Do Customers Expect Responses to Negative Reviews?

January 13, 2016

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There is a disconnect between customer’s expectations and the practices currently in place from social media professionals, and the customer is suffering because of it. Business owners and social media managers, it’s time to start responding to all of your negative online reviews.

Online Reviews Are Social Media

In September 2012, Convince & Convert conducted a study about the effectiveness of customer support on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. It concluded that 42 percent of consumers who contact a business through social media for customer support expect a response within one hour or less, even on weekends.

We weren’t the only ones who were curious.

Based on Convince & Convert’s research, we decided to find out how long consumers expect a business to respond to an online review. After all, online reviews are social media. We were curious if customers expected a similar response time to online reviews as on social media, which Convince & Convert’s Study determined to be within 60 minutes.

As it turns out, 48.3 percent of customers don’t expect a business to respond to their online review.

The other 51.7 percent of customers expect a response in seven days or less.

Our survey consisted of two questions:
1. Have you ever left a negative review on Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Google?
If the consumer responded “yes,” then they answered the next question.
2. What is the amount of time you expect to wait before the business responds to your negative review?

Of the 152 respondents to the second question, only 24.6 percent expect a business to respond to their online review within three days. What’s really surprising, only 21 percent expect a response within 24 hours, and just 6.1 percent of those surveyed expect a business to respond within seven days.



What’s Going On?

We were curious about these results. If customers are not expecting a response, why wouldn’t a business want to exceed their customer’s expectations? Or, even a better question, why leave a review at all? If the customer wants to share their negative experience as a warning to potential customers, it seems they should definitely be expecting a response from the business.

Who’s on the wrong side here?

As businesses, we are more limited with online review websites than we are with social media. Most social platforms can notify businesses immediately of a customer complaint, whereas most review websites are limited to notifying every 24 hours, as the website holds reviews to ensure quality and authenticity. This is where the “filtered” reviews on websites like Yelp come into play.

However, the basis of Convince & Convert survey showed 60 minutes is the expected response time on social media channels. Customer’s are giving feedback and are clearly anxious to receive a response.

To help makes sense of this social media/online reviews disconnect, we turned to the experts.

What the Experts Say

We asked chief marketing officers, business owners, and authors how long customers should wait for a response to a negative review. Nearly all of them agree it’s essential to respond to customers’ concerns quickly and the general consensus is within 48 hours. 

Daniel Lemin

We reached out to Daniel Lemin, author of “Manipurated” and senior strategist at Convince & Convert, said, “Interestingly, research shows that many people don’t even expect a response from a business (less than half). When they do expect a response, however, they have high hopes: they want answers within an hour.”

daniel lemin quote

“Any response is better than none at all, particularly given how few consumers actually expect to hear back when they complain,” Lemin said. “So the good news is that bar is not very high. Give yourself a day or two at maximum.”

Chip Bell

Chip Bell, customer service expert and best-selling business author, said to respond “as fast as possible, assuming your response is thoughtful and accurate.”

chip bell quote

“In the customer’s mind the clock starts when he or she posts a negative review and your reputation drops with every hour you delay providing a response,” Bell said. “Be honest, be apologetic, and offer the aggrieved customer an easy way to access you. Bad reviews that remain unanswered signal to other customers you are disinterested. It also fuels the perception that the negative report by an angry customer was probably accurate. In the social media world, you are assumed guilty until your response alters public perception.”

Jay Baer

Jay Baer, founder of Convince & Convert — the authors of the study that inspired our research — shared his advice about businesses responding to customer feedback.

“My advice (as described in my new book, Hug Your Haters) is to answer every customer, in every channel, every time,” Baer said. “This is much different than how most businesses interact with customers (especially online), which is to answer some complaints, in some channels, some of the time.”

jay baer quote

“My new research on the science of complaint shows that answering a customer complaint increases customer advocacy, always,” he said. “And not answering a customer complaint decreases customer advocacy, always.”

Baer said that in order for a business to prepare for social media and online reviews, a business must know where they are being talked about.

“Know everywhere your business is mentioned,” he said. “Create internal policies for when and where customers will be answered.”

Make sure your business has enough resources to create those policies, and it’s ideal to measure the impact on customer advocacy, he said. “Software (like ReviewTrackers and others) is a huge help in getting this figured out.”

And customers expect a business to respond to them in “approximately 24 hours” on review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc., Baer said.

We asked Baer if customers will expect an even faster response time in the future. “Absolutely,” he said. “They will also (I hope) expect to be answered more often than just every once in a while.”

Why Respond at All?

Responding to negative reviews is one of the easiest ways engage with your critics, learn from the customer first-hand, and showcase goodwill with your vocal customer-base.

Sure, the success of your company does not hinge on the voice of one customer.

Responding to them quickly shows all future reviewers they will not get away with posting a paltry negative review without consequence. The tone you take in the response can extend the conversation the customer has chosen to take part in. The attitude you take when addressing customer issues defines your customer success, a lesson that extends to social media of any kind.

“Customer feedback is essential to improving your business,” said Chris Campbell, CEO of ReviewTrackers. “Although 48.3 percent of the respondents in our survey said they don’t expect a business to respond, the other 51.7 percent expect a response in seven days or less. Responding to your reviews gives a previously disappointed customer a reason to come back to your business.”

Time to Join the Conversation

You can utilize the feedback the customer has given you, and follow up with the parties involved. Then determine if the problem the customer raised as cause for the negative review could have been avoided. Look closely at the issues and take note of the solution, so you can follow up with the negative reviewer. After all, you have up to 48 hours.

The customers are having a conversation about your brand. Responding can make a huge difference on the impact of the negative review and enable your business to pinpoint a problem you might not have noticed otherwise. Join the conversation.


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