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Ecommerce | Marketing

Turn Negative Online Reviews into Positives

image: photo of a computer screen with a customer review of 4.3 stars.
4 proactive measures to keep the customers you have and even win new ones

We are deep in the age of the information-hungry consumer. According to a recent consumer review survey, 85% of shoppers trust online reviews just as much as they trust a personal recommendation, demonstrating how influential reviews can be in shaping the way people view your brand or product.


While the thought of receiving a bad review on a very public platform is enough to terrify any business owner, such reviews can, in fact, prove to be a useful new form of marketing and customer relationship building, if handled in the right way.



Act quickly

Responding to negative online reviews is part and parcel of running any retail business, and how you deal with them should form an integral part of your long-term reputation management strategy. A core element of this is ensuring reviews are closely monitored and acted upon promptly, ideally within 60 minutes of posting.


Setting up brand-mention alerts is a great way to keep track of things in real-time so that you can react rapidly to prevent one negative review from escalating into a PR nightmare.


Moreover, claiming your business listings on review sites such as Yelp will allow you to easily manage customer feedback. If you do not claim your business, you won't be able to act on any negative sentiments made about you, which could certainly prove detrimental in the long run.



Never ignore bad reviews

Perhaps the worst thing you can do with any negative online review is to ignore it. This does you no favours, especially since we now live in a world where the consumers are in control and have the ability to amplify their feelings about your brand to a potentially huge audience in a matter of minutes.


You might think that ignoring or deleting a bad review is an easy way to brush it under the carpet and act as if it never happened, but the reality is that this will only serve to make the customer even more annoyed, and he is likely to find other channels to express his frustration. What started out as one bad review could quickly turn into several of them, across multiple platforms, some of which you won't have the power to remove.



Respond publicly

In response to bad reviews, you should make a sincere, public apology and offer a solution to the issue. At the end of the day, consumers want to feel appreciated, so it's important to focus your response efforts on validating their feelings or compensating them for the inconvenience caused rather than ignoring them altogether, making excuses, or arguing with them on a public platform.


How you respond to the negative reviews will show people a lot about your business values and brand personality. Show that you truly care about your customers' opinions, and you're all but certain to win the approval of your audience.



Personalise your replies

It is important to personalise all your replies, since we know that today's consumers respond positively to personalisation. Don't just send out the same generic reply message to everyone—this is a sure-fire way to prove to your customers that you don't care about them individually.


Instead, address the customers by name and, if possible, give details of their trip to your shop or experience with your company so that they (and your prospective customers) can see that you do in fact know who your customers are and are committed to resolving each and every one of their particular issues.


Always remember to follow up with customers afterward via email or phone to determine whether they are happy with the outcome or if you need to do anything else. That way, they will know you are committed and will be more likely to remember their experience with you as a positive one.


Once you have effectively resolved the customers' problems and are sure they are satisfied, there is no harm in asking them to either delete their previous negative review or submit another, more positive one.



The positive sides to negative reviews

Negative reviews are unavoidable – they happen, they are normal and they can sometimes even be used to your advantage. Of course, you should always be striving for excellence and a great customer experience, but there are bound to be hiccups along the way and most rational consumers will understand this.


Therefore, a healthy mix of good and bad reviews demonstrates a human touch and provides authenticity to a business. If a company only has five-star reviews it can look rather fake and consumers often begin to question whether you've paid people to write them (which happens a lot more than you think!). In fact, according to a recent study, the optimal online review rating for a business is somewhere between 4.2-4.5 out of 5, which means a few less-than-perfect reviews are to be expected.


Moreover, bad or neutral reviews from real customers allow you to gauge ways to better improve your service or products. All feedback is valuable to business owners, so you should treat any review as a potential learning opportunity and seek to prevent the same thing happening again in the future.



Avoiding them altogether

If you haven't thought about it already, a key strategy for avoiding negative reviews before they happen is to build in an instant feedback opportunity. That way, customers are able to give you their opinion right away and without an audience, allowing you to intervene quickly and handle their issue before they get the chance to post a negative review online.



author: Gemma Ing

Gemma Ing

Gemma Ing is client insight manager at Assosia, a retail research company with its own price and promotion platform.


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