Dealing with Negative Reviews: 6 Tips to Handle the Heat

Talitha Loftus
Talitha Loftus
Marketing Manager

Online reviews are extremely influential in today’s new shopping journeys, and how your retail store responds to negative reviews is critical to turning an opportunity into an advantage and fostering strong customer relationships.

In the age of the ultra-educated, information-hungry shopper, there is no doubt online reviews are redefining the shopper journey. More and more, consumers are putting their trust in the opinions of other shoppers rather then what brands are telling them. Gone are the days where shoppers browse at several stores before making a purchase. Now, pre-purchase decisions are made online based on consumer reviews before stepping foot in a store.

As product and service reviews have the power to literally make or break your brand, what do you do when you receive negative reviews? Don’t panic because today I’ll discuss six key steps on how best to deal with negative reviews in retail.

1 – Don’t hit delete.

It might be tempting to delete a negative review, but don’t do it. First of all, if you remove a real comment from an upset customer, you can be sure they will come back: louder, angrier and more frustrated. When you respond to a negative review, you’re showing both the person who wrote the review – as well as future shoppers – that you truly care about your customers’ feedback.

In fact having negative comments aren’t as bad as you think. Look at it this way; consumers who see only good opinions might think you’ve paid someone to create fake reviews. So much so a recent review study between PowerReviews and Northwestern University revealed a 5-star rating wasn’t the most trusted by shoppers. The study proved consumers displayed more trust and were more likely to purchase a product when the star rating was between 4.2 to 4.5.

Interesting, right?

2 – Quickly apologize.

The faster you respond, the better you’ll look in the eyes of the social media community. Promptly responding to negative reviews shows shoppers you care and value their opinions. According to Convince and Convert, 42 percent of your customers will expect a 60 minute response time, and 32 percent of them expect a response within 30 minutes!

Yes, shoppers may not always be right, but if you tell them they’re wrong, you will definitely lose their business. When responding to a bad review, a retailer needs to express understanding and empathy without blaming the customer. Customers want to feel heard and understood, so it’s important to find out what your customers want and how you can provide value. Try out these three simple steps the next time you have to deal with an angry shopper.

  • Thank them for their opinion
  • Apologize for the inconvenience
  • Ask for their personal details and call them directly

3 – Stop making excuses.

Even if the reason behind your customer’s pain wasn’t your fault, or if there was a legitimate concern on your side, do not make excuses, and don’t attempt to explain it away. This only leads to more hurt on the customer’s side and further negative impressions from other shoppers. Naturally, your first reaction is to give a reason why. But, remember why it happened isn’t their problem so don’t risk an excuse sounding like an attempt to pass blame to others. Be real in your response. It’s important your reply does not sound like an emotionless, pre-made template. Act  sincerely and your bad reviewer will be more likely to forgive and forget.

4 – Make it up.

Here’s where things get a little trickier. Apologies are great, but few customers will be placated by words alone. To really turn your detractors back into fans, you have to go the extra mile and prove to them that they’re worth it to you.

As a retailer, this might mean offering replacements for defective merchandise or discounts on certain items. “Making it right” can take many forms, depending on your industry. What’s important is that you do something to back up your words – and reaffirm for your customers that you value their patronage.

5 – Follow up.

Retailers often forget this simple but effective step. Make sure to follow up and ensure the customer is happy with the resolution of their issue. They will be grateful for your commitment and ultimately remember a positive shopping experience instead of the initial negative one. A simple follow up email or call should do the trick.

6 – Address the core issue and move on.

Often, it can feel like getting a bad review is hugely unfair. You’ve poured your heart and soul into the success of your shop and providing good customer service, and someone with sour grapes wants to destroy that because they were having a bad day. This unfair feeling can make lashing out in response very tempting, and it also makes being compassionate to the reviewer very difficult. But try and look for the positive and learn from your mistake.

Lastly, if you feel a review is really unfair, remember:

  • Your response can actually improve your standing with shoppers
  • Most consumers read more than one review of a business
  • Encouraging positive reviews is the best way to give readers a balanced view

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