Typewriter review

Do customers expect responses to their negative reviews?

1st Feb 2019

Customers are sharing reviews about your brand. But why are they doing this? And what are their expectations about your brand providing a response? Research findings shed some light on this. 

There is a disconnect between customer expectations and the practices currently in place from social media professionals, and the customer is suffering because of it.

A few years ago, Convince & Convert conducted a study about the effectiveness of customer support on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

It concluded that 42% 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% of customers don’t expect a business to respond to their online review. The other 51.7% 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% expect a business to respond to their online review within three days. What’s really surprising, only 21% expect a response within 24 hours, and just 6.1% of those surveyed expect a business to respond within seven days.

Review survey

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. 

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

“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.”

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.

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.”

“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.

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% of the respondents in our survey said they don’t expect a business to respond, the other 51.7% 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 utilise 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.

Brian Sparker is the former head of content marketing at ReviewTrackers. This article is abridged from an original piece on ReviewTrackers. 


Replies (4)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By SamR
11th Feb 2016 17:54

I always make the effort to leave constructive feedback (and I get paid to do this so they're getting free consultancy).
Only one company (a hotel in Birmingham) has replied so far and even made some changes I suggested. They have my unwavering loyalty and hard cash now.
The most disappointing was the worlds most famous tech brand. I tweeted my issues, I sent them negative feedback when they asked for it and didn't even receive an acknowledgement. I won't buy any more of their goods.
Is it critical to respond to bad feedback? Absolutely. Closing the loop is the most important you can do to build your brand and relationships with customers.

Thanks (0)
Chris Ward
By Chris Ward
12th Feb 2016 09:19

Thanks Sam. It's interesting that you've stated you won't use any tech from the company that failed to respond to your negative feedback. Major tech companies seem to have been one of the few industries that's got away with taking a closed-off approach to customer feedback, up until now.
I imagine this is in the process of having to change - your example is proof of that.

Thanks (0)
By Edward Wills
18th Feb 2016 12:45

I don't expect any response to a negative review I've left, only if I make a complaint to the company directly.

Seeing when companies do respond to negative reviews they are mostly in the public eye I mostly see companies trying to cover their back than take anything constructive from them.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Edward Wills:
By Shonette Laffy
22nd Feb 2016 16:50

I think it depends on the type of response you get back - I see it as polite for a company to acknowledge all feedback they receive, as to me that shows they're more likely to act on it, but I agree that sometimes it can just be seen as them being defensive or making a cursory effort rather than having an intention of acting on the comments they've received. I appreciate that it's hard to strike the right tone when responding to negative feedback though!

Thanks (0)