Building trust with negative customer reviews

Published: June 18, 2020 | Last updated: April 5, 2023
Building trust: Resources, competencies, emotions

Trust in brands, products or services requires authentic customer communication, especially when customer reviews are negative. The three fundamental principles that make this possible:

  • Resources: staff and tools to help with reputation management
  • Communicative competence: speaking at eye level, being appreciative, wanting to solve problems
  • Emotional intelligence: Being in touch with the target group, identifying needs, listening and de-escalating. In the case of negative reviews, first seek contact with the dissatisfied customer publicly, apologize and suggest that further details be clarified in more personal contact via telephone or e-mail.

Positive effects of negative reviews

Negative customer reviews increase the credibility of positive feedback. They appear even more authentic. Which product or service can already satisfy all users? Right: That is utopian. So critical voices are quite normal. Through criticism, potential consumers recognize in which areas a product or service is weak. Many consumers accept weaknesses in areas that are irrelevant to them. For example, a long delivery time can be a weakness, but not a fundamental criterion for deciding against a purchase.

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Be prepared for criticism

Even if all customer reviews have been positive so far: At some point, someone will come forward who is rather critical of things. Then it is important to be prepared. It should be clear who answers complaints and how quickly. In addition to clear responsibilities, there should be guidelines on company values and possibly even de-escalating sample answers. If a bad customer rating comes in, quick action is imperative. Automatic notifications will help. If you respond quickly to bad customer reviews, you will build trust with the public because you are demonstrating: The customer's welfare is paramount. As a rule, one should react quickly and constructively within 24 hours. In the case of particularly drastic reviews or complaints, a quicker response may also be necessary to avoid further escalation.


Practical tips: Use negative customer reviews for a good reputation!

  • Listen closely: Being able to listen is the most important basis for trust when it comes to negative customer ratings. First, take up the criticism objectively, get to the heart of the problem and apologize to the critic. Ask if something is unclear. The exchange confirms the trustworthiness.
  • Address errors specifically: Deal with mistakes in a relaxed manner. Apologize for justified criticism or correct a wrong fact. All this must be done at eye level, in simple language and with appreciation. Criticism is valuable.
  • Solve problems professionally: It is not the error that is the problem with a bad customer review, but often the way the problem is solved. Be transparent. Remain objective. Deal with the disappointment of the customer. Talk directly to them.
  • Always answer individually: Individually formulated answers may cost time and energy, but are essential for building trust. Those who work with standard answers or use ready-made text modules miss a valuable opportunity to positively impress the critic. Therefore, do not only use individual greeting and farewell formulas, but always use formulations that are appropriate to the situation.
  • Stay authentic: Despite all professionalism and all guidelines and standards for professional communication and serious behaviour, the following applies: Stay human. An answer that is appropriate in terms of content may also be humorous, show emotions or express an opinion. All of this has an authentic effect and increases trustworthiness because it loosens up the atmosphere of the conversation.
  • All signals on de-escalation! Concentrate on the core content of criticism and ignore possible offensive outbursts of the critic - as long as they do not exceed certain limits. Anyone who takes pressure off the kettle in this way shows publicly that criticism is taken seriously and is answered in an exemplary manner. By the way: Questions have a deescalating effect. They show: You care. Often a rather small problem is hidden behind the roaring noise, which may even be easy to solve.
  • Communicate brand values: Anyone who responds to poor customer reviews in an appropriate, authentic manner builds trust. Every brand has concrete values and principles or concrete communication and behaviour - also known as corporate communication and corporate behaviour. If the response to criticism does not simply discuss the problem objectively, but makes the brand identity visible in the dialogue, the interaction is not only successful PR, but also a cornerstone for building trust.
  • Analyze common criticisms: Acting professionally on any criticism at short notice and responding correctly to a bad customer rating is half the battle. A structured analysis must follow: Which problems are addressed particularly frequently? Which target groups complain very often? Were the problems easy to solve? Should something be changed in the product or service? Answers to these questions guarantee that the number of negative reviews remains low.
  • Chance for further development: Every justified criticism is an opportunity for further development. In this sense one should be grateful to every critic. He gives the decisive impetus for the optimization of products or services. These customer-focused developments should be publicised through smart PR. Tell the story behind product optimization. It is important to show the target group: We have learned from mistakes and offer even better products/services from now on.

Turn bad reviews into sales?

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ProvenExpert is the online platform for qualified customer feedback and review aggregation. A tool that enables business owners and service providers of all sizes to actively seek customer reviews with industry-specific survey templates, bundle existing customer reviews in one location and present the overall score in a way that makes it more effective. Already more than 270,000 entrepreneurs and service providers of all sizes benefit from ProvenExpert.