Learn From Your Customers

Decoding bad reviews: why are they written and how to respond

Thursday, 25 May 2023
Bad reviews happen: A strategy of when and how to respond

Welcome to the digital age, where online reviews are as common as posts on social media. Serving as critical decision-making tools for potential customers, good reviews can be the best thing to happen to your business, while bad ones might cause you to break into a cold sweat.

But don't let bad reviews get you down. Instead, let’s deep dive into why customers might leave these reviews and how you can respond to them effectively. Once you've cracked this code you'll see each review, good or bad, as an opportunity for growth.

Why do customers write bad reviews?

You've got to understand the 'why' before you handle the 'how.' There are a few key reasons why customers might leave a bad review:

  • Poor customer service: This is often one of the top reasons for a negative review. If a customer feels they were treated poorly or didn't receive help when needed, they might leave a negative review.

  • Product or service quality: If a product or service doesn't meet a customer's expectations, they may express their dissatisfaction in a review. This can cover anything from a product not working as expected, to a service being delivered poorly or incompletely.

  • Delivery issues: A common complaint in reviews is related to shipping and delivery. Customers might have issues with delayed delivery, items arriving damaged, or products not arriving at all.

  • Pricing disputes: Customers can feel misled or cheated if the actual cost of a product or service is higher than advertised or if there are hidden fees they were not aware of.

  • Return or refund problems: Customers can become particularly frustrated if they have trouble returning a product or obtaining a refund. In such cases, they often leave negative reviews to alert other potential customers of their experience.

Before creating a response strategy, use review insights to understand why your customers are frustrated. With this understanding, you'll be in a better position to tackle negative feedback and turn it into an opportunity.

What do customers expect in a response?

If you're wondering how to respond to bad reviews, here's the secret: meet your customer’s expectations. When customers lodge complaints, they generally have three expectations:

  • Quick turnaround: Customers expect businesses to respond to their complaints quickly. A speedy and thoughtful response can go a long way in damage control and show that you genuinely care.

  • Empathy and care: Put yourself in your customers' shoes. They want to see that you understand their plight and that you care about improving their experience.

  • Resolution and perhaps, compensation: When things go south, customers expect you to make it right. A proper resolution or, in some cases, compensation, can transform a bad review into a positive one.

How to respond to bad reviews 

You understand your customer’s pain point and know what their expectations are. It’s time to respond to their feedback. Consider the following as part of your response strategy:

  • Acknowledge and apologize: Start with acknowledging the complaint and offering a sincere apology. This isn't just for the one customer but anyone else reading the review. Even if the mistake wasn’t your fault, an apology can go a long way in making amends. 

  • Provide a solution: Your response should clearly outline the steps you're taking to resolve the issue. This shows that you're committed to ensuring customer satisfaction.

  • Respond publicly, resolve privately: A public response shows that you're not shying away from the issue. If the issue requires a detailed discussion or resolution, provide contact information and take it offline.

  • Follow up: If you commit to an action or take the conversation with your customer offline, don’t drop the ball here. There’s no guarantee your follow up will satisfy your customer completely, but if you don’t follow up, your review response may seem disingenuous. In the best circumstances, a customer may update their review to reflect the positive outcome.

Transform bad reviews into opportunities

Even the most beloved companies get bad reviews – they’re a part and parcel of the online landscape. The key is to not fear them, but to understand them and respond accordingly. In fact, when you respond to bad reviews effectively, you not only increase customer satisfaction but also showcase your dedication to improvement, boosting your reputation in the process and creating loyal customers. 

We know every review has a personal story, and behind that review is an experience that you care about. At Trustpilot, we help you build trust and improve your company’s reputation among current and potential customers. 


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