisfy those expectations. The following tips will help you and your team stay ahead of any negative reviews from customers:

1. Make sure to respond quickly

Responsiveness is something that customers and businesses value extremely. It portrays a level of professionalism that people can trust in, even despite a bad experience with a product or service. By having a swift approach to responding to negative reviews, a company opens the possibility of limiting any potential anger from the customers as well as the overall damage that a review can cause.

2. Think before you respond

Being quick to respond is not enough. A business also needs to take the time to carefully think about how you are going to respond to a negative review. Will you maintain a defensive and professional attitude or will you take a more apologetic and warm-hearted approach? Consider the words that you will use to tackle the negative comments.

And remember that dealing with negative reviews from customers is a way to explore potential flaws in your website, products, or services and further perfect them. Hence it can also be a good educational experience for your company to take the time to consider the reasoning behind the complaint.

3. Maintain honesty in your responses

No matter how hard we work and how good our products or services are – mistakes still happen. And admitting that can earn a lot of favor with customers, especially those looking for someone to blame. In most cases, negative reviewers will prefer an honest response from a company rather than a template explanation and assurances that their complaint has been noted. It goes toward ensuring a more long-term relationship with customers, both current ones as well as potential ones.

4. Maintain your composure

While some negative reviews can be resolved with a single reply, there are those that can escalate. Whether a business is looking to grow or is an already well-established brand, it needs to maintain professionalism at all times. It’s important to always avoid getting into a downright argument with unsatisfied customers. Continue offering an apology for the issue at hand, with alternative solutions for resolving it. Sometimes, you will come across unreasonable customers that will never let you off the hook. And it is important for others that come across that correspondence to see that you did all you could to right that wrong. It will portray your brand in the best manner possible in such situations.

5. Don’t use automated responses

With technology advancing so much, more and more websites turn to chatbots and automated responses to customer reviews, emails, complaints, etc. It’s important for a business to not lose focus on what is most important – the customer. People want to be heard and they want affirmation for their input in regards to your products or services. That is why it is so essential to take the time to offer a custom response for each review, no matter how simple or benign it appears to be. This demonstrates that you care for each customer that takes the time from their day to offer their opinion on what your business does.

6. Avoid getting personal with customers

Offering an honest and custom response to each review is very different from offering a personal response. Customers need to understand that your response is still one that echoes with professionalism and represents your brand in its core. So long as you handle each negative review from customers with a calm and thoughtful demeanor, you will gain positive influence over others in the process.

7. Always aim for an offline resolution of the issue

Dragging out the resolution of a negative online review is one of the most common mistakes that companies make. One of the first rules of customer care is to reach out directly to the customer and take the compromise to them. This is why that initial response to the review is so important:

  • Take the communication offline without overstepping any boundaries.
  • Make sure not to invite the customer to reach out to you.
  • Ask for contact information as well as a convenient time for you to reach out to them.
  • Maintain professional courtesy and an apologetic attitude toward their displeasure with your company.

8. Be grateful for the feedback

Positive or negative, feedback is always good to have. It can help a business work through any potential issues it has and contribute to attracting more crowds to your website. Getting a response from customers, be it in the form of praise or criticism, is better than getting the silent treatment. Dealing with negative customer reviews gives companies the opportunity to identify flaws in their products or services and to work on perfecting them.

Person with laptop and notepad, taking notes.
Welcome all feedback, good or bad.

In most cases, businesses get the opportunity to set things right for unsatisfied customers. In some cases, customers will be too scorned and walk away from your business completely. But one fact should remain constant – each negative experience with a customer is a chance for companies to grow and improve for future customers. Feedback is still feedback – a chance to learn something new and avoid making the same mistake again.

9. Always go the extra mile

Values such as “the customer is always right”, “our clients come first”, “we go above and beyond” are taken too lightly by many companies today. And as a result, consumers judge such statements as clickbait that bears no significance. This opens the chance for companies that truly practice such values to prove them wrong, by stepping into those shoes. By showing the will and determination to go the extra mile for each customer, businesses can convey the trust they promote so much.

Sometimes simply apologizing for a mistake won’t be enough, and neither will offering a voucher or refund. Instead of simply attempting to patch a hole, why not find a way to improve the entire structure? Demonstrate to consumers that each one is equally valuable to your business by offering to take that extra step for them. Earn their trust by not only going so far as to resolve their problem but also taking that next step for them:

  • Send them a gift card or a present with the company logo.
  • Make a personalized video as a response to the negative review.
  • Demonstrate to your reviewers how their feedback is making a difference by adapting to the criticism you receive.
  • Get creative with your content – dedicate a blog post to the entire experience, share the story, and offer some sound advice.

10. Do a follow-up for each negative review that you resolve

Converting a negative online review into a positive one is the goal. It’s not enough to offer a gift card and get the “Okay” from the customer. You need to make sure that you follow up with the customer and double-check whether there is anything else that you can do for them to ensure their customer status. By taking this simple step, you will have a higher chance of retaining customers on a long-term basis. Not only that, but you will be in a position to ask that the customer removes the negative review in case they already haven’t chosen to do so.

11. Use compensatory measures only when necessary

Young couple with a laptop and credit card.
Compensation is not always a necessary part of handling negative customer reviews.

Businesses are in no way obligated to offer compensation for every negative review from a customer. Most times, a simple apology and resolution will do just as fine. However, there will be times when it will be the only way to try and put an angered customer at ease. At the end of the day, people are still most interested in being heard and reached out to. On the other hand, when a customer ends up damaged, it is only fair game for the company to offer suitable compensation for a mistake made on their end.

Always aspire to encourage customers to leave reviews

Going back to the very beginning of this article – reviews have become an essential part of building your reputation and growing your brand. If you have a top-quality product or service that people benefit from and praise, motivate them to do so publicly. There are many tactics that can help you expand your online presence today:

  • Creating a referral program that will reward previous customers for recommending your business to others.
  • Having brand ambassadors and influencers to promote your products and/or services publicly through social media advertising.
  • Sending engaging follow-up email marketing campaigns that will invite people to share their experience with your company online.
  • Building video threads with past customers offering their opinions on your products/services.

And these are just some of the more common and popular practices. Modern consumers love a good story. They thrive on reviews, good and bad ones. The more reviews you gather, the better chance of others hearing about your business and your website getting more organic traffic.

Two women in front of a whiteboard, discussing dealing with negative customer reviews.
Dealing with negative customer reviews requires you to first be able to get customers to leave reviews.

Make sure to snuff out any fake or misleading reviews

No company is perfect and nobody is naive enough to believe in a perfect rating for any company. People spend so much time online today that they are capable of recognizing fraudulent digital activities just as well as reviews.

  1. One of the first things you need to ensure is that you don’t hand-pick only positive reviews and remove all others from your website. People need to see your company for what it is – complete with a few mistakes and flaws. It will be easier for them to relate to your business.
  2. Dealing with negative customer reviews will sometimes require your team to recognize red flags. There are common cases where competitors or former resentful employees take cheap shots through negative comments. These are the reviews that you want to root out. And you can do so, as they usually violate the terms of service agreements on most platforms – you simply need to address them through official administrative channels.

Monitor your reputation when dealing with negative customer reviews

How a business deals with reviews on its website or other platforms directly influences its brand and how others see it. Therefore, it is important to have an organized and well-coordinate approach so as to maintain credibility and reputation. After a certain point, your business will grow so much that a single person won’t be able to handle this task. It is important to recognize this point in time early on and turn to professional guidance.

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