Since the explosion of the internet and social media, online reviews have become an essential tool in a trader’s toolkit. The benefits of positive reviews are clear: they showcase your business in its best light and encourage customers to use you over the competition. But what happens when a review is less glowing?

Receiving negative reviews can be disheartening, but they can also provide useful insights into your business to help understand what areas require more attention.

Seeing a negative review as constructive feedback and identifying things you could do better is a great way to demonstrate that you’re a business that values its customers' opinions and is willing to learn from mistakes.

What to do when you receive a negative review?

Responding quickly and constructively to a negative review, and putting the correct measures in place to rectify any issues, is key to minimising the impact. If you prove to a customer that you will go the extra mile for them and deliver excellent customer service when something goes wrong, it demonstrates that you’re a trustworthy trader who puts customer satisfaction at the forefront of everything you do.

Make sure that you respond and act on the complaint within a timely manner (see Which? Code of Conduct for guidance) and keep the customer informed of any updates to do with their complaint. Here are some useful steps to follow.

  • Step one: Acknowledge the review promptly by publishing an initial response to the complaint. If you know who the customer is, you could say something along the lines of: 'Thank you for your feedback – we'll be in touch to discuss your concerns and work out a solution.' This shows you’re on the case and lets the customer know to expect your contact. If you’re unsure who the customer is, your response could ask the customer to follow your official complaints procedure so that their complaint can be logged formally and you can take the remaining steps to resolve it.
  • Step two: Contact the customer directly to discuss the issue and agree a resolution. Depending on the nature of the problem and the customer’s availability, this may mean booking in a time for a longer call or face-to-face meeting to discuss their concerns in detail. Encourage your customer to be as specific as possible about the exact nature of the complaint and how they want you to resolve it.
  • Step three: Take appropriate remedial action. Make sure you’re as specific as possible about what you will do to address the problem, including details of the remedial work, and when and what will be involved. All this should be put in writing to the customer. There may, of course, be times where you do not agree with customer feedback. If so, there are tactics you can use to avoid a disagreement turning into a formal dispute. For more information on this, please check out our guide on what to do if you disagree with a customer.
  • Step four: Update your response to the review. Once the complaint has been resolved, we would encourage you to update your response to the review using the reply function. In your response you should detail what the business has done and how you have learnt from this situation. Potential new customers will have the opportunity to read the response and will feel confident and reassured that you’re the type of business that wants to leave every customer satisfied.
  • Step five: Use the feedback to improve your processes. Learning from customer feedback is important and will allow you to develop and improve your business. Reviewing what you could have done differently and putting a process in place to ensure this does not happen again will help to improve customer satisfaction. You could even contact the customer in a few months’ time to explain how their feedback has helped your business learn and grow.

Which? Trusted Trader moderation

As with all reviews, Which? Trusted Traders moderates negative reviews to make sure they’re genuine and comply with our terms and conditions. This can involve checking IP addresses, speaking to the reviewer on the phone and requesting documents relating to the work, such as proof of purchase.

If the review meets these requirements, it will be posted on your profile and you'll be notified about it, giving you the chance to see the complaint and respond. Your account manager will also contact you to discuss it.

Even the best-run businesses will receive less-than-glowing reviews at times. Although they can be worrying, a few negative reviews are not the end of your business. Instead, see them as constructive feedback and an opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. Negative reviews offer consumer insights into your business, which can help to improve business operations and customer loyalty, and customers are also often willing to forgive problems that are dealt with professionally and correctly. Taking swift remedial action to customer complaints could even turn those same customers into advocates for your business.

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