How to Handle and Learn From Negative Feedback and Reviews

Negative feedback causes pretty much any business owner to tense up every time they receive notification of a new review on their social media or public profiles. When money is on the line, it's easy to see the damage those biting bits of prose can do.

And in the following article, we're going to show you how to deal. But first, let's look at the impact of online feedback and the types of bad reviews you're likely to encounter.

The Impact of Online Feedback

Online reviews matter. Don't believe it? In 2018, a survey found that 94 percent of respondents would avoid a business based on bad reviews.

And businesses with under 4 out of 5 Stars on Yelp suffered the most. Clearly, online consumers put a lot of stock in a well-written bad review. But they also put a lot on your response.

Before we get into how you should respond, let's look at what you can expect. Most negative responses follow a few distinct patterns, which we'll get into next.

Types of Negative Feedback

Getting negative feedback is unavoidable. That's because you're putting yourself out there for the masses, and the product or service you're selling isn't going to fit every need.

Regardless of the reaction, you should be responsive. We'll get into that in a moment. But for now, let's examine the different types of respondents you're likely to meet.

The Misunderstanding

Some forms of negative feedback will not be your fault. Well, not completely. It will stem from a customer thinking your product or service is one thing when it's essentially another.

Deal with this consumer by offering a solution to his problem, even if it means pointing him in another direction. You also can use this as an opportunity to reexamine your messaging and see what it is you might be able to communicate better.

The Legitimate Beef

Some customers will blast you online, and it will be completely deserved. It could be because of how you treat them, a failure of service on the part of your employees, or a legitimate product defect.

When it occurs, don't run from it. Take ownership.

The Almost There

These customers aren't completely dissatisfied with their experiences. However, they're going to point out something off about what happened. And that one complaint can be a deterrent for others looking at what you have to offer.

The Trolls

The internet is loaded with examples of people who just target businesses, fairly or not, as a way to troll them for one reason or another. The reason doesn't have to have anything at all to do with the product or service. Nevertheless, it can leave an impact.

Now that you know what you're up against, it's time to discuss what to do about it. You won't say and do the same things for every negative review. But most can be dealt with through a simple formula that involves the following eight steps.

1. Acknowledge the Issue

The first step for how to respond to negative reviews is to acknowledge there's a problem. Because there is, even if it's not your fault.

Customers offering negative feedback just want to be heard. So make sure they know you're listening by being willing to address their issue and not dismissing it.

2. Apologize for the Experience

When responding to negative reviews, be willing to fall on the sword a little bit. You can do that without admitting the problem is your fault because it very well might not be.

But you can cover this base rather quickly with a statement like, “We apologize for the experience you had with our company/product/service.” This acknowledges the issue without saying that it's your fault outright.

3. Be Accommodating

Also when responding to reviews, be willing to accommodate the reviewer within reason. Show them that you'd like to start a dialogue that, hopefully, will lead to the resolution of their problem.

But don't go too far into the weeds just yet. Save that for offline or direct messaging.

4. Change the Setting

Direct messaging is the best you can do online. But try to keep in mind that we live in a screen-shot culture. Respond to negative feedback as you would if the whole world was watching.

If you blow your response, they very well maybe. So maintain a hospitable tone and approach.

5. Get Personal

We've all seen examples of good reviews in our own businesses. Those are easy to respond to personally because you feel so great about what you just heard about your business or employees.

It's tougher when the reviews are negative as a part of you will take the complaints personally. Still, avoid the temptation to fire back.

Be cordial and friendly. Relate to what they're experiencing as if it's your problem, too.

Do not give a canned response here. Take all the time necessary to speak to the person like a human being. This is where investing in customer service associates can pay dividends.

6. Avoid Long Replies

Speak to every point. Leave nothing unaddressed. But don't go on forever, particularly during the public-facing portion of your response.

The longer you talk (or type), the more defensive you'll get. And you may not even realize you're doing it.

7. Improve the Outcome

Trolls may not be worth your time, even though some of these people can somehow be won over with the right approach. But you should try to improve the outcome for every legitimate complaint.

And for our purposes, a legitimate complaint is anyone who, in good faith, believes there to be a problem even if the issue exists on their end. By not judging the negative respondent and showing a willingness to make the situation right, you could even make a new evangelist for your company.

8. Make Organizational Improvements

Every interaction with negative feedback offers a learning experience you should be willing to take. See what went wrong and apply the fix company-wide. This may mean fixing a legitimate defect, striving to better educate your audience, or adding a new feature.

Negative Feedback Can Improve Your Business

Just remember that negative feedback can improve your business just as much, if not more so than any rave review ever could. It points to possibilities for improving your product, and that can only win fans and critics alike.

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