How to handle negative online reviews

in Marketing by Neha Kale
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Tackling online reviews

In the last few years, the explosion of digital, mobile and social channels has had a game-changing impact on customer relationships.

Unsatisfied customers that may have once aired their grievances to family and friends now take to the web to vent their opinions, leaving a negative impression with the potential to affect future business. Customers are also increasingly resorting to online reviews and recommendations to make empowered purchasing decisions. A 2011 survey by Lightspeed Research shows that 62 per cent of all customers read reviews online before committing to a product or service.1

Unfortunately, the idea of negative publicity often sends businesses into panic mode. It’s not uncommon for business owners to ignore or delete negative reviews or argue with reviewers. Businesses that give in to the temptation of posting false reviews or arguing with customers put themselves in a doubly precarious position – compromising integrity in the name of publicity can do irreparable damage to the brand.

However, a negative review doesn’t necessarily translate to negative customer relationships. Smart businesses can use a less-than-glowing customer response to demonstrate empathy, strengthen brand awareness and highlight a commitment to putting the customer first. These are the three strategies to remember when addressing negative online reviews.

1. Recognise and respond to customer concerns

Responding to negative feedback in a genuine manner is the strongest form of damage control when it comes to online reviews. It’s vital that you demonstrate empathy for the customer’s situation, make an apology and reassure them that this won’t happen again. Whether the disgruntled customer has aired their opinion via Twitter or left a comment on your website, make sure your response is timely and directly addresses their concerns. The aim is to establish meaningful dialogue with the customer and restore their trust in your business.

Top tip: Many businesses fail to prioritise online reviews, but the real-time nature of the internet has seen this become a central part of customer relationship management. Make sure you assign a staff member to monitor online reviews on a daily basis and quickly follow up if a problem arises.

2. Give the customer a refund or offer them a discounted service

Online or offline, customer happiness plays a critical role in business success. If a customer is dissatisfied with your service, engage with them, offer them something of value in return and make sure you deliver on your promise. It’s essential that you do whatever it takes to create a good impression of your business – chances are you’ll be rewarded in the form of a positive review.

Top tip: It’s important to allocate a portion of your marketing budget to customer incentives. If you consider this an investment in your loyalty strategy, you’re less likely to feel impacted by the cost.

3. Use online reviews to foster customer-friendly practices

Whether positive or negative, online reviews can provide powerful insight into the success of your business and highlight areas that need improving. It’s imperative that you take real-time feedback as a form of constructive criticism and use this to move your business forward and pave the way for further growth.

Top tip: Record your online reviews and develop an action plan based on customer’s negative feedback. Review this every six months and record the gains this has created for your business. It also pays to reward staff members who go above and beyond to address negative online reviews. Fostering a customer-centric work culture will set the stage for further growth.

Online reviews are an unavoidable aspect of modern business, but they can help build profitable, positive customer relationships. What are your best strategies for managing negative reviews?


1. Lightspeed Research

This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

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Neha Kale

Neha Kale is a freelance writer and editor with over six years’ experience in the media and finance industries. She has held senior editorial positions at various business and technology publications and specialises in online strategy, innovation, creativity and management best practices.

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