Responding to Negative Reviews: Think Before You Post!

By Ryan Leslie

Have you ever found your­self up late at night watch­ing a movie that has been edit­ed for con­tent?

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].




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