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    Turning a Negative Into a Positive: How to Respond to Bad Customer Reviews

    Turning a Negative Into a Positive: How to Respond to Bad Customer Reviews

    Posted by Marie Schwartz
    Turning a Negative Into a Positive: How to Respond to Bad Customer Reviews


    You can’t please 100% of your customers 100% of the time. However, that certainly is no excuse to not try your best to meet the needs and desires of your teen enrichment program’s participants to achieve customer satisfaction. Being realistic with yourself and with your team about how to address negative customer reviews is the first step in creating a solid strategy for turning negative program feedback into positive exposure for your organization.

    Studies suggest that just one negative review will likely drive away 22% of prospects. And while we’re all apt to receive a poor review here and there, that doesn’t mean people will never come to our programs again. The best way to combat negative feedback in customer reviews is to respond to their review in a timely and respectful manner. Use the 4 tips in this article to develop an effective approach to handling and mitigating negative online reviews.

    1. Be Polite and Take Time to Acknowledge Their Concerns

    You don’t have to spend hours carefully crafting a lengthy response. However, this response is going to be published publicly, so you should take enough time to use proper grammar and use empathy when addressing the reviewer’s concerns. When framed correctly, this is a great way to turn their negative comment around by highlighting your program’s strengths. For example, something like this:

    “Hi, Susan! I’m sorry you had a bad experience with our program. We’ve been around for 25 years, serving thousands of students per year, and we always strive to provide the best possible experience for our participants. Clearly, we have failed you along the way. If you would like to speak with management to discuss your experience, please give us a call.”

    This response to a negative customer review addresses the participant’s complaints and even acknowledges that the program failed to satisfy the participant. Yet, it also explains the strengths the program and organization have such as being around for 25 years. Then, the response offers the reviewer an opportunity to contact management directly to be further heard by change-makers in the organization. While this opportunity offers a chance for the participant to speak about their issues, it also moves the conversation from the public to a private phone conversation. Moreover, if the participant does call, be sure to take their feedback into consideration to ensure that future participants don’t have the same poor experience in your program.

    2. Explain What Has Changed or What Relevant Changes are in the Works

    Often, people leave reviews highlighting aspects of a program they wish they can change. And sometimes, the program is already undergoing that change or has plans to do so. Maybe you’ve changed a particular aspect of the registration process. Or your itinerary has been modified to include new destinations, accommodations, activities, or lessons. Have you started on a program overhaul that should be complete in time for the next session? If your program is undergoing any alterations, this is a great opportunity for you to respond to negative customer reviews showcasing the solution to the reviewer’s problem.

    Be sure to explain any new changes that are relevant to the reviewer’s original concerns, and invite the user to give your program another shot if it makes sense. Something like this could do the trick:

    “We have implemented a new process for screening host locations and giving participants more options. I would love to offer you 10% off the registration price to try one of our other programs this summer.”

    This response provides the reviewer with a solution to their problem, proving to prospects that your organization does value customer feedback and takes it into consideration. Plus, adding the discount is an effective way to encourage the reviewer to try the program again and have a better experience.

    3. Don’t Respond to Customer Reviews While You’re Still Upset 

    It’s normal to feel a bit defensive when somebody slams something you’ve worked really hard on. It will be much more beneficial for your reputation to take some time to cool off before you sit down to address the negative feedback. Customers want to feel heard and acknowledged, and they definitely won’t get that impression if you’re defending your program or, even worse, berating them. Here’s an example of what you should do instead:

    “Hi John, we appreciate your feedback as we rely on our program participants’ opinions to help us ensure all current and future participants get the most out of their experience with us. Being known for our great customer service, we would like to make things right. Soon, you will receive an email from Jane to determine how we can provide a solution to your complaints.”

    4. Don’t Ask to Remove Customer Reviews

    Unless it’s a case of slander (i.e. a fake review from a disgruntled former employee), never ask anybody to take their review down. This only perpetuates a negative image and gives other potential customers the impression that you have something to hide. Instead, encourage folks to give your program another chance. That will come across as much more authentic and responsible. Try something like the following:

    "We are saddened to learn about your poor experience with us. We strive to ensure all program participants are satisfied and happy with their experience. With that being said, we appreciate your honest review and will take your feedback into consideration moving forward. It's our goal to ensure all feedback given to us (good or bad) is acknowledged so that every participant is able to have a great experience."

    Final Thoughts

    Customer reviews, whether negative or positive, can make or break your program’s success. We encourage you to upgrade your TeenLife listing to either a Premium, Premium Plus, or Featured Listing to unlock the ability to respond to program reviews. To upgrade and/or respond to a review, log in to your dashboard or contact support@teenlife.com

    Have questions? We’re here to help. Reach out to us and we can work together to ensure your listing is successful.


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    Marie Schwartz

    Marie Schwartz

    Marie Schwartz is the CEO and Founder of TeenLife Media. Marie launched TeenLife in 2007 after moving to Boston with her husband and two middle school sons and discovering that there were no information resources for families with older children. Today, TeenLife's award-winning website lists thousands of summer and gap year programs, schools, college admission resources and volunteer opportunities for teens around the world.