A one-star rating? A negative review? That’s definitely not one of your brand’s proudest moments.
In today’s digital age, negative reviews can potentially spell the difference between brand success and failure. It’s there for all your potential customers to see. Worse, it can impact their decision to patronize your brand or not.
Now the question is: can a brand be in control of negative reviews and, most important of all, how can they handle these reviews well?
The Impact of Negative Reviews on Brand Perception
Social media platforms have expanded their features by adding e-commerce features, allowing users to sell and purchase items. Facebook has the Marketplace. Instagram has Shops. TikTok also has TikTok Shop. These platforms have transformed from merely providing social interaction to providing another digital venue for seamless commercial transactions.
Brands have capitalized on this, and if your brand is new on the marketplace train, you’re likely very excited to reach new heights and offer your products and services to new markets.
But before you even begin to close a sale on your digital audience, they must be convinced that you provide an excellent shopping experience. This is why good reviews are your best friend – and bad reviews, the bane of your brand’s existence.
Negative reviews may affect your brand in that they:
Drive Customers Away
Ever been on a road and come across a sign that asks you to take a detour or to turn back? Negative reviews are a bit like that. They divert potential customers away from your brand and lead them in a different direction (ex. a competitor brand) before they’ve even discovered anything for themselves. Simply put: it’s a turn-off.
Damage Your Reputation
Sticks and stones might not break your bones, but words have the power to hurt the reputation your business has built. When potential customers come across negative feedback from your previous buyer base (particularly about bad after-sales customer service or poor handling of customer needs), it can instantly hold them back from trusting you. Thinking of disallowing reviews on your pages? Having no reviews or seeing that reviews are disabled for your page may do more harm than good.
Negatively Affect Revenue
Those less-than-stellar reviews can certainly trigger a domino effect. When your brand’s negative reviews make the rounds online, it could snowball into decreased earnings because less and less people trust that they’re getting anything useful from your brand. Why would they spend money on that?
Exactly. They might not. So how can you prevent this from happening to your brand?
Let’s first understand the triggers for leaving negative reviews then see how we can best address them.
Why People Leave Negative Reviews – and How You Can Best Handle Them
Why people leave negative reviews
Your product or service got a negative review because, at some point in the buyer journey, one aspect or another of your offering didn’t quite meet a certain customer’s expectations. More specifically:
- They may have been driven by an immediate emotional response. At the spur of the moment, extremely unhappy customers can turn to social media where a few taps on a keyboard can potentially garner widespread attention towards what they feel is a justified review, albeit negative. Maybe they want a resolution. Maybe they just want to rant. Either way, these negative reviews are because of an immense desire to right a wrong – in this case, how they feel they were wronged by your brand.
- They experienced confusion – then frustration – along the consumer journey. From the get-go, it’s crucial to provide customers a well-marked and easy-to-follow buyer path. When the customer experience isn’t straightforward and consumer-friendly, said customers may grow tired and, eventually, frustrated.
At best, they’ll leave your shop page, never to return, a customer lost. At worst, they might even leave a review on your page (or on other social pages) about their bad experience, thus taking any potential leads along with them on their way out.
- They are helping their community decide. Akin to seeking recommendations from friends for good places to eat, online public reviews offer valuable insights from those who’ve been there and done that. Some generous people even take the time to share their experiences. Their mission is clear – they want to help others avoid potential mishaps. It’s all about creating a sense of community and ensuring that nobody stumbles into the same pitfalls.
- They may even be intent on harming your reputation. On the flip side, not all people have the intention of sparing others from having the same negative encounter. Sinister as it may sound, some peoples’ objectives differ from the rest: they’re out to harm your brand’s reputation. Dealing with such reviews can be tough but can also be an opportunity to show your brand’s strength and ability to handle criticisms with grace.
Can one review from one person truly make such a huge impact on your brand? It has the potential to. But don’t let it deter you. Instead, handle it well and use it as motivation to improve.
How you can best handle negative reviews
As with any form of feedback, it pays to listen to customers, take time to understand their concerns, and respond appropriately. After replying to their reviews, brands also need to take meaningful steps to act on turning negative feedback into positive ones. Here are some tips for dealing with negative reviews:
- Respond in a calm, timely manner.
Before responding to any review, take time to calm yourself, collect your thoughts, and put yourself in an objective mindset.
Once you’ve thought about the most appropriate response, act immediately. Don’t wait too long, as a lack of addressing the issue may come off as you ignoring your audience’s concerns. Prompt and apt responses can showcase your brand’s dedication to customer satisfaction!
A good practice for any brand is to employ community management. Apart from regularly reviewing online brand movements and sentiments, having a prompt community management strategy in place – which can include a pre-set response protocol or a crisis mitigation strategy – will save you from sudden mishaps.
- Respond professionally.
You’ve surely seen it before: a brand gets a negative review, and the brand representatives (or worse, the brand owners) respond in a defensive, haughty, unjustified manner. It has happened and it will continue to happen.
But hopefully, not to you or your brand!
You might feel the urge to clap back when confronted with negative reviews, but it’s essential to remain composed and objective.
First, look back on the section above about why customers leave negative reviews. Put yourself in their shoes and determine how you’d like to be addressed.
You can also ask yourself a few key questions to devise the best strategy for your response so you can nip the negativity in the bud and even help paint your brand in a positive light amidst the issue:
1. Is this review worth addressing at all?
Could it be a troll that you needn’t pay attention to? Distinguishing between authentic concerns and waste-of-energy ones is crucial.
Some frustrated reviews might be a simple case of misunderstood product instructions.
Some reviews, you might not even need to respond to as other customers may have responded to them (if your review sections allow replies).
Still, some individuals engage in pranks or attempts to tarnish a brand’s reputation, and some companies even employ fake reviewers to undermine their competitors.
2. What’s the root cause of their concern? Is it the product, customer service, or something else?
Once you’ve decided to address a negative review, understand the core issue behind the concern. This will help you craft an appropriate response that doesn’t come off as insincere or uncaring.
Is it product-related (i.e. product quality, usage, availability, etc)?
Is it about bad customer service (i.e. a bad customer service representative that got into a verbal altercation with a customer over a concern)?
Was it about something else brand-related?
3. How can I make my response helpful?
Think about tone and word-choice, which are crucial in crafting your response. Speak as you would a professional; as well as like a friend who is sincerely sorry.
Avoid gaslighting, placing the blame on the customer, and sounding like a non-apology.
Acknowledge the customer concern, admit the mistake, acknowledge the need to learn and do better, and sincerely commit to making the issue better by showing how you intend to rectify it.
Most of all, root your response in being helpful by providing concrete solutions, implementing positive changes, and even offering goodwill.
4. What should my next step be?
Want to prevent similar negative feedback in the future? Learn from the mistake, correct and improve the product or service, and make sure these changes show.
- Flag a review containing false information.
As mentioned in the reasons people leave negative reviews, some people just want to see your brand fall. Flagging fake reviews or those containing false information from what you believe might be a fake or malicious person will help you uphold your page’s integrity.
Don’t confuse this with flagging every negative review. Filter accordingly: is this a genuine concern of someone who bought your product that you need to own up to and address, or is this just someone pulling your brand’s leg?
Keep reviews honest, fair, and as much as possible, give your buyers the benefit of the doubt.
- Make your brand resilient.
On preventing future negative feedback as much as possible, take time to sit down and develop a comprehensive, long-term crisis mitigation strategy.
You may base this on your initial business plan. Is your product strategy still sound? Is your marketing strategy still working? Have you invested in public relations?
Public relations in particular is a strategic move to help put brands in a good light after a crisis, but most of all, it helps brands avoid one in the first place.
Pillars of good brand PR include determining key messages, setting up community management, providing a sound response protocol, having a crisis mitigation plan at the ready, and most of all, keeping a positive relationship with the media to ensure a positive relationship with customers as well. Collaborating with professionals, such as PR agencies in the Philippines, can help you set these pillars up for brand success.
A brand that’s resilient against negative reviews, brand crises, and other things that may harm your brand.
With the right collaboration, you can transform negativity into opportunities for growth to ensure your brand creates lasting, positive connections with your audience.