Responding to Negative Reviews

Negative reviews consistently rank as a top concern for brand marketers. The problem has only grown worse, as the number of consumers who say they routinely check online reviews before buying new items has grown. Negative reviews can have a quantifiable impact on a brand’s bottom line. The best way for brand marketers to lessen the blow of a negative review is to post a well-crafted response.

Responding to negative reviews requires sensitivity and attention to detail. It also requires a thick skin on the part of the brand marketer. The vast majority of people posting online reviews are not out to tarnish a company’s reputation. Many are simply hoping to point out how an aspect of a brand’s customer experience could be improved.

Always approach negative reviews in a calm and professional manner. Responding to negative reviews is the brand’s opportunity to diffuse the situation.

Developing a strategy for negative reviews

At larger brands, where multiple people are managing and replying to online reviews, it can be helpful to develop a series of templates for responding to negative reviews. Negative opinions tend to fall into a few different buckets, and having a standard policy for each situation helps to guide your digital marketing team.

The most common category of negative review involves complaints about a brand’s customer service. When developing a template to respond to these reviews, stay away from any language that makes the company sound defensive.

Instead, it’s best to offer a sympathetic response where you communicate that you’re thankful for the feedback and that your company takes such input seriously. If you typically follow up with store managers or staff about such reviews (a good practice), you can mention in your response that you’ve reviewed the matter with staff.

Complaints about products or services are also common. Because so many of these complaints are subjective, it’s generally best to start by thanking the customer for choosing your brand, and then apologizing that the product or service did not meet his or her expectations. Let the customer know that your company takes this feedback seriously, and ask the customer to give your brand another try.

Responding to negative reviews involving circumstances outside of the brand’s control -- for example, complaints that a restaurant is too loud on a Saturday night -- can be a challenge. Avoid offering a halfhearted apology, which can come off as insincere, and instead focus on responding with sympathy. Depending on the situation, you may also want your template to include a suggestion for other options if the customer ever faces the same situation again.

Finally, there will be situations where a negative review calls for an escalated response. Make sure that the strategy you have come up with for handling negative reviews defines when, and how, to flag certain situations for the appropriate internal teams.

If you are unsure of where to begin in creating a review response strategy, Brandify will work with you to create a plan and help you manage any negative customer reviews.