What’s Your Negative Review Response Strategy?


By Heather MacKinnon

No deal­er­ship wants to hear that they have unhap­py cus­tomers. In most cir­cum­stances, unhap­py cus­tomers are moti­vat­ed to share their unsat­is­fac­to­ry expe­ri­ence with oth­ers because they feel their sit­u­a­tion was either not resolved at the deal­er­ship or the prob­lem was not esca­lat­ed to the high­est-lev­el deci­sion mak­er.

Although neg­a­tive cus­tomer feed­back is eas­i­ly shared across the Web on var­i­ous third-par­ty review sites, deal­er­ships can still man­age their online rep­u­ta­tion and con­trol the out­come of the sit­u­a­tion. If neg­a­tive reviews are han­dled well, cus­tomers will see how proac­tive­ly the deal­er­ship works to han­dle sit­u­a­tions and will think bet­ter of the deal­er­ship as a result. The fol­low­ing sug­ges­tions will help your deal­er­ship cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive Neg­a­tive Review Response Strat­e­gy.

• Don’t Sit on Neg­a­tive Reviews
Many deal­ers make the mis­take of sit­ting on neg­a­tive reviews. A deal­er needs to take imme­di­ate action to address an unfa­vor­able review. Deal­ers should only allow enough time to respond with a cool head and calm demeanor.

• Know When to Act on Dat­ed Reviews
When a deal­er comes across a dat­ed neg­a­tive review, a typ­i­cal rule of thumb is to respond pub­li­cal­ly if that review post­ed with­in the last 24 months. If the deal­er­ship has a review that is old­er than 24 months, a response is not required. Instead, the deal­er should look to “bury” reviews that are 2+ years old by insu­lat­ing them­selves with more pos­i­tive reviews.

• For­mu­late a Response Plan
Deal­ers need to have a defin­i­tive response plan when respond­ing to unsat­is­fac­to­ry reviews. An unpro­fes­sion­al response can do more harm to the rela­tion­ship and over­all deal­er rep­u­ta­tion. Remem­ber that “mak­ing some­thing right” with a cus­tomer can have more impact than the orig­i­nal neg­a­tive review. ♦ Be sure to respond direct­ly to the issue dis­cussed in the review. ♦ Be sure to show empa­thy and not get defen­sive in your response.  ♦ Don’t make the mis­take of get­ting locked into a he-said, she-said sit­u­a­tion. ♦ And, always take the high-road when deal­ing with a neg­a­tive review.

• Be Sure to Fol­low-up
Don’t make the mis­take of not fol­low­ing up after you are able to turn things around with a cus­tomer. A suc­cess­ful fol­low-up is sim­ple but effec­tive: (1) Ask the cus­tomer to update his or her review, and then, (2) pub­licly respond thank­ing the cus­tomer for bring­ing the mat­ter to their atten­tion and work­ing with your deal­er­ship to resolve the issue.

We all strive to pro­vide the best cus­tomer ser­vice. On days when your deal­er­ship has not met its ser­vice goals and a customer’s unsat­is­fac­to­ry expe­ri­ence is shared on a third-par­ty review site, the out­come can be suc­cess­ful­ly con­trolled. With a well-planned Neg­a­tive Review Response Strat­e­gy the unhap­py cus­tomer can be turned around while pre­serv­ing your dealership’s pos­i­tive online rep­u­ta­tion.

Heather MacK­in­non is Vice Pres­i­dent of Sales at and can be reached at [email protected].



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