Making the Most Out of Bad Product Reviews

Allan Peretz
Post by Allan Peretz
February 7, 2019
Making the Most Out of Bad Product Reviews

As we've previously highlighted, accumulating positive product reviews is hard. It's so hard, in fact, that sellers employ all sorts of unscrupulous tactics in the hopes of getting more reviews more quickly. To many brands, it seems that there's only one thing harder than getting positive reviews and that's dealing with negative ones.

It doesn't have to be difficult though - if you follow a few simple guidelines, you'll be able to handle even the worst reviews with grace!

Respond to Reviewers Quickly

When you get a negative review for a product you've worked hard to develop or market, it's hard not to feel insulted. By ignoring negative reviews, though, you're only hurting yourself. Every negative review is an opportunity for a brand to create a positive impression. Shoppers will seek these reviews out and if you don't respond, your silence will be what they notice most.

Do you have to respond to EVERY negative review? That's up to you - we'd advise responding every time unless the reviewer clearly comes off as frivolous, inappropriate, or if their review looks to have been left in error (on the wrong product for example). That said, if you're leaving more than a third or so of negative reviews unanswered, then you're probably not doing enough.

Make sure that you have a system that will quickly alert you when you do get a negative review. There are tools available for nearly every selling platform (built-in tools and optional paid tools) that will ensure that you're always in the know.

Be Genuinely Helpful in Your Response

Your customer deserves your assistance. They gave you their hard-earned money in the expectation of a certain experience and, for whatever reason, that wasn't delivered. Before responding with an attitude that you'll later regret, make sure that you've stepped into this customer's shoes. Consider that there may be more to the story - maybe, for example, they were planning to give your item as a gift and couldn't do so because it arrived in poor condition.

Many sellers have tried to debate fault with shoppers - trust us that it doesn't work. Admit that there was a problem and use the magic words "I'm sorry" near the beginning of your response. You'll get bonus points for recognizing the specifics of the incident: "I'm sorry that your son's birthday gift was missing a part..."

Go out of your way to make it right. Depending on the situation, this may entail sending replacement parts, sending a new item, or providing a refund. While it may seem expensive, if a full and prompt refund gets the shopper to retract or change their negative review then it's an absolute bargain. Once you have made it right, check in on the customer if possible to make sure that they're satisfied (this will be easy on your site but may be challenging on marketplaces like or

Stand by Your Brand's Quality

Start with "I'm sorry" but you should never STOP there... After explaining how you'll solve the problem, take a moment to explain just how seriously you take product quality. Consider saying something like this (if true): "We take quality very seriously and inspect every order to prevent problems like this - I'm sorry that we didn't catch this one." If you truly are perplexed by the issue, you can ask the shopper if they'd willing to take pictures for you... Don't make this a pre-requisite to helping them, though, unless you just want to frustrate them more. The worst thing you can do is make the situation more difficult for the shopper.

Challenge Inappropriate Reviews

If you're selling on a marketplace like,, or, you may be able to get some negative reviews removed altogether. Based on Amazon's Review Guidelines, for example, you can request removal for reviews left on an item if the reviews actually refer to shipping issues (or anything else that's not product related). Amazon will also remove 1-word reviews or reviews with inappropriate language. Walmart also has guidelines and these are available here - as you'll see, issues like inappropriate language or poor quality reviews can also be justification review removal.

Deal with Your Product and Content Issues

Sometimes it takes more than just words to deal with the situation. Are you getting consistent bad reviews because your jelly jars are breaking in transit? Well, maybe it's time to do something about it - can you move to a plastic container? Can you find a box that will properly protect your jars?

Have negative reviews suddenly picked up on your well-established product? If so, maybe you're dealing with a bigger manufacturing issue. Identify the production runs that might be impacted and go test. The sooner you can deal with substandard product the better. Treat these negatives like your "early warning system."

In some cases, product can be just fine but your item content may be setting the wrong expectation. Perhaps, for example, your photography is making the item look bigger than it is and shoppers are disappointed when the actual product arrives. Maybe your shirt's size chart is misleading and people are getting frustrated when they don't fit properly. Fixing content is much easier than fixing product - be on the lookout for these issues and deal with them quickly!

Finally, remember that negative reviews are a fact of life and, in moderation, are even a good thing. When shoppers see items that have only positive reviews, they get suspicious that the seller might somehow be manipulating their reviews (you can read about some of the ways here). Although expectations differ by category, if your overall rating is somewhere around 4.3 then you're probably in good shape. In a way, bad reviews are like a strong hot sauce - a few drops will improve the flavor but too much can make for a painful meal.

Are you looking for help generating, tracking, or responding to ratings and reviews? Let us know!

New call-to-action

Allan Peretz
Post by Allan Peretz
February 7, 2019
Allan's an accomplished eCommerce leader with experience on brands of all sizes including SK-II, The Art of Shaving, Samsung, and Pampers. He's responsible for maintaining the strategies and "playbook" that we use to grow your business.