It doesn’t matter how incredible your product is or how strong your brand’s customer service skills are—you will experience negative social media reviews. They may come from internet trolls, keyboard cowboys, competitors pretending to be customers, or a consumer with a genuine complaint. While many business owners shriek at the thought of them, there are tactful ways to handle bad online reviews, keep the customer from going to the competition—and offer you a chance to learn how to make your product or service better.
Rather than working through the bad reviews, some businesses just ignore them. But with more than 90 percent of consumers reading online reviews to make informed purchasing decisions, it’s important to correctly respond rather than hope they go away, regardless of their validity.
In our experience in handling brand social media accounts, we’ve seen the majority of bad reviews come from upset customers. However, we’ve also seen reviews that have come from someone trying to wrongfully belittle the company to make their own business look better. Either way, it’s best to handle responses equally. If the first review a customer sees is an unanswered negative review, it could also be the last one the consumer reads, establishing a lasting unfavorable opinion about your brand.
So, how should you respond to negative reviews? To ensure that you appease the reviewer and impress future consumers with your customer service care, remember the following four tips when drafting responses.
1. Respond in a timely manner. A quick and timely response is important. Respond within a few hours or at least on the same day. A prompt response shows your customers that you’re actively monitoring reviews and that you care about what they have to say about your business, product or service.
2. Prove that you are listening. In your response, restate the reviewer’s initial issue. This shows the reviewer that you have taken the time to read and internalize their concerns. Use their name, as well, to acknowledge them and to help make it a personal response.
For example, let’s say you have a customer named Tori who purchased a bottle of your lavender essential oil and left a review that it was too strong and gave her headaches. You could start with: “Hi, Tori. Thank you for leaving a review about your recent purchase and experience with our lavender essential oil and its strength.”
3. Keep it positive. Even if you are sure the reviewer is lying about their experience or even about being a client or customer, keep it positive, and offer to take action to resolve the issue. If you want to point out that you have no record of them doing business with your company, do so, but keep it light, and offer the same response you would any other reviewer.
For example, if you have no record of the consumer purchase, you might say: “Hi, Tori. We have no record of you as a customer in our system, but we would be happy to talk with you about your recent purchase of our lavender essential oil to resolve your concern.” This is much better than: “This reviewer isn’t really a customer and is lying.” We’ve seen those responses, and it never ends well.
If you do have a record of the consumer, you could say something like: “Hi, Tori. Thank you for leaving a review about your recent purchase and experience with our lavender essential oil and its strength. Because different people have varying levels of tolerance for essential oils, we recommend only using a few drops in your diffuser located in an open room. It is always best to start with smaller amounts of oil and work up to the strength you feel comfortable with diffusing.”
4. Offer contact information. Once you have shown the reviewer that you value their opinion and are willing to take appropriate action, it’s time to take it home by providing contact information. In our example with Tori, you could provide a number to a customer service line or a link to a blog post on essential oil best practices.
However, some reviewers will not be easily placated. You may need to give specific contact information or request that they send you a private message. This accomplishes two things. First, it shows the reviewer that you respect their privacy. Second, and most importantly, it takes the conversation out of the public eye. This helps to diffuse any situation where the reviewer is being belligerent and argumentative to your responses. You have already shown other consumers that you are customer-service-driven with your initial response. There is no need to go back and forth with the reviewer in public.
Let’s say Tori went into one of your stores to buy the oil but experienced poor customer service. She left without making the purchase and decided to share her story on your Facebook page. Maybe you say: “Hi, Tori. Thank you for taking the time to leave a review. We’re sorry to hear about your experience in one of our stores. Can you PM us the store location you visited? We will look into your concern right away. Thank you!”
A brand or business should document complaints (and the positive reviews, too!) and bring them to your product development or marketing team. If you start to notice a trend of consumers complaining about the same things, then it may be a call to action for your team to take a deeper dive and make adjustments to the product or service. Reviews about team members, store locations or even e-commerce experiences are ultimately great feedback for you to retrain, overhaul, or correct situations that you may not even know about, and that could possibly be losing you customers who decide not to leave a review but rather go to the competition.