How to Deal with Negative Reviews

No matter how hard you work and how great your product is, someone will give you a negative review. As reviews linger online, some influencing SEO and sales for years, it can be tempting to respond harshly or to ask for the review to be taken down. But a poor response can actually do more damage than a negative review, so tread carefully.

Is it Really a Bad Review?

Some negative reviews can actually be a positive, as trivial complaints boost the overall impression of quality. As an example, if the only complaint about a hotel is ‘only had 2 pillows, not 3’ or ‘free shuttle only runs once an hour’, then both as a guest and the owner you might feel pretty good.

When Should you ask for a Review to be Removed?

Asking for a review to be taken down can cause a backlash or accusations of trying to hide something, particularly if it’s on a social site, like Facebook. This can all add up to an anti-campaign which often seems to have better SEO than you do. However, if a review is wildly inaccurate (describes the wrong product, for example) or libellous, contact the website owner and ask for it to be removed.

Should you Respond to Negative Reviews?

It’s tempting to ignore negative reviews, and it’s tempting to explain to the reviewer why their point of view is mistaken, or that there were extenuating circumstances. Don’t!

If a review is posted on your own site or a site which allows or encourages you to respond to reviews (such as TripAdvisor), then responding to a negative review shows that you’re engaged and aware of customers comments. It’s particularly important if reviews are rare or the review is by an influential person in your market.

However, if you expect a high volume of reviews (any product that could be listed on Amazon, for example) then replying to individual reviews can look odd: authors who respond to reviewers on Amazon are not doing their digital marketing team any favours.

Public or Private Response?

Remember that a public response can be read by anyone, and review sites tend to have a strong SEO, so it’s best to keep them short and sweet. It’s completely reasonable to ask customers with a problem that can be resolved (faulty item, etc) to communicate with you in a private channel, e.g. email. Bear in mind though, that many customers will only turn to Twitter or other public channels if they can’t get hold of you privately or can’t get a satisfactory response from your customer service team.

Be Truthful, Realistic and Personal

People who write a negative review are usually upset and disappointed. If fixing the problem isn’t possible, making sure they feel heard can turn their bad impression of your business into a good one. Simply saying ‘Hello [name]. Thank you for trying our product. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with us – it’s not at all what we aim to provide. I’ve made a note of the issues you experienced, and I’ll raise them in the next meeting of [relevant people]. Sincerely, [your name]’ shows that you’re engaged, responsive and listening to customers.

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