Negative reviews are a fact of online retail and your response, or lack thereof, will not go unnoticed. Rather than viewing negative reviews as a threat, you should instead look at them as an opportunity. Think about it – this is your chance to win the customer back, to prove that their poor experience is out of the norm and that you're prepared to make it right. Even if you believe the review to be unprovoked or irrational, giving a thoughtful and compassionate response will communicate the class and care of your business to whoever is reading.
Don't Ignore It
It can be easy to simply close your eyes and ignore the situation. You might rationalize the see-no-evil-approach by telling yourself the comment doesn't warrant a response, anyways. Whether or not you think the complaint to be trivial doesn't matter. What does matter is that a customer who is upset will become irate when they're complaints fall on deaf ears, when they go unheard, when they feel ignored. This can cause the complaint to spread like wildfire (especially on social media) and, like a wildfire, it will only gain momentum as it spreads.
Collect Your Thoughts Before You Respond
Before typing the first letter of your response, give yourself some time to collect your thoughts and your emotions. Your first impulse (especially if the review is irrational and unprovoked) may be to vigorously defend your product or service but this can backfire. Take the time to formulate a thoughtful and polite reply. Even if the customer is completely in the wrong, it is in your best interest to not be defensive or aggressive.
Never deny responsibility for a poor customer experience. The last thing you want to do is take an adversarial position when responding to an upset customer. Simply accept the old adage “the customer is always right” because if it was true in the past, it's certainly true in today's digital age. So, instead of trying to pardon yourself publicly, make the effort to get to the root of the problem. Was it a misunderstanding or an oversight on your part? Perhaps changes to your company's internal policies need to be made in order to prevent the problem from happening again? If so, accept responsibility and let the customer know you're taking steps to ensure the problem never happens again.
Transform a Negative to a Positive
A negative review gives you the chance to broadcast your business's positive qualities. Inform the customer why this is so out of the ordinary for you. Maybe it because you've been in business for several years; or perhaps you've won awards in the past that speak to your level of customer service. Whatever it is, don't be afraid to broadcast accolades that illustrate that customer's experience was simply a fluke – not business as usual.
Look at a Negative Review as an Opportunity
Negative reviews are really customer acquisition opportunities in disguise. Why? It's a chance to make a case for your business and to show you really care about your customers. Done right, a negative review can actually win customers. According to Bazaar Voice, “shoppers who read helpful brand responses to reviews are 186% more likely to make a purchase and show 157% higher average product sentiment. Also, 41% of consumers see a brand's response to an online review as a sign that the brand really cares about its customers.” So take care to respond to your customer's negative reviews and to do so in a thoughtful manner – it just might make the difference between winning and losing multiple customers.