Negative Review Nightmares: How Not To Respond to Criticism



Recently, the Guardian published an article written by author Kathleen Hale in which she detailed a reaction she had to a negative review she received on the book review website GoodReads. In the article, the author details how she stumbled upon the negative review to her book, and how she began gathering information on the reviewer, eventually going so far as to track the reviewer down in real-life. This reaction to a negative online review is extreme and has been almost universally condemned by readers, reviewers, and other authors. Unfortunately, poor reactions to negative product reviews are shockingly common, even if they aren’t always THIS extreme. Negative reviews are inevitable. As they say, you cannot please all of the people all of the time. What is not inevitable is having a bad reaction to a negative review that potentially damages your reputation.


Here are some ways you should NEVER respond to a negative review:


Get into a fight with a reviewer. You see this happen on review sites like Yelp fairly frequently. Someone leaves a negative review, and rather than letting it be, or trying to have a constructive conversation with the reviewer, the business owner blows up and starts a fight with the reviewer. This makes the business owner look very bad to anyone who reads the review. People trust reviewers before businesses, generally. Instead of fighting, contact the reviewer directly. Ask them what they’d change about their experience. Let them know that while you may not agree with their criticism, you will take it to heart and you hope they’ll come back and re-consider their review.


Tell the reviewer why they are wrong and ask them to change the review. The slightly more passive-aggressive sibling to fighting with the reviewer is calmly, rationally explaining to them why they are wrong and asking them to change their review. This seems like a better reaction to fighting, and it some way it is, but it also can come off as a condescending and dismissive of the reviewer. Again, instead of talking AT the reviewer and telling them why they are wrong, ask them questions about what you could have done to make their experience better.


Delete the negative review. Many brands delete negative reviews when it’s in their power to do so. The logic behind this tactic is that you don’t want potential customers to see harsh comments about your product that may dissuade them from making a purchase. The problem is that potential customers will not trust reviews if they see that they are all positive. A few negative reviews let potential customers know that a review-site or page is trust-worthy. Also, if someone leaves a negative review and realizes it’s been deleted, you know they will go all over social media and let the world know that you are censoring honest reviews which will seriously damage the trust between you and potential customers.


The Exception to the Rules


Now there is an exception these rules. If a customer leaves an inaccurate, defamatory review, or one that includes any kind of hate-speech, you should delete it, or if it’s not a site you control request to have it removed.


For more on negative reviews, learn how to intercept negative reviews before they go viral.