No-one likes getting bad reviews. Just ask those companies reportedly paying for customers to leave five-star feedback.

Could this kind of behaviour be due to the fact reviews are the power behind digital retail success? 

The desire to generate more positive responses is natural for a marketer, but receiving negative ones occasionally should not be feared. Ultimately, it’s how a brand reacts to this feedback that really does matter. The Daily Mail is developing something of an obsession for poor taste responses, writing up reports on rude replies such as from the restaurant that referred to a dissatisfied customer as a ‘moron’ and an ‘epic tool’.  

The latter is an extreme example, and you’d think most rational business people wouldn’t go down the ‘moron’ route when reaching out to negative reviewers, yet it’s surprisingly common to see otherwise sensible marketers trying to fan the flames of a bad review – intentionally or otherwise.

How negative reviews are dealt with can be make-or-break for a brand. This isn’t technically a review, but KFC’s recent ‘Chickengate’ debacle was a case in point. The brand took its mea culpa and ran with it, creating a whole above-the-line ad campaign promising to do better next time. Customers and commentators were falling over themselves to forgive the temporary interruption in bargain buckets. The brand’s (emotional) stock rose almost immediately. What customers say and think really does send marketers into overdrive it would seem.

While brands don’t need to take out ad campaigns to soothe ruffled feathers every time, some form of response is required – as long as it’s the right response. 

However you feel, pause and think. As a poorly executed response can really backfire. See this column by Mark Ritson  on how the Pret a Manger CEO responded to criticism with a comment along the lines of ‘see if you can do any better’. This unsurprisingly came back to bite him.

bad reviews

Dealing with the downgrade 

The good news is that a few bad or lukewarm reviews can actually be helpful to your brand. Customers find it more authentic when they can see a company has slipped up but rectified it. In fact, customers spend more than five times as long on a site when they interact with bad reviews, so it’s worth making that time count. No-one is perfect all the time. But it’s how you handle those reviews that reassures customers both past and present.

Be polite 

We all know from email snafus that a well-meant message can come across as curt or even downright rude. Replying to a review means making your intentions clear and that includes tone of voice. There’s no need to be obsequious but use language that makes it obvious you respect their opinion and are grateful to have been made aware.

Be human

From the language you use to the way you offer to resolve their issue, showing the company’s human face is important on several fronts. Corporate speak distances the customer from you emotionally and can antagonise them. Wrapping yourself in jargon makes it look like you’re trying to hoodwink them, or blind them with science. Being human means showing you understand their issue and are working to solve it and that re-establishes trust. 

Don’t argue

Very rarely is it going to be worth disputing their version of events. Poor customer experience notwithstanding, the weight of consumer law is also behind them. There’s a reason ‘no quibble guarantees’ look so attractive. 

Acknowledge their concerns 

Whether you are able to resolve their issue or not (customers might rate poor mobile service provision as one-star but short of building another mast – there is little to be done about it immediately), outline that you have taken on board their whole concern. Not only does it show that you have paid attention to everything they’ve pointed out but other customers reading the review worried about the same issue will have their queries answered.

Not every situation can be remedied, nor can every customer be appeased. But the vast majority of issues can be resolved either by actively solving a customer’s problems or simply acknowledging that you ‘must do better’. If you enjoyed this column – but particularly if you didn’t – feel free to comment below…

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