10 Mistakes to Avoid when Responding to Negative Product Reviews

Is it a good idea to respond to negative product reviews? The answer depends on many factors.

Before deciding on a company policy around review responses, you first have to determine which of your e-commerce partner sites allow comments. Amazon allows comments, and even has an “official comments” pilot program for brands and manufacturers. Sites such as Best Buy, Home Depot and Backcountry.com also allow comments, but some do not.

Beyond that, you’ll want to discuss what type of review response program makes sense for you. A startup which only gets a few reviews per week will often take the time to play ‘whack-a-mole’ and respond to each one. Reviews have an immense impact on a shopper’s decision, so this seems like a valid use of time when every sale counts. But, the bigger your enterprise becomes, the more this becomes an unrealistic use of time. At this point, some parameters should be set around responding. You may decide that you only want to respond to the very worst reviews (1 and 2 stars). Another strategy is to only respond to negative reviews on flagship products. You could even elect to only respond to reviews which use certain keywords or phrases (i.e. you may want to respond with instructions on any review that mentions ‘return’).

If you are going to have a review response program, you should have a tool to help you do so efficiently. The last thing you want to be paying your highly qualified employees to do is click on swarms of URLs to seek out reviews that warrant reply. The other downfall of not using a tool is quantifiability. Oftentimes, companies will paste their replies into a shared spreadsheet to keep track. Employ a trusted review response tool like Channel Signal, and you’ll also have the option of textual analysis, monthly insights and a plethora of trend graphs.

Avoid These Mistakes when Responding to Negative Reviews

1. Don’t combat negativity with negativity. No matter who you’re dealing with on the “other end of the line”, keep your glass half full. Your customer is already frustrated enough – whether it was their own fault or yours – and your negative response will just give other shoppers a glimpse into how you’d handle their own potential conflict.

2. Don’t get defensive. The coolest cat will win this race in the eyes of the buyer. Shoppers can pick up on which of you is being irrational and if both are doing so, they might be turned off and turned on to your competitor.

3. Don’t make it too generic. Boiler-plate responses to reviews never work. In fact, some sites such as Amazon strongly discourage them. It’s best practice to reply with a solution that is unique to that shopper’s experience.

4. Don’t forget to apologize when appropriate. The customer isn’t always right, but when it comes to product reviews, they’re nearly always more right than you. Ensure your reply reflects your sorrow for the inconveniences they’ve experienced.

5. Don’t neglect to provide a clear action plan. Is there a warranty or return process the customer should follow? Try to be specific in directing them to the right place, and keep in mind that they don’t always want to call your 800 number (and have likely already been through that rigmarole).

6. Don’t forget to add contact information. At a bare minimum, you should add contact information such as an email and phone number. But if you can add a name and direct line, that will make the reviewer feel they are getting special treatment.

7. Don’t always make discounts and compensation your go-to response. Responding to negative reviews doesn’t always mean bribing them with discounts. There may be a time and a place for that, but it’s probably better to hash that out outside of the review platform.

8. Don’t insult the reviewer. It may seem obvious, but even if you put a strong caveat in there (“We apologize for the inconvenience but it says right on the package the battery should be charged overnight“), any baked-in insult is still an insult. Again, keep it positive.

9. Don’t use profanity. Most sites will not allow a review to go through with profanity in it, and this type of language should under no circumstances come from a brand-sanctioned comment. Even if the reviewer used this language, take the high road and keep it classy.

10. Don’t go it alone. When you leave employees to the task of responding to negative reviews without the proper tools, things can get messy. Using a tool like Channel Signal Engage can save you time and money by allowing you to set up filters and daily alerts for just the reviews you want to see and respond to. Filters can be set up according to:

  • Date
  • Brand
  • Star Rating
  • Category
  • Source
  • Product

A great way to think about responding to product reviews is this. You might be able to change the mind of the reviewer and in some instances he or she may even change his review if you do it right. That’s all well and good. But the primary directive of responding to negative reviews is for the consideration of future buyers. Statistics show that around 5% of buyers write reviews, but between 82% and 90% of buyers trust and use product reviews when making a decision. That’s leverage. And you can mitigate the effects of a negative review with a solid response.

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