— September 27, 2018
A motivated customer with an ax to grind can damage the reputation and revenue of an eCommerce store. Negative reviews are something everyone who does business online has to deal with, but they make many eCommerce merchants nervous — so nervous they’re tempted to scrub every negative review from their stores. But is that the right approach to negative reviews? Are they always harmful?
Once one accepts that negative reviews are inevitable, a decision has to be made about how to deal with them. The most important thing to understand is that it’s impossible to remove every negative review on the web. They can be removed from a site under the retailer’s control, but they can’t be removed from Facebook, personal blogs, and other external platforms.
Most of the time, removing negative reviews isn’t an option, so even if you are inclined to delete them where you can, you’ll still need a strategy to minimize their impact.
Some Negative Reviews Should Be Removed
Abusive, demeaning, and dishonest reviews should be removed. If a customer tells lies or insults your staff, you have no obligation to give them a platform. I advise eCommerce merchants to remove “bad” reviews of this sort with extreme prejudice. If it’s not possible to remove the review, just ignore it or at the most issue a brief neutral statement and then stop responding!
There is no possible advantage to getting into a debate with a troll.
Valuable Negative Reviews
Negative reviews can be an opportunity to learn from customers, to take control of the conversation, to educate customers, and to demonstrate excellence in customer service.
By definition, a negative review expresses dissatisfaction. It represents the opinion of a customer about an aspect of your product or company. That’s valuable information, more so if the same complaint is made more than once. A negative review might indicate that the customer had a mistaken impression of what they were buying, in which case you might consider changing copy or how the product is presented.
Perhaps the complaint addresses a genuine flaw in the product or sales process that should be addressed. Put aside the instinctive desire to justify or defend yourself and think about whether the customer has a point.
If the complaint is based on a misunderstanding or misuse of the product, a negative review presents an opportunity to educate the customer and future customers who see the review. If a customer buys a tool, for example, and they complain that it wasn’t suitable for their particular use case, you might suggest an alternative product or teach them why it wasn’t the right tool for them in the first place.
Most importantly, a negative review is an opportunity to show other customers that your store takes their opinions seriously and is willing to address them. Respond in a calm and friendly tone, and, if possible, offer a solution to the problem.
Finally, however amazing your products, it’s unlikely that every review will be positive. Customers know this and are inclined to suspect that a product page with wholly positive reviews is worthless because it doesn’t represent the views of a genuine sample of customers. If you delete every negative review, it looks like you have something to hide. Keeping a few polite but negative reviews can reinforce the impact of genuinely positive reviews.