How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Owning a business involves more than the product or service you’re providing. A large part of it is building relationships with your clients and customer base. And one great way to check in and see how you’re doing as a business is to encourage (and listen to) customer reviews. 

Reviews are often a place where customers aren’t afraid to get candid and write a tell-all about their experience with your company. Great reviews can encourage us as business owners and show us what customers value about our service. But bad reviews? Well, those can sting. But they’re just as valuable as positive reviews because they show us exactly how we can improve.

Because reviews either encourage or discourage future sales (people really do pay attention to others’ experiences), how do we keep bad reviews to a minimum, and how do we deal with them when they’re flat out wrong? In this article, we’ll discuss how to deal with negative reviews, from taking complaints seriously and responding to false claims, to providing great customer service and doing what you can to fix mishaps.


1. Take customer complaints seriously

In a survey conducted by Bizrate Insights, they found that 91% of those that responded said they read reviews before making purchases. This is huge — a majority of shoppers are taking other customers’ experiences into account before making decisions.

So although we can learn a lot from not-so-great reviews, we still want to aim to keep them to a minimum. 

You should only ever get a complaint one time. This means that when a bad review comes through, your business model should change to cover whatever gap was occurring. 

Maybe it was poor customer service. If that’s the case, hire another staff member whose sole responsibility is client care.

Maybe it was a faulty product. If so, what part of production needs to improve? How can you implement an extra quality assurance measure to avoid this problem in the future? 

Put something in place to cover the gap and avoid a repeat problem.


2. Respond rationally

Next comes unwarranted negative reviews. The customer is not always right, and sometimes reviews come through that are simply false or untrue. These can be incredibly frustrating because they unfairly paint your company in a negative light.

Take a deep breath, sit back, and think about how you want to respond. 

Acting based on emotion is never the correct method and will likely create more problems. If you act out of anger toward a customer, it will provide more fuel for the negative review fire they have started. Take some time to cool down and think about things from the customer’s point of view.

Recount the transaction.

Take a look at the purchase and determine whether your business is at fault in any way. Write everything down so that you may cover your tracks and provide information to the customer if necessary.

Prepare a response.

Take a day to collect your thoughts and write out a response that will both fix the situation and mend the relationship with the customer. Show that your business cares, but don’t aim to negate every part of their review — even if they are wrong.

A broad statement that shows empathy and proposes a solution should suffice. Depending on the situation, an example may look something like this:

“We’re so sorry that you had this experience. While we work to make sure each customer receives top care, we want to fix anything that may have fallen through the cracks. Please email us so that we can speak to you directly and help to remedy the situation.” 

Notice how this response was kind, calm, and offered a solution. It was not aggressive, nor did it call the customer wrong. 

When the customers contacts your business privately, that is your opportunity to (kindly) defend your business while still aiming to provide a fair solution and make the customer happy.


3. Provide options

Remedying negative reviews often requires more than just an acknowledgment of the customer’s complaint. Sometimes a discount, refund, or replacement product will need to be offered in order to truly make the customer happy. I recommend starting with an empathetic response and going from there.


The response

Sometimes giving the customer your point of view can remedy the situation. A response of some sort should always be given. It is extremely important to stay calm, be kind, and respond in a professional manner. The customer may not always be right, but you should aim to retain them. If you lose one customer, a domino effect could happen, resulting in a loss of more than just that single person.


If a response is not enough, consider offering a discount on a future purchase. This shows the customer that you care about them on an individual level and that you are willing to make a sacrifice on your end to fortify that personal relationship. It also encourages them to give your business another chance, which could help you retain them as a customer. They know that if something isn’t to their standards, your business will work to fix it.


Next comes a refund. Consider this if your business is in the wrong. If you shipped a product very late, sent the wrong item, or are in the wrong in another way, this may be the right thing to do. It shows the customer that your business owns up to its mistakes and that you’re willing to make it right.

Free replacement

If your company provided a faulty product, a free replacement should absolutely be offered. Broken or damaged products should not and do not meet clients’ expectations, and it is your responsibility to take ownership of those mistakes. This method works and will leave the customer feeling taken care of.


Final thoughts

Negative reviews can be difficult and stressful, so it is helpful to look at them as opportunities for growth. Customer feedback is a great way to build your business and make your service even better. Always stay calm, be kind, and react with nothing but empathy and professionalism. Customers will remember and value that.

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Yours in success,

Sarah x