Here’s How to Handle Negative Reviews

July 17, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Your latest product just got a less than stellar review. A disappointment? Sure.

But don’t hit the panic button just yet. Believe it or not, this might be an opportunity in disguise.

All reviews, even bad ones, can potentially provide valuable feedback about your business and products. Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to gain customer insights from things like focus groups, surveys, and social media monitoring. You’re getting it for free.

If you’re properly attuned to capturing this feedback from product reviews, you can learn about potential problems with your business—before they get out of hand.

It’s Not Always About Product

Bad reviews aren’t always focused on product. They can also reveal shortcomings in your online store’s operations. A report from Brightpearl and Trustpilot highlighted some potential customer pain points that were unrelated to the actual goods for sale.1

The list included things like website user experience, payment options, delivery issues, customer service, after-sales experience, and returns. When online stores get one of these things wrong, their customers might make their dissatisfaction known in a public product review instead of a private email.

Retailers should be scanning reviews for this type of insight to figure out where to better allocate resources. The Brightpearl/Trustpilot study revealed that positive reviews often mentioned good customer service and fast delivery, two areas where all eCommerce sites should already make a priority.

The Poor Review Paradox

It sounds weird, but in addition to giving you valuable feedback, poor reviews can also help build trust in your digital storefront.

How? Online shoppers are pretty sophisticated. As a result, products with a perfect record of five-star ratings arouse suspicion. Shoppers seem to intuitively grasp that—try as you might—you just can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Having a handful of low star-ratings can actually alleviate shopper concerns that an eCommerce site is gaming its own ratings and reviews. And that, in turn, can increase trust in an online store. It’s what we call the Poor Review Paradox.

Our research paper, The State of Consumer Generated Content 2019, showed that negative reviews can serve a key role in the path to purchase for a sizable minority of shoppers.

Twenty-five percent of respondents actually sorted product reviews to highlight bad reviews. For these shoppers, researching negative feedback was a key element of the customer journey. As a result, it pays to ensure these reviews aren’t left unanswered.

How to Handle Negative Feedback

Every negative review should receive a response from your company. The simple act of acknowledging shoppers’ concerns demonstrates a customer-centric attitude and a high level of customer service.

Here are some key methods for handling negative reviews:

Speed is Key. By responding quickly to bad reviews, companies can clearly and publicly demonstrate their responsiveness and commitment to customer service. The Brightpearl/Trustpilot survey found that nearly 40% of shoppers felt that retailers should respond to a negative review within 24 hours or less of posting.

Make the Customer Feel Heard. Go beyond a rote apology. These types of reflexive platitudes can do more harm than good. Instead, make sure your customer service reps understand the problem and are empowered to take the steps needed to correct it. That might mean refunding a shipping cost when an order shows up late, or replacing a defective item.

Turn Complainers into Evangelists. You’ve probably seen a customer give a poor initial review, only to bump up their star rating to a five after receiving a solid customer service effort. A response to a shopper complaint that goes above and beyond can make your detractors some of your fiercest evangelists, and that word-of-mouth marketing can go a long way.

Get More Reviews. Most reviews come from customers who’ve had a very bad experience or those who are ecstatic about their purchase. But there’s usually a “happy middle” of customers who are pleased with their purchase but don’t bother to leave a review.

TurnTo’s products are designed to tap into this slow-to-review segment with features like Inbox Submission, which lets customers submit rating and review content directly from the body of an email. A higher rating and review volume usually translates into a higher average star rating for a product, giving site browsers the social proof they need to become buyers.

Use Moderation Tools to Escalate. With TurnTo Moderation, clients can have reviews with low star ratings automatically flagged for escalation to customer service representatives. That can give your company the jump on fixing a problem. And as we already mentioned, speed is key when it comes to responding to negative reviews.

Make a Preemptive Strike. Perhaps the best way to handle negative reviews is by not giving your customers a reason to leave one in the first place. TurnTo’s Community Q&A product lets shoppers ask questions of people who’ve already purchased the product they’re considering. It can also connect shoppers to your site’s existing knowledgebase—things like frequently asked question (FAQ) pages and existing articles that might hold the answers to their questions. Getting shoppers these answers can help them avoid a disappointing purchase.

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1 Rise of the Review Culture; Brightpearl and Trustpilot, June 2019


Why Social Q&A Is Such an Effective Customer Service Tool

November 26, 2012 by George Eberstadt

Your shoppers have questions that stand between them and a purchase. Doubt this?  In an article in Internet Retailer just a couple days ago, Stephen Gillett, President of Digital at Best Buy cites 3 top reasons why customers who come to their site don’t purchase, and the first of these was “needing more product information”.  (To put in context how important this is, the other two were “product wasn’t available” and “the price was too high”!)

So how do you ensure shopper questions get answered?  One remarkably simple strategy: let them ask!  Well, maybe it’s not so simple, because if you are going to invite your shoppers to submit questions, you have to be sure someone replies.

That’s where Social Q&A comes in.  By enabling your past customers to answer questions from your current shoppers, you can provide faster, more credible answers at lower cost than by relying on your customer service team.  To many organizations, this isn’t obvious; customer service teams are viewed as more expert than customers, faster to respond, and more likely to provide the positive sentiment that will close a sale.  But if Social Q&A is done right, the reality is often just the opposite.

To see why this is so, it’s helpful to group the sort of questions your shoppers have on a spectrum from most social to least social, where “social” means suitable for answering by your customers rather than your staff.  Here’s an illustration of this sociability spectrum:


On one end of the spectrum are questions related to peer opinions, tastes, or real-world experience with the product.  These questions really need a social answer; the asker expects an answer from a peer, and staff answers are viewed as useless at best and can even be seen as inappropriate. Without a system to reliably generate social answers, this entire category of shopper question will go unanswered.  In response, many stores just provide no way for shoppers to ask this sort of question.  But that doesn’t make the questions go away, it just means they go unasked instead of unanswered.

In the middle of the spectrum are fact-based questions about the product – specs, compatibility, intended usage.  These questions can be answered by either store (or brand) staff or by past customers.  Stores that lack a system to deliver social answers will, of course, go the staff answer route for this type of question. However, we have seen that when these questions are sent to past customers, the answers are often better than what the staff provides in 2 important ways:

  1. They arrive much faster.  While, in theory, store and brand staff could be standing by to answer the moment a question is submitted, in practice, most have their staff answer in batches on a schedule – typically once or twice a day.  As a result, staff response times rarely average under 2 hours, and for most stores the avg staff response time is significantly longer.  In contrast, with social Q&A, shopper questions are emailed simultaneously to a group of past customers who have bought the product.  Some of these people happen to be doing their email at just that moment.  The results: on average, across all the stores in the TurnTo network, the first social answer arrives in under 1 hour.  You can see examples in this study or this one or this one.
  2. They are often far more informative and contain far more positive sentiment.  Stores may be afraid that customer answers will be inaccurate or negative, but these fears are unfounded.  For one thing, most questions receive multiple answers from past customers, so shoppers can easily see if one stands out.  But more than that, we’ve found that while staff generally provide factual answers to  just the exact question asked with neutral sentiment, fellow customers tend to answer the question asked, provide additional information that they feel will help the shopper, and wrap it all in positive sentiment.  Here’s an example of a fact question about the brim on a fedora from a great hat shop called Hats in the Belfry.  The simple answer is “yes”, but these customers have added color to their answers that goes beyond what a staff member typically would (or could without sounding “salesy”).

And when customers can be counted on to answer shopper questions, the staff doesn’t have to, which reduces load on the call center.  That applies not only for the shopper who asked the question but for all future shoppers with the same question who can review the Q&A dialog posted on the product detail page.

Finally, there’s the 3rd category on the spectrum.  These are questions that past customers can’t answer.  They typically relate to policies and terms like shipping, availability, pricing, or returns, or, infrequently, support needs for individual orders.  Some stores in the TurnTo network allow shoppers to submit these questions and route them to their staff.  Others prefer to direct shoppers to their traditional support channels (live chat, phone, or email) or to online resources like FAQ or policy pages for these questions.

Now that we’ve divided up shopper questions into these 3 types, we can answer another important question: what % of shopper questions can be handled socially?

  • For stores that handle most fact-questions (the middle group) socially and deflect non-social questions (the 3rd group), our data show that over 80% of all the shopper questions asked can be handled by past customers!
  • For stores that handle most fact-questions socially and accept any type of question, including the non-social ones, over 60% of all questions asked can be handled by past customers.

So, in short, this is why Social Q&A is such an effective  customer support tool:

  • It enables shoppers to get credible answers to the whole category of peer-oriented questions where staff answers just won’t do
  • It delivers faster, more persuasive answers to product fact questions than staff can
  • And it handles most of the questions that shoppers ask automatically, which reduces call center load

An Overview of the Annual Summit

September 20, 2012 by John Swords

September 10th marked the start of this year’s Annual Summit in Denver, CO.

The Summit always seems to be the ideal place for online retailers and brands to close the conference season. In addition to the myriad of social activities, the Summit brings industry leaders and innovative players together and allows attendees to gather that one last nugget or exchange that one last idea with fellow retailers before they head for holiday lockdown.

Following is a summary provided by the blog on five sessions:

Are you making one of these 4 online marketing mistakes?

With everything that goes on in retail/e-commerce, mistakes are bound to be made.  Luckily, some of the most common ones are easy to fix.  Read about the top 4 mistakes online marketers make, and how they can be remedied here.

Cost-effective tactics to optimize SEO performance

SEO may be one of the most valuable online strategies, right after email, but are you utilizing all the available resources to optimize?  Learn more about it here.

How to be a web analytics hero

Getting the most from your website requires more than just reporting.  You must analyze!  Landing pages, search functions and product details should all be examined.  Learn more here.

Why site speed matters for big time retailers

In life, most people don’t like waiting and the same goes for online shoppers.  Read an interview with Ted Middleton, Vice President of EdgeCast Network, for insights on why your page load times matter and how to keep yours fast here.

H&M: Lessons learned from David Beckham’s Super Bowl ad

I think the title is self-explanatory on this one!  Read about the tactics and strategy H&M used when planning to launch their Super Bowl ad surrounding David Beckham’s underwear line here.

For those of you not familiar with this event or have not attended in the past, this year’s Summit had one of the biggest turnouts recorded and with the promise that ‘attendees will acquire valuable strategies and tactics to improve online and multichannel retail business’, you may want to check it out next year. This Summit is confirmed for September 30-October, 2013 in Chicago, IL. We hope to see you there!