When you receive a negative review, it may seem like that customer is lost forever.
But that’s far from the truth.
In fact, 56 percent of customers say that a business’s response to their review has changed their perspective on that business.
So don’t be so quick to hit that report button on a negative review. Instead, consider how you can reply in a way that not only subdues a potentially negative situation but wins back that customer’s loyalty.
In this article, we’ll first explore why a customer might leave a negative review. Then, we’ll look deeper at what customers want to hear from you, and how you can meet their needs, improve your reputation – and maybe even win more customers – all through negative review response.
4 Reasons Why Customers Leave Negative Reviews
According to a 2019 Trustpilot survey of consumers, these are a few reasons survey participants left negative reviews.
- To help other customers
Whether to prevent others from going through the same experience they did, or to help others make better decisions, customers who left negative reviews want to make sure other potential customers know about their bad experience.
- To help the company improve its policies
This often looks like a customer mentioning long wait times or poor customer service. Reviewers include this type of complaint not because they’ll never use you again (or at least not always) but because they want your company to change.
- They want to be heard and have their concerns acknowledged
In the survey, a significant portion of customers said a reason they write negative reviews is to “get the company to acknowledge my personal concerns.” Sometimes, customers have reached out to your team prior to leaving a negative review – but when they don’t get a response, they decide to make their experience public. Often, they simply want an apology, or maybe want something more, like a refund or promise of free future service.
- They want revenge
Some customers simply have such a terrible experience that they want to get back at your company in some way. A portion of consumers surveyed said they leave negative reviews to get back at companies for a “bad product, service or policy.”
Understanding why your customer may have left that negative review is helpful when responding. It helps you put yourself in their shoes. Instead of seeing the review as a personal attack on your company or staff, you can see it as a comment motivated by a myriad of factors – whether it’s 100% your company’s fault or not.
All of that said, what’s the next step? That negative review is sitting there on your profile, and deleting it isn’t always possible or the best option. How can you make the most of the situation and turn it into one that works in your company’s favor?
4 Negative Review Responses that Win Customers Back
In that same Trustpilot survey, customers shared what they think is a satisfactory response to their negative reviews. You may be surprised to learn that actually replying to their review isn’t at the top of the list. However, you can respond in a way that addresses customers’ other expectations and shows them that you’re willing to go the extra mile.
Below, we analyze what customers think are satisfactory responses and how you can take this knowledge into account when replying to negative reviews.
- Show them you’ll fix the problem
The top satisfactory response according to the survey was when a company fixed the problem and reached out. “Reaching out” doesn’t necessarily mean replying publicly, but use your public response to show them how hard your team is working to make things better.
Let’s say for example that your company sends out a very large but incorrect order that causes your client shipping delays. Your client leaves you a negative review complaining of the time and money they’ve lost because of this mistake.
This client may want different “fixes” depending on the situation, and you hopefully have plans to make it right. But no matter the plan, you should reply with an apology, an explanation of how you plan to fix the situation and that you’ll reach out to them separately if possible. If this is the first your team is hearing of the problem, it’s fine to ask for more information:
“We are so sorry to hear that. Would you mind reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with more information? This mistake is not normal for our team, and we will fix this and make steps to prevent it in the future.” (More tips on replying to negative reviews here).
Instead of providing an email, you could also link to a form customers could fill out.
Whatever the situation, acknowledge your mistake, explain that your team is working hard to fix it – or ensure it doesn’t happen again. This type of response will hopefully help you keep the client – and improve how other potential customers view you.
- Offer to refund or replace merchandise – if possible
Again, those surveyed didn’t necessarily expect companies to offer an incentive through a public reply – a personal response would suffice. But by replying publicly, you can make it known to a wider audience that your brand is one willing to go the extra mile to make things right. This is your opportunity to turn an angry customer into a delighted customer!
Perhaps you have a policy in place about refunds or replacements that makes things tricky. But if you’re able to offer a refund or benefit, now is your chance to make it worth it by showing off a bit.
Maybe you own a shoe franchise and receive a negative review – photos included – of a customer receiving dirt-stained shoes. This situation can be tricky because people have been known to fake situations like this. If possible, track down the root of this issue to make sure it’s real – however, don’t be afraid to err on the side of belief. Once you’ve done that, you could reply:
“Our team here at Shoe Lovers prioritizes quality and we are deeply sorry we missed the mark. You are a valued customer and will be receiving an email soon from our customer relations team that we hope will make this right. We thank you for alerting us to this issue – your information is helping us prevent this from happening in the future.”
You could be more forthright with what refund you’ll be providing, but out of an abundance of caution, it may be safer to be vague. Either way, this review will help build your brand in front of a watchful audience of other potential customers. Plus, you’ll likely win back this customer even after their negative experience!
- Offer to send a private message or email
Yes, you may be surprised to learn that more customers said they’d be satisfied with a private message than with a public reply. Still, if you skip straight to a private interaction, you’ll miss out on a chance to build back up your reputation in front of other customers who may be reading that negative review.
Not every negative review is worth the time it takes to send a private message. You can accomplish many of the same things with a public reply that you can privately – and the customer may be more likely to see the public reply. Offering up the option to take things to private communication may be all that’s needed to make the customer feel personally addressed. Asking the customer if they could email you or telling them that someone from your team will be reaching out soon is a good way to prove to them that your public response isn’t just for show.
This has the added benefit of preventing situations from escalating in the public eye, and enables your voice to be the “last word” on the review.
- Simply reply
This may not seem like much, but many companies don’t respond at all. According to Review Trackers, 53% of surveyed consumers expect businesses to respond to their review within one week, and 1 in 3 expect a response within 3 days!
Few companies meet this threshold consistently. If you’re one that does, you’re already well on your way to retaining – and gaining – customers! 45% of consumers say they are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.
Satisfactory review responses are great at retaining customers who have had a negative experience – 55% surveyed in the TrustPilot study said they’ll use a company again after receiving a satisfactory response. But even if your response is a little less than “satisfactory,” (e.g. a simple “We are sorry to hear that and would like to learn more. Please reach out.”), it’s likely you’ll still gain customers – and bump up your company’s reputation.
Don’t Just Be “Satisfactory.” Go Beyond With Let Us Respond!
Our review response experts don’t just reply to negative online reviews – they do so in a way that creates loyal customers. Consider learning more today. Book a free review consultation!