How to Handle Negative Online Reviews

Negative online reviews can inspire many reactions from those who read them. As consumers, these negative reviews give us insights into a product's quality or a shop's customer service. As business owners, we tend to fear them because they can influence potential customers to click that “x” and leave our shop entirely.

However, things aren't actually so black and white. Having a negative review (or a few) won't automatically put off a potential customer. That is, of course, if things are handled correctly. At the end of the day, every shop has to deal with negative reviews at one time or another. Keep reading to learn how to handle these bad reviews and manage your online reputation.

Here are the different topics we're going to discuss. Feel free to skip ahead to the sections most relevant to you.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. How important are online reviews

2. Tips to avoid bad reviews

3. How to respond to negative online reviews

4. Use negative reviews to your advantage

Reply to online reviews whitepaper

How important are online reviews?

Before we take a look at how to handle negative online reviews, let’s have a quick reminder as to why reviews are so important in the first place.

We’ve written another blog about customer reviews, but here’s a quick summary:

Online reviews provide SEO value for your website

Google absolutely loves fresh content. By having a constant flow of new reviews, Google’s web crawlers will consider that when ranking your website for its most important keywords.

Online reviews provide social proof for your business

Surely, your website pages will try to convince your potential customers how great your products are. However, today’s modern shopper is sceptical. They will turn to online reviews for proof of quality and objective opinions on products and services.

As an online retailer, it’s recommended that you host these reviews directly on your website. Don’t give your shop’s visitors any reason to leave your website, even if it is to check on your reputation.

Star ratings give your online shop more visibility

Google offers many options for showing off your customer reviews in both organic search results and Google Ads.

In the Google ad below, you'll see the stars in the ad showing of the high rating as well as the high number of reviews. This gives the online shop a certain credibility before the user even visits the site.

5-star rating in google ad

Some studies have shown a 35% increase in traffic when stars are displayed in Google’s SERPs.

Tip: Before continuing, consider downloading our whitepaper, which guides you through the process of displaying your star ratings across the different Google platforms:

How to display star ratings throughout Google  Learn the different requirements to show your stars Download whitepaper

How to avoid negative reviews – without any shady tricks

Negative reviews are every online retailer’s nightmare. Don’t worry, though: there are a few simple (and legal) tricks to avoid these bad reviews.

thumb up and thumb down

shutterstock/Gonzalo Aragon

Reputable review providers publish all customer reviews connected with a real order that are not illegal nor violate the terms of use. This means that there might be some critiques too, whether fair or not. However, there is good news: Negative reviews are far less frequent than many retailers fear.

Even so, it's worth noting that having a few negative reviews might even be a good thing:

Having only 5-star reviews does not inspire trust

So, we've established that most reviews are positive. However, receiving nothing but positive reviews is actually not desirable either, especially if you’ve already collected a great number of reviews. Having only positive reviews gives off the impression that they might actually be inauthentic. Therefore, this rule applies:

Too many negative reviews make customers weary; only positive ones do, too. 

Nevertheless, every online retailer’s goal should be to continue collecting as many positive reviews as possible. We strongly advise against using tricks or deceits – sooner or later, they usually end up being unveiled, which can cause a bigger hit to a brand's reputation than a couple negative reviews.

Not only will your potential customers be less trusting of you, but search engines like Google will punish your site as well.

Avoiding negative reviews with legally-sound methods is definitely the way to go. This way, you can enjoy your success with a clear conscience.

Build a good online reputation  Learn how the Reputation Manager can help your business Download whitepaper

On top of that, a few negative customer reviews might actually help your business avoid a few things:

If an authentic product review points out some of the important missing features of a certain item, your shoppers will get a more realistic description of your product. This potential customer will avoid buying a product that doesn’t suit them. Therefore, there is less of a chance that they'll leave a bad review for that product. Also, you’ll avoid them returning that product, which will save you money in the long term.

Recommended reading:
Reducing the Return Rate in the Online Fashion Industry

Tips for avoiding negative reviews

Now that we know why not all negative reviews are created equally, here are some tips on how to avoid negative online reviews:

Provide good service

Quite logically, good service is key. There is no cure for habitual complainers, but most customers do appreciate good service and will review your shop accordingly.

Ask for reviews at the right time

Customers are more likely to leave a review if they have already received their order. The perfect moment to send customers a review e-mail is one to two days after delivery. Trusted Shops lets shop owners time their review requests for optimal conversion rates.

Use branding in your review requests

Customise the colours, images and texts of your review invites to make sure that your online shop is immediately recognisable. Include the order reference as well as the purchase date to avoid misunderstandings.

review-invite-personalised-branding

Provide detailed product info

Customers are often disappointed because the goods delivered don’t match their expectations. Make sure that this doesn’t happen by providing sufficient information on the product page, e.g. product description, images, product reviews and/or an FAQs section.

Make sure you are accessible

If you are able to solve a conflict with a customer by phone or email, they will be far less likely to express their anger in a negative review. Make sure your contact info is easily found throughout your website (this also builds trust for first-time visitors).

Keep your promises

When it comes to availability and delivery times, customers don’t have such a great sense of humour. Therefore, keep your promises and they’ll have fewer reasons to write a negative review in the first place.

Be accommodating

In case of conflict, good customer service is worth more than being stingy in the long run. You may end up spending a bit more money, but this is better than receiving a negative review you won’t ever get rid of.

However, if you get a negative review despite all the measures listed above, the rule is: don’t despair! By properly reacting to a negative review, you can turn it into a positive insight into your shop's customer service.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Trusted Shops  Learn about our unique trust solutions Download whitepaper

Tips: how to respond to negative online reviews

cw-shout-w738h415

shutterstock/Vagengeim

Many upset customers head online to vent their frustrations, flocking to sites such as X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and Yelp to do so. Ignoring these reviews is not the way to go. How can you respond to negative reviews properly?

1. Keep calm and take a deep breath

Most people will not turn against your company just because they read a bad comment or two. However, they will write you off if they see you responding to those comments like a jerk.

It is far from easy to keep a cool head in the face of a rude, negative, and possibly abusive individual. Your first reaction will be to retaliate in kind. Resist that urge. Take a moment to calm yourself down before you respond.

2. Be positive

Even if you're responding to overtly negative comments, it is essential to find some positive spin to put on the situation. Sometimes, just being genuinely helpful and communicating that you want to find a way to fix an issue can improve everyone's mood.

people with smiling emojis for heads

shutterstock/Rawpixel.com

When people head to the Internet to rant and rave, they are often looking for a genuine interaction from someone who cares about their problem. Remember, tip #1 (staying cool) is ideally meant for both parties, but realistically, it's only really expected from the professional (i.e. your business).

Even if you can't help them, it pays to be positive and empathetic. If appropriate, apologise for the problem, even if you don’t necessarily think it’s your fault. Sometimes, apologising for any confusion or simply for the fact that they have to go through this inconvenience is a great way to show empathy.

3. Turn it around

example of reply to negative review

Even the worst comments can become opportunities to make your business look good.

By simply handling things positively and in a helpful way, you can show others that you care about your customers. Emphasise your commitment to providing helpful customer service in your response.

Since someone has already engaged with you through their feedback, look at it as a way to frame your own spin on things without appearing conceited. Don't disregard them or change the subject without actually addressing their concerns, or it will seem like you just want to get rid of them. This can take some care and practice to get right, but it's worthwhile to learn how.

If you manage to turn things around, ask them privately if they're willing to update their previous review. Even if you end up with 3 stars, it's better than having a 1-star review.

Does your online shop already collect lots of customer reviews? Answering them all is important, even the positive ones. Learn how the Trusted Shops Smart Review Assistant can help make this task much easier.

Use negative customer reviews to your advantage

Now we know how to avoid negative online reviews and how to respond to them. We shouldn’t forget the fact that “useful bad reviews” do exist and that they can be used to your advantage.

So what exactly is a “useful bad review”? It is a review that can actually help your business in one way or another.

Here are some examples:

Negative reviews to improve your product line

Your shop might have the best prices, quick delivery, and great customer service. However, if a certain product gets criticised again and again, it’s going to reflect poorly on your shop’s overall quality.

Pay attention to your negative reviews. If that one product is poorly reviewed consistently, it may be time to get rid of that product from your catalogue altogether.

Negative reviews to improve customer service

If you receive enough shop reviews that criticise your customer service, it might be time to do some soul-searching. These are the reviews that will make your business suffer. Many shoppers don’t have a problem paying a little more for a product if they know that the shop’s customer service is there to work with them, not against them.

Consider ways to improve your customer service. Small initiatives can lighten their workload. For example, having an FAQ section easily accessible on your homepage or in your navigation. Likewise, a chatbot might be able to answer simple questions, therefore avoiding unnecessary inquiries to your customer service team.

Recommended reading:
A Guide to Different Customer Types for Sales & Customer Service

Negative reviews to improve your website

Sometimes, negative feedback reveals things about your online shop that you might not realise. There might be some confusion with your website’s navigation, your checkout, product images, product descriptions, or your delivery options.

Paying attention here might improve the site’s performance and your shop’s conversion rate. After all, not everyone who finds something wrong or confusing on your site is going to let you know. The majority of users will just leave your website.

If you see certain aspects of your business have confused your customers in the past, here's another reason to create an FAQ section for your website.

trusted shops product overview

Negative reviews to improve your marketing

Every once in a while, you’ll get a negative review that might make you laugh. Perhaps, the customer is giving you a backhanded compliment or maybe they missed the point of your business altogether.

If you can think of a clever way to spin this review in your favour, it might make for a genius advertisement.

For example, Snowbird Ski Resorts handled this one-star review perfectly:

Negative review in an advertisement

Here is the full-spread ad that appeared in magazines. (Check out the text below)

Close-up of the text in the Snowbird magazine ad above.

This concept could work for a lot of businesses. Is your fitness studio too intense? Are your Indian snacks too spicy? Sometimes a negative in one person’s eyes can be another person’s best selling point.

Note: Even though this ad is clever in its simplicity, we really hope they replied to that review!

Conclusion

Remember, a lot of customers will sift through negative reviews to get a realistic view of a product or a shop’s services. Some problems are unavoidable, but others can be remedied easily. If you’re a company that does things the right way, especially when things go wrong, most potential customers can pick up on that if you respond correctly.

Be sure to check out our whitepaper (+ checklist), which walks you through the best ways to reply to every kind of review, whether positive or negative. Download it by clicking below:

Reply to online reviews whitepaper

11/10/23

Alon Eisenberg

Alon Eisenberg has been the Content Manager UK at Trusted Shops since 2017. He graduated from Boston University with a Bachelor's degree in Communications in 2004.

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