With studies showing that large majorities of consumers not only turn to online reviews as part of their purchasing decisions, but trust them more than they do personal recommendations, it’s no surprise that many businesses take negative reviews very seriously.
Unfortunately, many make mistakes when they respond to these potentially sales-denting reviews. Here are five of the biggest.
Responding in anger
Benjamin Franklin is said to have observed that “whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame” and this can certainly be true when it comes to responding to negative reviews. While negative reviews are often frustrating, especially when they are seen to be exaggerated or entirely untruthful, responding in an argumentative, angry tone can give credence to them.
Angry responses are especially ill-advised for businesses that have far more positive reviews than negative reviews. Consumers are generally a smart lot. If a company’s review profile is healthy overall, the effects of a single negative review are unlikely to be weighed heavily so businesses shouldn’t give consumers a reason to think twice.
Revealing personal information about reviewers
It can be tempting to respond to a negative review by disputing the specific claims made in the review, but companies should be very careful about how much personal information they reveal in their responses. Publicizing information beyond that which the reviewer published can send the message to other potential customers that information they expect to be kept private, such as their name and details of their transaction, could be disclosed or even weaponized.
For obvious reasons, this might cause some to question a company’s judgment and deter them from doing business with it.
Using canned responses
Responding to negative reviews can help companies demonstrate that they take criticism to heart and actually care, but some take a lazy approach by posting cookie-cutter replies that are lacking in substance.
These canned responses can be counterproductive. Again, consumers are smart. If they see that every response to a negative review is effectively the same, they’re likely to question just how sincere such responses are. For this reason, responses to negative reviews should reference the main points made.
For instance, if a review complains about a restaurant’s cleanliness, the restaurant would be wise to discuss cleanliness specifically (e.g. “We are taking steps to ensure that the tables are cleaned thoroughly after each customer”).
Being apologetic when it isn’t deserved
Good companies aren’t afraid to apologize when they make a mistake, but apologizing to customers no matter what can be a dubious strategy. For one, it can leave the impression that the business was totally at fault, even in cases where it wasn’t. Negative reviews can be the result of misunderstandings, misaligned expectations and, in some cases, customers who are unreasonable.
In reality, the customer isn’t always right. Issuing an undeserved or insincere apology might be a well-intentioned strategy aimed at minimizing the effects of a bad review, but it’s not necessary if a business has a minimal number of bad reviews.
Focusing on reviews instead of customer experience
Online reviews can have a real impact on sales, so it’s understandable that many businesses focus on them. At the end of the day, however, it’s important to remember that the best way to minimize negative reviews is to focus on making customers happy.
All too often, businesses focus more on the reviews than they do to the conditions that lead to them.
The difference might seem subtle but it’s important.
For instance, some businesses will reach out privately to customers who post negative reviews and explicitly seek resolutions that will involve the removal of those reviews. While this can sometimes work, it can also backfire as the message it sends to customers is that negative reviews matter more than they do. A smarter approach is to try to address the issues that led to the reviews knowing – but not expecting – that it could lead to the reviews being removed or updated.