Customer Experience News & Trends

How to give a good response to a bad customer review

You got a bad review. Whether it was a fair assessment of the customer’s experience or not, you need to make a good response. Here’s how. 

Customers can turn a small inconvenience into a large scale smear campaign nowadays.

They might launch a bad review on your site or a third-party site such as Yelp – and then take the rant to social media. Or they might go straight to social channels to let loose.

“When you get a one-star rating on any retail site or review platform, the customer isn’t just talking about you,” says Leslie O’Flahavan, a writing expert and author of Clear, Correct, Concise E-Mail: A Writing Workbook for Customer Service Agents. “Customers who give you poor ratings and reviews are, in fact, talking right to you.”

Fortunately, you can rein it in before their bad reviews and cautionary tales – embellished or not – affect other customers’ opinions and buying decisions. It’s important to do because more than 80% of customers check online reviews before buying, an BrightLocal survey found.

Responding to negative reviews – instead of sticking your head in the sand – will pay dividends because customers look for companies’ responses as much as the reviews when deciding to buy.

Here’s how to make a five-star response to a one-star rating.

1. Apologize

Your gut reaction to a negative review – especially one that seems exaggerated or unreasonable – might be to get defensive. Instead, O’Flahavan says the best immediate response is an apology for the experience.

Real or perceived, the customer feels slighted and will respond best when someone acknowledges it. Beyond that, others who read the review and your response will think better of you for taking responsibility.

Write: “We’re sorry …”

2. Offer

Try to make up for the negative experience by extending the olive branch. You might offer to replace or refund a product or re-establish or extend a service. Or maybe you can offer special access to a resource, such as a customer service pro, technician or other expert.

Alternatively, you might offer a different product or service that could meet their expectations.

When you make the effort and offer publicly, you show the offended customer and anyone else reading the review you stand by your products, services and company name.

Write: “We’d like to send a replacement right away” or “We can get a refund going right now.”

3. Be personal

When customers take the time to write personal reviews – even negative reviews – you want to give personal responses. Avoid generic, stilted language and scripted responses such as “Dear Valued Customer,” “We apologize for a poor experience,” or “We value your feedback.”

Write: “Mr. Smith, I’m sorry X has happened and you feel Y.” Use the customer’s exact words in place of X and Y.

4. Use empathy

You don’t have to agree with customers who give negative reviews, and you most definitely don’t want to disagree with them. But you want to let them know you respect how they feel. That’s empathy.

Write: “I can understand why you’d expect …” or “I can see why you feel that way.”

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