How to Respond to Negative Feedback Online

Customer service solutions help improve negative social media interactions.

Articles published December 18, 2017

Online reviews are a crucial component of running a business. The impact of a review — good or bad — cannot be underestimated. According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, the percentage of consumers who are likely to use a business based on positive reviews or unlikely to use a business based on negative reviews are both more than 90 percent. Similarly, 79 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews just as much as they would a word-of-mouth recommendation from friends and family. 

It’s not hard to find negative feedback online. Look up any company on Facebook, Google, Yelp, or TripAdvisor, and you’ll see negative reviews and comments. But how a company handles that negative feedback is key. 

How to Handle Negative Feedback 

While no one wants to receive negative feedback, it’s nearly inevitable. When that poor rating or review comes in, your gut reaction might be to try and make it go away, either by hiding it or deleting it. 

In fact, deleting or not acknowledging that negative feedback could make things worse. If the customer who left the comment sees that it was removed, the situation could quickly escalate. 

Instead, respond to the review and resolve the problem or issue, if possible. The least you can do is acknowledge the feedback and apologize sincerely, if necessary.

The important part of the customer review process is to allow customers to express their opinions, good or bad. If you delete negative feedback every time, your customers will notice, and maybe even start to retaliate with more negative feedback. 

Responding with empathy and understanding is a great place to start. Offering a solution shows that you care about your customers and seek to offer them the best customer experience possible. 

What Not to Do 

The organizations in the three examples below each took a different approach to handling negative reviews — none of which sat well with consumers. Take a look.

Don’t Be On Autopilot

A top-tier airline carrier got quite a bit of flack because of their automated responses. A customer tweeted them about a negative experience they had flying with them, and they tweeted back,  “Thanks for your support! We look forward to a bright future as the #’insert tagline here’.”

Automated responses can seem like a good idea on the surface, but in a real-life application they don’t always work. 

Don’t Threaten

One hotel took desperate measures when it came to their customer Yelp reviews. They threatened to fine reviewers $500 if they left the hotel a negative review. So what did their customers do? They went on the hotel’s Facebook page and posted all of their negative comments there instead. 

Don’t Delete

A well-known food manufacturer made the terrible decision of deleting all comments and questions on their social media pages that referred to their use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As you would expect, their customers got upset that their comments were being deleted without the food manufacturer actually responding.

Do Moderate Social Media

When you receive negative feedback, it’s not only important to respond appropriately, but to respond quickly. 

To do this, you need a form of social media moderation in place, so you can respond to questions, feedback, and comments 24/7, year-round. 

Social media moderation allows you to proactively engage customers to solve problems or mitigate the impact of negative comments. When this is managed by a dedicated team of professionals (internal or outsourced) who constantly monitor the organization’s accounts and have the appropriate customer service skills to handle complaints, issues can be resolved in a timely and professional manner. 

Facebook Insights reports that more than 76 percent of direct interactions with brands on social media are for customer service or support. That means having a professional social media moderation team is critical to the success of a company’s social identity and ensures that social media channels remain an effective customer service tool.  

Acknowledge the Negative Review

Use social media to turn a neutral or negative experience into a positive one. From a customer service point of view, it’s important to acknowledge every customer’s comment, even if you disagree with it. On social media, if a brand publicly acknowledges someone, half the battle is already won, since every customer rightfully demands your attention. 

Invite Follow-Up

Another good rule of thumb when you're faced with negative reviews on social media, is to apologize publicly and follow up privately. Your apology to the original post lets viewers know you're addressing the issue, and the follow-up makes your response more personal for the customer.

Obviously, if the negative feedback you receive is explicit or inappropriate and violates social media policies, you have the right to take it down. But if it’s purely negative and not offensive, then it’s best to leave it and respond to it. 

Social media moderation allows you to react to customer feedback and inquiries quickly, and delete anything explicit right away. With an online review management plan in place, you can have peace of mind that your brand is being represented and cared for at all times, and any negative feedback will be dealt with professionally and immediately. 

The Upside of Negative Reviews

Getting negative feedback is most likely going to happen to your organization at some point. Consider negative feedback an opportunity to brainstorm ways to improve your organization and for your customer service team to do what they do best.

Being prepared for and knowing how to handle these types of situations also helps you stay on top of review management. With professional moderation of your social media platforms at all times, you can help protect your brand, reputation, and public image. 

Could your organization benefit from better social media moderation?

See also: How Social Styles can Improve the Customer Experience