How to Make Negative Online Comments/Reviews Work FOR You


I had a terrible experience here and would urge anyone reading this not to waste their time!

Probably not something you'd want to see on your social media comment section or reviews page. The truth is, no matter how many checks you have in place, someone, somewhere is going to take issue with you/your business. The only thing worse than an upset customer is an upset customer who goes public — to the rest of your customers. When these social media critical situations happen, are you prepared to handle them?

People have opinions on just about everything, and no one is immune from disfavor. Negative comments or reviews are a logical consequence of working with people, but this doesn't mean that you can't turn them around.

Why You Shouldn't Ignore Negative Comments

Before we dive into how to turn negative reviews or comments around, it's important to understand first WHY you can't just ignore them. The customer journey today is much different now than it used to be:

The Stages of Customer Advocacy - THEN:

1. Awareness: The customer sees a newspaper ad, billboard, or your actual business. 
2. Evaluation: The customer goes to Yellow Pages. 
3. Acquisition: The customer comes to your physical store location for purchase.
4. Engagement: The customer calls your business phone number to leave compliments, suggestions, concerns, or complaints.
5. Advocacy: The customer recommends (or recommends against) your business to others in conversation. 

The Stages of Customer Advocacy - NOW:

1. Awareness: The customer sees your business online (on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, Google Ads, Google Maps, etc.)
2. Evaluation: The customer Googles your business, reads reviews, browses your website, social media, etc. 
3. Acquisition: The customer makes a purchase online (or comes to your physical location if they have to).
4. Engagement: The customer engages with you on social media to leave compliments, suggestions, concerns, or complaints.
5. Advocacy: The customer recommends (or recommends against) your business by their sharing experiences on their social media, your social media, or crowdsourced review sites.

Since the customer journey now is almost entirely based online, it's important to have your digital and social presence embody your brand values. Many overlook the importance of their online presence, thinking that the quality of their product will carry them through. Even if you have the best Thai restaurant in all of Los Angeles, one negative comment in the top scroll left unchecked could do more damage than you think.

How to Respond to Negative Comments:

Obviously, it's not hard to see why you want to have advocates on social media. But what about those who don't have something kind to say? Here's an encouraging fact: customers aren't looking for perfection. They are looking for respectful, kind, and genuine customer service, and a bad review or comment is a great place to showcase it.

1. Upon Detection of the Comment, Stay Calm

Initially, reading a negative comment about the product of all your blood, sweat, and tears may be hard. Your first instinct may be to justify, defend, and correct that comment. Instead, take a moment to read it thoroughly and compose your thoughts. Once you have collected yourself, begin to craft a response.

2. Move the Conversion to a Private Setting

Now, the customer has left their comment/review in plain sight. Your public response to this should serve two purposes:

  • It should showcase your best customer service skills and brand values.
  • It should move the rest of the conversation with the customer to a private setting, such as email, or a direct message inbox.

Tip: to subtly put a positive spin on the situation, adopt some of the same verbiage the customer used in your response (an example to follow).

3. Rectify the Situation Privately

If you have the option to contact the customer directly in private, take the initiative to do so. If you don't have the option, be sure you've left an invitation for the customer to contact you in your public response. In either scenario, be kind, courteous, and willing to go the extra mile.

Tying It All Together: A Hypothetical Scenario

Let's say a customer leaves the following post on your Facebook Page:

"I've bought two products from this site and have never had an issue before. This time, my shipment somehow managed to arrive 2 weeks late. When I tried to contact customer support, not only was I HUNG UP on, but was put on hold for 20 minutes when I tried to call again! This is unacceptable. I will NOT be coming back."

Your public response should be:

"Hi [INSERT FIRST NAME], I'm very sorry about your experience. At [INSERT COMPANY], customer care and satisfaction are of utmost importance to us, and a situation like the one you described is completely unacceptable and in no way reflective of our company values. Please allow us to resolve the issue for you. I've sent you a direct message, and look forward to learning more about your experience. Thank you, [INSERT FIRST NAME], for taking the time to write to us. - [YOUR FIRST NAME] from [INSERT COMPANY]."

Why this response is effective:

  • It directly addresses the customer's concern.
  • It reframes the situation in the company's favor.
  • It demonstrates the company's dedication to resolving the issue.
  • It moves the conversation to a private place.
  • It establishes a human connection (with the use of first names).