Why You Need to Respond to Negative Reviews (and How to Do It)

Topic: Impact of Online Reviews Best Practices Brand Response ecommerce Negative Reviews

As a customer-focused business, you work hard to deliver products and experiences your shoppers love. So ideally, every single one of your shoppers would sing your praises. But that’s just not realistic.

Sometimes, things go wrong. Perhaps a shipment is delayed or a shopper receives an item that’s been damaged in transit. Or maybe a shopper simply doesn’t like your product. 

Regardless, you’re bound to have an unhappy customer from time to time. And occasionally, these unhappy customers will share their feedback by writing a negative review about your product or their experience with your business. 

But don’t despair! While you never want to get a negative review, it’s certainly not the end of the world. By responding to these negative reviews, you have the opportunity to connect with your shoppers, turn negative situations around and boost sales along the way. 

In this blog, we’ll discuss why responding to negative reviews is worth your while and share best practices for developing great responses. Throughout this post, we’ll also share plenty of negative review response examples so you can see these best practices in action.

→ Access Now: Negative Feedback Creates Positive Change [Free Guide]

Why Respond to Negative Reviews? 

When you receive a negative review, it might be tempting to ignore it -- and hope it’ll quickly get buried by positive reviews. But that strategy can damage your relationships with your shoppers, as well as your hard-earned reputation.

When a consumer is upset enough to write a negative review, they expect a response. If you don’t respond to help resolve the issue, a few things are likely to happen. First of all, you’ll probably lose them as a customer -- for good. A study from PwC found that a third of consumers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. Plus, your angry shopper is likely to complain elsewhere online, like other review sites or social media. 

These unresolved issues will damage your reputation and make future shoppers wary of making a purchase from your business. What’s more, if you are a brand in a regulated industry such as pharmaceuticals, failing to respond to a negative review can also mean running into compliance issues and fines. 

On the other hand, investing just a few minutes to respond to a negative review can help you turn a bad situation around. And that can have a positive impact on your reputation (and your bottom line) both now and in the future. 

For starters, responding to a negative review can help you win your customer back. According to an eBook from Bazaarvoice, up to 70% of dissatisfied shoppers will do business with a company again if their complaint is resolved. In addition, a Harris survey found 33% of customers that receive a response to their negative review will go on to post a positive review. And 34% will delete the original negative review. 

Your responses to negative reviews will also reach future shoppers. BrightLocal found that among consumers that read reviews, a whopping 97% also read business’ responses to reviews. These shoppers will see that you value your customers and their feedback, and they’ll think well of your business. A TripAdvisor survey found that 89% of travelers indicate a thoughtful response to a negative review improved their impression of a business. This is likely the case for other categories, too.

How Review Aggregation Helps You Respond to Negative Reviews

Responding to negative reviews is well worth your time. But doing so can be a clunky, manual process. 

Think about a brand like Nike. A shopper can leave a review for a Nike product -- like this Mamba Fury basketball shoe -- on the brand’s eCommerce site or retailer sites.

The shopper can also share feedback about their experience in a Nike store by leaving a Google review. 

And they can even write a review for Nike’s mobile app.

Traditionally, brands like Nike would have to log in to a dozen or more dashboards to respond to negative reviews submitted on all of these different channels. This can be a very time consuming process, with a lot of room for error. That means responses to negative reviews are often delayed, some negative feedback slips through the cracks, and you’re likely to have some pretty angry customers on your hands that don’t think you care about their feedback. 

Today, though, many brands consolidate their reviews into a single review management dashboard. Basically, that means all of your reviews -- regardless of where they were written -- can be managed from one location. You can respond to all reviews from one dashboard, and that makes the tips we’re about to cover a whole lot easier to put into practice. 

Responding to Negative Reviews (With 12 Review Response Examples!)

We’ve covered the importance of responding to negative reviews and how review aggregation can make the process easier. But what exactly does a great response to a negative review look like? 

Here are seven best practices for developing effective responses that can help you turn negative experiences around.

1. Respond to Negative Reviews Quickly

When you have an upset customer on your hands, time is of the essence. So be sure to respond to negative reviews as quickly as you can. According to a RevLocal blog, more than half of consumers expect to hear back from a business within a week of leaving a review, especially if it’s a negative one.  

Of course, it’s important to remember that not all negative reviews are the same. Some negative reviews simply reflect a shopper’s personal taste or preferences. For example, this shopper thinks a particular alcoholic beverage “tastes like they flavored it with armpit.” You should respond to this review, but it’s not urgent.

On the other hand, reviews that mention health or safety concerns should be prioritized, as they could point to a larger issue that needs to be investigated and fixed. For example, this reviewer mentions that a hair dye product burned his skin. This needs to be investigated, as there could be a larger problem with the product that didn’t come up during testing.

In this example, the reviewer didn’t feel safe at the grocery store because mask rules aren’t enforced. Health and safety concerns are top of mind in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, so this review needs a response -- quickly.

Reviews like this one that mentions a racist employee should also be prioritized. Obviously, racism is a big concern that should be investigated and addressed appropriately. If the company doesn’t respond to this review, the original poster (and future shoppers) will think the company doesn’t care about an incredibly important concern. 

When you use a review consolidation solution like Reputation Studio, you can create a list of negative keywords. For example, if you’re a CPG brand, you might pick words like “pain,” “burn” and “sores.” If you collect reviews for store locations that are reopening after stay at home orders have been lifted, you might create a list that includes keywords like “COVID,” “coronavirus” and “mask.” Then, every time a review is submitted that includes one of those words, it gets flagged. And you can make it a priority to respond to these especially urgent reviews.

2. Provide your Team with Negative Review Response Templates

There’s no need to completely reinvent the wheel each time a negative review comes through. Instead, provide response templates to your staff members who are responsible for managing negative reviews. These templates can act as a starting point so your team members don’t have to start from scratch each time they’re responding to a negative review. Plus, templates help ensure all negative review responses reflect your brand identity. 

3. Personalize Your Negative Review Responses

Sure, review templates are great. But it’s worth repeating: templates are just a starting place. 

Avoid using the same, generic response for every single review. Your brand will sound a bit like a robot -- and your shoppers will notice. As an example, the three most recent negative reviews for this piece of furniture all have essentially the same response from the brand.

This can be a big turnoff, as people want to feel like an actual human is addressing their unique concerns.

Instead, use the reviewer’s name, when possible. And be sure your response addresses specific elements of the negative review. For example, this reviewer mentions she’s been using Always brand products for 30 years, and her daughter uses them too. The response specifically touches on these issues. 

This review for moisturizer mentioned the shopper broke out after using the product. In the response, the company apologizes for her experience and addresses her breakout by saying they hope she’s feeling better. 

4. Offer an Apology to Unhappy Reviewers

Customers want to feel like their concerns are heard. And in many cases, a genuine apology can go a long way. 

It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. For example, this response to a review for sunscreen lotion uses the phrase, “We’re so sorry to hear about your experience.” 

In this review, the owner of a grocery store offers a heartfelt apology for the shopper’s negative experience -- as well as a gift card to make up for it.

5. Avoid Getting Defensive

You work hard to satisfy your customers’ needs. So when a shopper leaves a bad review about your product or company, it’s easy to get defensive. This is especially true when the details of the review aren’t entirely accurate or the customer didn’t use a product as it was intended.

But avoid the temptation to get defensive or argue about the details. A combative response won’t win back your customer, but it will be a big turnoff to others. Not to mention, if the customer is being unreasonable, others reading the review will likely read into that.

For example, customers probably don’t want to visit this restaurant after seeing its owner refer to a reviewer as a cheap liar.

Here’s a less extreme example. This reviewer is upset because a shopping center doesn’t enforce mask and social distancing rules. The response starts with an apology. But it goes on to say that “it is an individual’s responsibility to comply with the law.” While this is true, it comes off as a bit defensive and dismissive of the reviewer’s concerns.

→ Access Now: Negative Feedback Creates Positive Change [Free Guide]

6. Provide an Immediate Solution, When Possible 

Sometimes, a bad experience is due to user error. In these instances, a business can quickly turn things around by providing the reviewer with some helpful tips in the review response. 

This shopper left a one star review for a cleanser, mentioning the product left an oily residue on her face. The brand responded with some helpful tips to help eliminate this problem, along with an invitation to receive customized application tips from an online consultant.

And in this one-star review for a self-cleaning litter box, the customer complained about having to empty the device more often than the previous model. In the response, the brand offered a helpful tip to eliminate the need for such frequent cleanings, as well as a link to a video with more tips.

Finally, in this one-star review for a baby “snot sucker,” the customer is upset because the product broke. However, the brand tactfully let the customer know the product isn’t actually broken and offered a tip to get it back together.

Just remember: don’t get defensive...even if the issue isn’t necessarily your fault.

7. Take the Conversation Offline

You might be able to resolve a customer issue by responding to the review with some helpful tips. But in many cases, you’ll need more information in order to make things right. 

If you’ve got the customer’s contact information, reach out directly to them to get more details. Be sure to respond to the review, letting the customer (and future shoppers) know you’re reaching out directly. Here’s an example of a brand responding to a one-star review for a pair of yoga pants, letting the reviewer know to expect an email.

If you don’t have access to the reviewer’s contact information, you can ask them to reach out to you to provide more details. For example, in this review, the shopper accuses a store of racial profiling. Obviously, this is something the company will need to investigate. In the response, the brand asks the review writer to reach out to share more details, and provides several ways for the shopper to reach them. 

And in this one-star review for baby formula, a mom indicates the product gives her baby some tummy troubles. In the response, the brand asks her to reach out to them to provide more details. That way, the brand can help troubleshoot and perhaps recommend a product that might be a better fit for the baby’s needs. 

Including your contact information in your review responses is a great move. But be sure you’re not just blasting reviewers with your phone number -- and offering no additional upfront help. When possible, provide some recourse in the text of your review response, as well as a way to contact you.

Start Responding to Negative Reviews to Retain Current Shoppers and Attract New Ones

Of course, no business wants to receive negative reviews. But a thoughtful response can help turn a negative situation around. And that’ll earn you a loyal customer and a great reputation as a brand that cares.

Want to learn more about how negative reviews can actually be good for your business? Download our free eBook: Negative Feedback Promotes Positive Change.

Negative Feedback eBook

Impact of Online Reviews Best Practices Brand Response ecommerce Negative Reviews