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We Received a Negative Review – What Now?
You hear the news: “we received a negative online review.” Other users can view it, and leadership is upset. How did this happen? We have the best software, we are a great company, this must be a mistake. You have been asked to handle this PR crisis ASAP. You jump into action to handle the response.
"Seventy-two percent of B2B buyers report that negative reviews provide insight and depth into a product."
– Adam Dorfman in Reputation.com
What’s next? Since leadership now has a heightened awareness that negative reviews are part of doing business, it is a perfect opportunity to create and implement a program to respond to future online reviews. People leave negative reviews for one of three reasons: they want you to resolve an issue, they want to warn other people, or they want an apology.
This article will cover how to respond to negative reviews, what to do with the feedback, and why it is so important to the company’s image to respond to reviews.
You Receive the Text – It’s a PR Crisis
You receive the text from the CEO at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday. She just learned that the company has a negative online review. You are asked to handle it ASAP. Time is of the essence, but you must take the time to really read and understand the review. Yes, it is negative, but the reviewer has a point and wants to be heard. Consult with the associated department, draft a response, get it approved (if needed), and post it right away.
After you have posted the response, sit back and breathe. What do you do next? Now is a great time to evaluate how you will respond to online reviews on an ongoing basis. You need to define a program that includes not only writing and posting responses to reviews but also identifying and addressing root causes. Once implemented, it will show leaders how responding to reviews strengthens your company image, elevates your brand, and builds strong communication channels both externally and internally.
“Root cause analysis (RCA) is a problem-solving method inclined towards the discerning of a hidden root cause of an issue — not just the symptoms.”
Take a Deep Look at the Review
First, understand that every company gets bad reviews, but how you respond and the time frame of the response are what make the difference. Each review you receive deserves a deeper look.
Studies show, most importantly, you must not ignore the review. Draft a short, polite, and direct response and post it ASAP. You should be able to post the response immediately below the review. If additional discussion is warranted, offer a work email address or phone number so the reviewer can connect with you offline.
The reality: When there is a negative review, there is a root cause that hasn’t been addressed. This probably isn’t the first negative review the company has received about that topic. Hopefully, a fix is already in the works and will be available soon. If not, this is an excellent opportunity to work with the appropriate department to address the issue. Not addressing the root cause will likely result in continued negative reviews and negatively impact the company’s image in the marketplace.
“With so much riding on their technology stack, B2B buyers need to have a good understanding of a product’s shortcomings before they purchase it…. To make sure they’re getting the full picture, buyers go straight to end-users instead, tapping into their personal network and consulting third-party review sites. In previous research, 88% of buyers using TrustRadius were looking for negative feedback in addition to positive insights.”
– Megan Headley in TrustedRadius
Evaluate the number of comments received on a specific topic. It is possible that you have multiple root causes to address. Using this knowledge will enable you to improve the company’s products and strengthen its image for responsiveness and customer service.
If the issue is customer satisfaction, you can use the feedback to truly understand what keeps your users satisfied. These reviews can save you from asking individual users questions or conducting a survey. In addition, the feedback may serve as an early detection warning of impending user dissatisfaction.
Negative Reviews Can Fuel Positive Outcomes
When buyers choose to sign a contract with your company and use your software over that of one of your competitors, they are agreeing to a significant investment, possibly for multiple years.
This is where reviews come into play. Tech buyers understand that most companies aren’t going to talk about their software’s shortcomings, so they turn to online reviews from current users to learn the good and the bad of the software.
Research shows that buyers read multiple reviews from multiple sources before talking directly with the company. They become suspicious if all reviews are positive, but they also shy away from a company that has mostly negative reviews. How do you find the happy medium?
Websites that have a balance of both positive and negative reviews are the most valuable for tech leaders making software investments. These sites enable them to see how a company handles negative reviews. Key areas include the following: Did they respond? If yes, what was the response? How quickly was the response posted? Are they still getting negative reviews on the same topic (i.e. are they fixing the problem)?
What About a CAB?
In addition to responding promptly to online reviews, you might consider one additional step – creating a customer advisory board (CAB). The CAB would include current users who are friendly to the company. These users would be willing to provide feedback, both positive and negative, about the company’s image, its products, customer service, etc.
Before establishing a CAB, clearly define the purpose, roles, meeting dates, and meeting venues (virtual, before/after an industry event, etc.). Ask Product Marketing and Sales for suggestions on whom to invite. Productive CABs can make a huge positive impact on your company. However, ensure leadership is willing to support the CAB on a long-term basis, as starting a CAB and not continuing it can create negative feedback.
What About Negative Feedback from Employees or the Company in General
What do you do about online reviews from disgruntled employees or negative comments about the overall company?
“You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
– Abraham Lincoln
While all companies want everyone to love them, all the time, this isn’t realistic.
- Fact:Not every employee is going to love the job or the company; some people are unhappy no matter where they work.
- Fact: Some outsiders may have beliefs about the company based on fake news or unfounded facts.
How does the company respond to these reviews?
For employee reviews: work with the HR department to understand the circumstances behind the review. Regardless of when the review was posted, it is very important that you politely and compassionately respond to the comments – think empathy. If it is an old issue that has already been addressed, provide an update about how the situation has changed. If it is a new issue caused by a recent event, respond and provide an explanation, if possible. For example, “The reduction was caused by a shift in the market,” “It was caused by a delay in funding,” or “It was caused by the change in the economy.”
If the review lists specific issues, such as a terrible department leader or a toxic culture, write a direct response to address that situation. Depending on the review, you may want to consult with legal counsel to ensure your response won’t cause a future legal issue. Remember, if you ignore negative employee comments it will appear that the company doesn’t care or can’t be bothered to address these situations.
One other area to evaluate is internal communication. Have you asked your employees for feedback? Do you regularly communicate with them? If yes, how? Do they feel it is effective? Do they feel comfortable giving leadership feedback? Evaluating each of these areas and building effective internal communication – think 360-degree communications between employees and leadership – can make a significant impact on the internal culture, employee reviews, and company image. By asking for employee feedback and addressing the issues, you can eliminate or drastically reduce the negative feedback posted online.
For general company reviews: What do you do with comments from the public, i.e. someone who is not a user or an employee? Do some research to determine the source. Ask the C-suite if they can provide background. Once you have as much information as you can find, work with leaders to draft a response that addresses the issue. Depending on the seriousness of the review, consider a personal outreach in addition to the online response. Keep a watchful eye out for future company reviews and respond promptly to them.
Why Should I Care About Negative Reviews?
“Not only does responding to negative reviews improve your reputation to consumers, but it also shows negative reviewers that you're willing to resolve their issues and earn back their business.”
– Kristin Jones in Symphony
Online reviews can be seen by everyone. Review websites state that “companies can’t alter or delete negative reviews.” These reviews are read by current and potential users, current and potential employees, prospective buyers, and investors. Each of these groups wants to work for or with a company they can trust and one that is highly regarded with extraordinary integrity.
It is a proven fact that online reviews impact a company’s image. Negative reviews not addressed can drastically reduce win rates, impact new staff hiring, and directly affect investor interest. Quickly responding to negative comments and thanking positive reviewers is a simple process.
A strong company image is invaluable, and it can’t be bought; it must be earned.
Why Investors Care
With the economic downturn, investment companies are choosier and taking a closer look at companies before making investments. Company valuations declined in 2022 and deals are being abandoned or delayed. With these changes, it is even more important for the company brand to be strong.
When investors look beyond the financials, they review product reviews, online user comments (both positive and negative), employee feedback, and overall comments on the company. They don’t need to see all positive reviews, but they want to see an efficient process where reviews are taken seriously and responded to quickly.
PR plays an important role in making this happen. Promptly responding to comments, identifying and sharing reviews with the appropriate departments so root causes can be addressed, and creating a communication program that supports trust and integrity is critical. When PR takes the lead on creating a simple, yet effective process, with clearly defined roles, everyone wins.
Negative reviews are not the end of the world. Customer feedback is invaluable in building the best products. Companies that listen to feedback:
- Build better products that keep current customers happy and gain new ones.
- Have engaged employees and are able to hire the best talent.
- Gain additional funding when needed.
How your company responds to negative reviews and what you do with the comments is the key. These actions have a long-term impact on your company image.
Does your company need assistance to define a program to address negative feedback and/or the tools to remedy product, service, or other operational gaps? If yes, we are here to help. Contact your SoftwareReviews representative or Barbara Riedel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Related Publication and Deliverables
- Using PR to Protect Your Company Image and Handle Negative Online Reviews (access by clicking "Download Research" at the top of this page)
- Writer Checklist
- Measure and Manage the Customer Satisfaction Metrics that Matter the Most