By Ryan Leslie
Some dubs are better than others, but it doesn’t take a lip reader to know that “Yippee Kay Yeah, Mr. Falcon” may not have been in the original script of Die Hard.
When responding to a negative review it is important to find a proper balance between an obvious dub job and exacerbating an already bad situation by saying what you are really thinking without filter. Like most things, failure exists at either extreme.
Why are you apologizing?
I know it is popular to use a template script that starts off with a profuse apology. I hate that approach, especially if you are dealing with an irrational person that has unrealistic expectations. Immediately apologizing for something that may not at all be your fault doesn’t make a lot of sense and it sounds ridiculous. It also sets an expectation that you are going to give the reviewer whatever they want, right? An apology is after all an admittance of guilt. I certainly wouldn’t be empowering an outsourced 3rd party to admit guilt on my behalf.
Simply thank the reviewer for the feedback. You can thank them for taking the time to leave a review. Even if they are mad that you refused $5,000 worth of goodwill in your service dept on a $5,000 as-is unit they bought 5 years ago. A simple “Thank You” can set the proper tone for a response without setting an unrealistic expectation. Save your apologies for when things go wrong and you really NEED to apologize.
Congratulations! You won the battle and lost the war.
Going toe to toe with a customer is likely to be a losing proposition for you. I don’t think there is anything wrong with politely stating your case when appropriate and highlighting the actions you’ve taken to “make it right,” but never let it escalate to a war of words. You’ll lose that war every time. Remember that the response you write to a negative reviewer isn’t intended for them as much as it is for the unsold prospect reading your reviews later.
How do you strike a balance between being overly apologetic and downright combative?
Be Real! Consumers can easily sniff through fake contrition and response templates and they aren’t likely to engage if they feel that you might be hostile either. Take negative reviews seriously and investigate each and every one. Make it your job to know what caused the consumer to feel this way. Ask yourself if any reasonable person might feel the same way in that situation. Don’t just assume that every negative review is written by a crazy person. Your processes can really benefit from pressure testing with real consumer feedback. Be honest, be real, and seek reconciliation when possible.
Be Tactful! If you have to publicly disagree with a reviewer be sure to be strategic and thoughtful in your response. Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England from 1940–1945, defined tact in this way; “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” I’m certainly not advocating that you “tell anyone where to go,” but if you are thoughtful in your response you can certainly make them feel better about being wrong.
Certainly, there are right and wrong ways to respond to negative reviews. That said, be sure you think before you respond, striking the right balance when posting a response and viewing every negative review as an opportunity to show how your dealership deals with an unhappy customer.
Ryan Leslie is Director of Dealer Reputation Strategy at and can be contacted at [email protected].