Every customer service professional aims to increase customer loyalty, trust and sales. However, when faced with negative reviews, your response — or lack of — matters. A study by Northwestern University's Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center shows that "82% of shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews." This research implies that negative reviews provide an opportunity for organizations to clarify their position, amplify their brand and improve customer experience.

Reviews can also result in a terrible backlash if not handled correctly. That's why it's crucial for customer service professionals to develop a strategy for managing feedback. Dodge disasters by staying away from three of the worst ways to respond to customer reviews.

1. No response at all to negative reviews

When faced with a negative review, company leaders tend to freeze. They may disagree with the reviewer or feel the feedback isn't worthy of a response. However, Chatmeter research shows that "Not replying to reviews risks increasing customer churn by up to 15%." By taking the time to respond to every review, you'll increase your customer retention rates.

Plus, consumers want to see your company's response to reviews. According to a BrightLocal survey, "89% of consumers read businesses' responses to reviews." Give your customers more of what they want and direct the conversation by delivering a clear reply to all customer feedback.

2. A late reply to a review

There's no doubt that consumers are time-strapped. They don't have time to wait around for answers. What happens if your answer isn't timely? Well, it's possible that your customer will turn to social media to express their dissatisfaction. Taking too long to react to reviews is a risky strategy. Avoid a small issue blowing up into a major one by having standards in place regarding response times.

3. Responding with emotion instead of strategy

It's easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment when responding to a troll or an unhappy (or mean) customer. However, consumers don't hesitate to screenshot your crappy response and post it all over social media. Without guidelines for replies, you leave a lot up in the air. Avoid extreme situations and negative viral media with customer service guided by:

  • Standards for responses.
  • Guidelines for involving management.
  • Policy for trolls and other unsavory comments.

The bottom line is that "seven out of ten consumers changed their opinion about a brand after the company replied to a review." That means that reviews provide an opportunity for customer service professionals to not only right a wrong but also to improve your company's overall reputation.

However, if you don't have a communications strategy for handling customer reviews, then you're leaving your company open to significant problems. Turn negative reviews into a positive with a plan for avoiding these three mishaps.