How to handle negative feedback
Posted Jan 19, 2018 by Jonas Repschläger, Trustami

How to Handle Negative Feedback: A Practical Guide

Where there is light, there is shadow too. This describes online reviews in a nutshell. When it comes to reputation management, it is essential to react to negative reviews.

You probably struggle to respond to negative feedback because you don’t know how to react, what the appropriate language is, or what happens if you disagree with the reviewer. However, responding can not only save your reputation. When handled right, negative customer experiences can even have a positive effect on your business.

Serious Reasons to Care About Negative Reviews

Your customers are more likely to leave a review if they had a poor experience than if they had a positive one. Let’s face it, negative reviews are inevitable.

Negative reviews Apple

Even a big brand like Apple can get negative reviews

Such reviews can impact the traffic you get from Google, because star ratings are used in its search results. Google gets this information from online reviews on its own platform — Google My Business — as well as from third-party platforms like Trustpilot.

Google My Business panel with reviews

Google My Business panel with reviews from Google, Facebook, and HomeAdvisor

If you have a poor rating, or if you don’t have any ratings, you can be sure that other websites will appear in the search results. Your listings won’t stand out, and Google users might not click through to your website. Every time it happens, it costs you money, because your customers will choose a competitor who does have (good) star ratings.

Organic search results without reviews

Organic search results with reviews

Organic search results with and without Google stars

This lack of click-throughs can then have an impact on your website’s overall ranking in Google. SEO experts say that Google is either already using customer experiences as a ranking factor or is looking for ways to consider them in the future.

However, negative reviews are necessary. Our experience in Trustami is that many online shops ask especially for showing 99.97% instead of 100%. If the score is not perfect, that is better for the shop’s authenticity. The best-working score should be at least near 100% and not 90% or lower.

Summing it up:

  • Negative reviews are inevitable, so you should have a strategy for them.
  • A solid star rating makes you more visible in search results.
  • A perfect 100% score is worse than a more authentic 99% score.

How to Track Negative Reviews

When your business grows, the number of ratings normally grows with it. Successful medium-sized online businesses can have more than 100,000 ratings spread across multiple platforms (see karry24 or lets-sell). In this stage, it is not so easy to notice every review and react to it.

Online shop Lets-sell with nine connected review networks and over 1 million reviews

Online shop Lets-sell with nine connected review networks and over 1 million reviews

You get two opportunities to read your negative reviews and respond to them.

The first one is to manually track the platforms. When you don’t have many customers reviewing you, that might be manageable. Here’s how to do it:

The drawback of this method is that reviews are not necessarily in the Google index, so you can spend a lot of time searching and still miss something.

When you gain more customers, the number of ratings you get increases, as well as the number of platforms where they appear. The professional way to manage reviews then is to get a service to do it for you. You can do it for free with Trustami if you want. Trustami can send you an automatic review alert on a daily basis if you get a negative rating somewhere.

How to Make Negative Reviews Work for You

Here we’ll give you a step-by-step plan that you can use when a negative review takes you by surprise.

1. Decide whether it’s a fair one

If you see a malicious message and feel the review is unfair, don’t give up right away. You can try to get the review removed. Address the platform but be ready to have good reasons for the removal request. Some reasons may be inappropriate language, wrong review target, or an unverified transaction.

Deleting an unfair review

You can request the deletion of unfair negative reviews

2. Respond to the reviewer directly

Your goal is to get the reviewer to change the comment or at least to protect yourself from future bad ratings.

A perfect reply to a negative review clearly shows that you:

  • Acknowledge the issue and apologize.
  • Help the customer with their issues.
  • Are authentic and personal.
  • Tactfully promote a positive image of your business.
  • Learn from it and promise to prevent future issues.

Replying to negative feedback

Angela tactfully promotes her salon’s features

Sometimes a negative review can be very aggressive, or completely unfair, but it still doesn’t violate any terms of the review website. In such a nail-biting situation:

  • Don’t ignore a bad comment. It can be tempting to put it on the back burner, but you shouldn’t leave the website until you resolve the issue.
  • Don’t take it personally. Focus on helping your customer.
  • Don’t react right away. Haste often results in an emotional or unprepared response. Before answering, take a second to think about it and, if necessary, consult your staff. You should obtain as many details as possible regarding the issue.
  • Don’t start a long discussion publicly. Your message on the public-facing platform should contain facts, an explanation, and an offer to discuss this issue with the customer in more detail through direct messaging. However, try to say a little bit more than “I am sorry, give me a call and we can resolve the situation,” but also reply to every statement about the circumstances.
  • Don’t be defensive or too apologetic. Try not to blame someone or to repeat how sorry you are, but figure out a way to prevent this from happening again.

A good example of customer care

Respond to negative reviews by answering the concern, offering an explanation, and showing your willingness to discuss the issue

Some Practice

Below are two real-life cases of companies working with negative reviews. See how companies reacted to the issues and think of how you could improve their answers. You can drop your suggestions in the comments.

Case 1: Network issues

Disturbed data connections and call cancellations are not uncommon in metropolitan areas. If problems arise, it is up to mobile operators to appease angry customers and fix the cause of the problem as quickly as possible.

The trigger was a blog post by IT developer Matthias Bauer, who complained about network issues and got this answer:

O2 answer on Twitter

O2 answer on Twitter

With the heading “We are an isolated case,” O2 customer Bauer published an angry blog post. He addressed the recurring provider response that the connection problems are only individual cases. The blogger then invited everyone with the same problem to enroll in his blog. After a short time, over 6,000 people enrolled and the topic went viral.

In the end, O2 said sorry and promised to expand their infrastructure. But that happened after the shitstorm was already there, and the reputation took a large blow.

What do you think would be the best way to prevent it? Leave a comment below.

Case 2: A caterpillar in the salad

A visitor to the franchise Vapiano found a caterpillar in their salad and posted a video on Facebook. Of course, some visitors did not find it that funny. Many users also sympathized with the caterpillar and interpreted it as an indication of fresh food.

Within 24 hours, the user’s public status had reached more than 40,000 hits and had been shared more than 14,000 times.

Facebook post with caterpillar in salad

The original complaint on Facebook

The PR agency that supervised Vapiano responded to this situation in order to slightly reduce the negative impact of the posting: “You could see this as proof of the freshness of our salads.” Their message also said: “On the contrary, we take this very, very seriously, such a thing must not happen to us!”, followed by an apology.

Response to the caterpillar issue on Vapiano’s Facebook page

Response to the caterpillar issue on Vapiano’s Facebook page

The result: an impending shitstorm is now developing into a pro-caterpillar movement.

Some comments were:
“it’s just a caterpillar!”
“You A …. I would rather have saved the animal instead of leaving it in the vinegar bath!”
“Nobody dies of it. Everyone survived in the jungle camp.”

At the end, this event could have been a huge reputation setback, but due to the clever reaction, it turned out as positive publicity.

Let’s Revise

Negative reviews are not as bad as you think. You can even transfer them to enhance your business and gain your customers’ trust. It is normal that nothing is perfect and mistakes, as well as problems, happen in every business.

This is what you’ve learned in this post:

  1. Watch your review channels regularly.
  2. Don’t panic if a customer writes a negative review.
  3. Get directly in touch with the writer.
  4. Respond to a bad comment publicly.
  5. Learn from negative customer feedback.

You should try to set up a regular stream of positive reviews about your business as a part of your reputation management. If you do this on the main review websites, the negative reviews will not be as significant. If you have between 10 and 100 positive reviews per one negative rating, the potentially harmful impact of this negative review will be mitigated.

Learn how to get more reviews in our previous post.

***

Do you already have reviews, likes, or followers on several platforms like Yelp, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, Trustpilot, Etsy, and many more?

Register your Trustami Account for free and pool all trust signals with just a few clicks in less than five minutes. This is the easiest way to keep track of all your review channels and manage your reputation in an efficient way.

About The Author
As CEO of Trustami, Jonas is responsible for the areas business development and acquisition of investors and for keeping both, the vision and the team, on track. When he is not busy with Trustami he keeps fit with beach volleyball and sailing.