Last year Outreach attendees had been asking our experts on how to deal with negative product reviews. This is a truly sensitive and important question, and in this article, you’ll get the answer on how to prevent negative reviews, why some of them are good and how to handle a disappointed customer and boost your company’s reputation.

Every business desires a flawless reputation. This is critical if you do e-commerce. In the race to have zero negative feedback, companies forget that a negative review is a totally normal thing.

The biggest problem with companies is that they focus on things out of their control, like, customer actions. Your buyers have different expectations and you cannot completely predict how they will react. So instead, focus your efforts on what you can control: quality of your product or service and your reaction to what people are saying.

How to prevent getting negative feedback

The first way is too obvious, which is why most companies don’t pay proper attention to it—delivering a great product with a great service in the first place. Roughly, 95% of satisfying your customers depends on your ability to fulfill a promise.  

The second way, I personally encountered, is to stimulate people to write a review. When I received an order from eBay, I found a sweet and honest note from the seller which said:

Thank you for buying our product. As a seller on eBay, our business is completely dependent on the customer's rating, which is why we strive to make your shopping experience with us as great as possible. If you are completely satisfied, please give us a 5-star rating, but if something went wrong, please contact us directly first at *email@address*, we will fix the problem as soon as possible. Thank you.

There are always risks that are out of the seller’s control, e.g. the delivery company lost, damaged, mix up an item. The company encouraged its customers to write any kind of reviews with a small difference: all negative feedback had to be resolved privately between a customer and the seller.

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How negative reviews can help your business

You probably noticed that some products have a suspiciously positive “rainbow unicorn” feedback. In the world of imperfection, it may scare your buyers, because they will think those reviews are fake. Therefore, sometimes small insignificant flaws can actually add trust to the product. This way, it gives people a reason to consider your product seriously.

But when the flaw is pretty big (and reasonable)—take it as a source of priceless information that will help improve your product. Look how Facebook improves its security by utilizing a Bug Bounty Program: they encourage users to find bugs and reward them.

What to do if you received a public negative review

There are plenty of platforms where people can share their experience: Facebook, Twitter, Tripadvisor, Amazon, eBay, Yelp, etc. Your task as a manager is to constantly monitor the field to know when somebody mentions your name. To spot any message regarding your business, set Google Alerts, Social Mention, or any other tool.

If you are a “lucky” receiver of negative feedback, first and foremost check if the review is genuine.

Generally fake reviews have the following characteristics:

  1. The review doesn’t state the concrete problem, it is vague and is built with emotions mostly.
  2. Check the reviewer’s account: when it was created—fresh accounts might indicate a fraud; his review history—the reviews are similar, all of them are negative etc.
  3. Check if the review has similar wording with other reviews (Google the phrases)
  4. The review promotes your competitor’s product without giving any reasonable arguments

If you feel that the comment is fake, or its primary purpose is to undermine your brand’s reputation, ask the reviewer or the website to remove it. It is not always possible, but worth trying. Depending on the severity of the case, you might want to seek legal assistance.

If the review seems genuine, here are the recommendations:

  1. Respond immediately. The earlier you get involved, the smaller will be the scale of the problem and the more control you will get over the situation.
  2. Answer publicly. Some people argue that it is better to reply to the public comment in private, but we believe that publicity of the case can really save your face in the incident. By answering publicly, in accordance with other recommendations, you give people a chance to see that you are able to accept the criticism with dignity and respect the customer.
  3. Stay polite no matter what. Firing back with emotions will only induce more anger from the customer’s side and will make you look bad in the eyes of the other customers.
  4. Be ready to admit the mistake
  5. Apologize
  6. Don’t defend yourself. Place your customer’s interests before your business
  7. Aim at solving problem as fast as you can
  8. Offer a compensation if the nuisance you caused to the customer is too big to ignore
  9. After fixing the problem, ask the buyer to change the review

Saving reputation is not an easy task, but possible if you put aside your emotions, think objectively and prepare a proper plan for handling these sort of situations. From time to time everyone screws up to some extent, but the ability to manage the situation defines whether you are a stable company in a long-run or not.

We will have exhaustive expert sessions on social media, content marketing, display advertising, data analytics, online customer behavior and help tackle other problems relevant for the Middle East marketers at Outreach 2016. Check out our two-day intensive program and learn whom you will meet at the event.