5 Ways to Address and Resolve Bad Reviews

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Online reviews have become popularized to the point of becoming an integral part of the commercial landscape. Fewer and fewer purchases are made ‘blind’ or without the consumer first consulting the views and experiences of other shoppers.

Consumer empowerment through this increasing relevance of reviews to the customer journey means that now, with just a few clicks, a single disgruntled customer’s bad review can reach the eyes of countless potential buyers.

This new norm demands a proactive approach from all businesses. Rather than reacting defensively to criticism, we must seek to understand the customer’s perspective and address their problems at the source.

Here are five areas where falling short can lead to poor testimonials and provide tips on how to handle online reviews in a way that both redeems first impressions and fosters ongoing improvement.

1. Listen and learn from feedback

With recent online review surveys from PissedConsumer.com and Customer Alliance reiterating the growing influence of online reviews on consumer choices, the vast majority of customers report that negative feedback almost always impacts whether or not they patronize a business. But this doesn’t mean you can’t also make them work for you.

Use negative reviews as a source of valuable feedback to strengthen your operations. Ask the author of the review for additional details about what went wrong in their eyes. For example, you may enquire: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Your feedback is very important to us. We would very much appreciate it if you could provide a few more details about your experience so we can apply your thoughts to improve our service…

Not only can such engagement uncover useful, practical information, but more often than not the reviewer will appreciate your interest and be happy to elaborate. Your willingness to learn from mistakes communicates that you truly value the customer experience.

Customer reviews provide an opportunity to identify gaps, enhance training, refine processes, and ultimately help you provide a much better experience to all customers based on addressing their real issues and concerns.

2. Follow up

Check back with the original reviewer to confirm whether you fully resolved their issue and to gauge their satisfaction with your solutions. Following up is an important way of showing your commitment to customer care. It also allows you to address any lingering concerns and make further improvements.

If possible and appropriate, don’t be hesitant to politely ask satisfied customers to update their critical review to reflect a positive resolution reached post-review. Online reviews that show how a business made things right after being called out will serve to reassure potential buyers of your dedication to quality service and customer satisfaction.

3. Analyze patterns in negative reviews

While responding to individual reviews, look for common themes or recurring issues. Patterns in feedback may point to underlying problems in company policies, procedures, customer service, or product quality that require attention.

For example, if multiple reviews complain about long return processing times, the business in question likely needs to streamline their return procedures. Analyzing patterns helps improve the broader customer experience beyond resolving individual complaints.

4. Fix underlying issues and share updates

Once you’ve identified the common complaints and criticisms, work to fix these issues that are providing the fuel for your negative reviews. Taking action may require evaluating and changing internal processes or retraining staff. Still, the overall goal should be sustainable solutions that truly resolve these problems, not superficial fixes that simply buy you time.

Once you’ve made the moves to straighten out these wrinkles, share your corrective actions on relevant review sites and social media to communicate to your customers that your business is dedicated to constant improvement based on their feedback. This level of responsiveness builds trust in consumers that not only will your business listen to and consider their opinions, but their feedback will also prompt tangible changes.

5. Have conversations, not confrontations

It’s understandable for businesses to feel defensive in response to negative reviews – it can be instinctive, particularly if the criticism appears unjustified – but confrontation rarely ends well and will more often than not lose you customers and further damage your brand’s reputation.

Often, reviewers simply just want to feel heard and are more reasonable than even scathing reviews will suggest, so always listen actively and without defensiveness. Thank the reviewer for the feedback, clarify any misunderstandings politely, and re-iterate your commitment to improvement based on all customer input.

While giving a receptive ear to the customer is often enough, don’t just acknowledge their dissatisfaction – but also propose a solution. Even if the ideal outcome in the eyes of the customer cannot be reached at the time, positive dialogues alone can sometimes turn unhappy customers into brand advocates.

Reviews are a bridge between your business and the customer

As easy as it is nowadays for consumers to share their feelings online, negative reviews are inevitable, but they need not spell doom.

Addressed thoughtfully, reviews present a growth opportunity rather than a liability. Pursuing a respectful, solutions-oriented approach to criticism will steer the online narrative about your business in a positive direction – an open willingness to engage, admit errors, and learn from welcomed customer feedback will return goodwill, even from tough critics.

Negative feedback, when properly managed, can strengthen existing customer relationships by prioritizing transparency, accountability, and a genuine drive for continuous improvement.

Instead of asking yourself how to handle negative reviews, the focus should be on how to learn from them. With the right engagement strategies in place, you can turn online reviews into a competitive advantage that makes your business stand out as authentic, responsible, dynamic, and responsive to the needs of its customers.

Michael Podolsky
Co-founder and CEO of PissedConsumer.com, a review and reputation management platform. Having 20 years of experience on Wall Street, I’ve become an independent entrepreneur and am now actively involved in entrepreneurship, technology development, search optimization, leadership, customer service, and consumer advocacy.

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