Which One Is Worse? Generic vs. Authentic Responses to Negative Reviews

By Andrew McDermott

feign empathy british airways

Your service didn’t deliver as promised. You guys let me down. Again.

We’re sorry you had an unpleasant experience. Please send a message to support and we’ll be happy to help.

What’s wrong with this picture?

A customer service rep has offered a canned response to a unique customer problem. His response reads like a form letter. He was polite enough, so why are customers on the receiving end of this so angry?

We’re upset because we know he doesn’t care


Not even a little bit.

As customers, we know these support reps don’t actually care about our problems. They’re not sorry and they don’t empathize with us. It’s not their mistake after all. They’re just on clean-up duty. And let’s be honest, many of these “support reps” have just one job to do.

Get you off social media and out of the public eye.

Kind of like this:

They don’t want other customers seeing how they handle the problem. They especially don’t want things to spiral out of control if things fall apart.

And you know what? That makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is the generic/canned response. Does this mean you can’t or shouldn’t use canned responses to speed up support?

Absolutely not.

Customer service reps face a deluge of demands on a daily basis. It’s incredibly difficult to keep up with customer demands, especially during a crisis.

Canned responses aren’t the problem.

The problem is timing – namely knowing when to use canned responses and when not to.

Here’s the thing.

Your response should always be authentic.

What do I mean by “Authentic?”

Anything your organization communicates to customers – your origins, beliefs, intentions, devotion, sincerity – anything, is communicated truthfully.

Receiving a generic response stings a bit


It’s insulting. A generic response says I’m not willing to engage with you on this, much less tell you the truth.

A generic response incites anger, because it’s dismissive and invalidating. It screams I don’t care to customers, while pretending to care.

How do you respond authentically? What makes an authentic response so different? Authentic responses are…

1. Responsible.


Yelp reviewer Anna L. gave the Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco a one star review.

Anna was harsh in her review but she made some valid points. Here’s how Jesse at Samovar responded.

samovar bad review (response)

Jesse didn’t criticize, stonewall or belittle Anna (though she didn’t extend the same courtesy to Samovar). He didn’t approach her with defensiveness or contempt. He took the time instead to take responsibility for any mistakes and educated her on the reasons behind her complaints.

When customers are misguided or unhappy, when they have a legitimate complaint, authentic responders own their role in the situation. Good support reps own the problem publicly, doing everything they can to find and fix the problem.

2. Validating.


Reviews don’t always come through the usual channels. Sometimes the reviews we receive are unexpected and non-traditional. Just ask Sainsbury’s.

Three year old Lily Robinson wrote a letter to the grocery store chain asking why their bread was called tiger bread when it looked more like a giraffe.

Lilys letter

She’s got a Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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