The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Negative Online Reviews

The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Negative Online Reviews
Have this post read to you in a natural voice:

It’s probably already happened to you before. You’re sitting in your living room, grateful for the weekend rest and relishing the chance at some much needed relaxation, when you hear your phone ping in your pocket.

Your first instinct is to ignore it, but the entrepreneur in you takes only a second to change your mind. You soon realize it’s a notification for a new review on one of the many websites on which your business is talked about.

Oh, the adoring public! You scroll down excitedly to read the expected praise.

"Your business sucks!! - 1 star"


A negative review is never an easy read—no matter how many times you’ve gotten them before. They are an unwanted pointer to the one instance your business failed to create the expected outcome.

So how do you deal with them?

First of all, don’t panic!

Negative reviews can actually be a good thing. But before we get to looking into how, here are some dos and don’ts on how to deal with that review from hell.

Don’ts of Dealing with Negative Reviews

Don’t Ignore It: Ignoring a negative review is just as bad as giving a foul-mouthed response

Think about it: a customer just gave you the chance to address an issue about the way your business interacts with the paying public, and you are ignoring the invitation.

Could it be you don’t care about your customers?

Of course you do!

But that’s not what everyone who comes across the snubbed bad review will think.

Don’t Get Defensive: Your business is your baby, an extension of yourself. It’s a projection of your ideas about how the world should run

It’s not hard to see how any attack on your business could feel like an attack on your person.

But don’t be that guy or gal!

You know the type who can’t handle negative feedback and pours his anger on anyone who dares criticize?

Behaving in this manner could easily deteriorate into an online slinging match, which is something no entrepreneur wants for their business.

Take your time to take stock of the particular grievance. It might be a genuine concern, or a mere misunderstanding. Either way, you want to measure your words and respond in a way that ensures your business comes out on top in the end—how to do so is addressed in the Dos section.

Don’t Get Pulled into an Online Slinging Match

As an entrepreneur, your days will always come with a hint of clouds and a slight chance of running into an online troll who just wants to keep complaining online.

Here’s what you can do: re-state that you are happy to address the issue at hand, and invite the person to contact you offline to that end.

No matter what happens afterwards, other reviewers will appreciate the class evident in your response.

Now compare that with the slinging match you would otherwise be involved in.

Don’t Beg For Positive Reviews to Hide the Negative Ones

Besides the fact that most review sites frown at this practice, most customers can spot a fake or forced review from a mile away.

Reviews of this nature are totally unnecessary, and can actually negatively impact the way people view your business over time.

There is a better way to go about “hiding negative reviews”, which we address in the next section.

Dos of Dealing with Negative Reviews

Acknowledge and Apologize

Most people who take the time drop a negative review just want to be heard, and a little empathy will go a long way to see matters resolved.

Resist the temptation to be defensive.

Acknowledge the issue at hand, and show that you are genuinely concerned that anybody would leave your business having experienced anything but the very best.

According to a study by Yelp, 33% of negative reviews turn positive when the business responds and tries to explain things out.

Tactfully Promote Your Business’ Strengths in Your Reply

Don’t just reply. Why waste a negative review?

Without being defensive, without contradicting the customer, without sounding like a total jerk, highlight the ideals your business aspires to in your response.

Reveal how these high ideals and strengths of your business are the reasons why you are genuinely concerned that things did not go well with the reviewer

By so doing, you flip the script and score two wins!

The customer feels heard, and the whole world sees how awesome your business is.

Be Authentic and Make Real Connections

When you face up to that feeling in the pit of your stomach and finally sit down to reply to that negative review, don’t set yourself up for failure by reaching out to a folder on your desktop chockfull of ready-made responses.

People will sense your inauthenticity and hate your business for it.

Do this instead: Use your real names or a first name and initial in your response. Clearly explain your role in the company, and offer your phone number or email.

Behind every negative review is a real person who appreciates sincerity and responds to authentic connections.

Take it Outside — or in This Case Offline

Avoid being pulled into a heated exchange online. Leave a sincere, authentic public response, and then take the discussion offline by offering an email or direct phone number.

Here’s an example to illustrate:

“This is Brian Awesome, owner of Awesome Business [authentic and personal]. I’m sorry you were unhappy with the service you received when you did business with us [clearly states facts without blame]. Our goal is for every customer to leave feeling satisfied with the experience [promotes positive image]. Please call or email me at [contact information] so I can resolve this issue to your satisfaction.”

Taking the issue offline when it seems appropriate will show everyone—especially the reviewer—that you are taking steps to address matters.

And that just makes your awesome business appear even more awesome in the eyes of the world!

Hide Bad Reviews…by Encouraging More Reviews!

Instead of walking on the wrong side of the ethical line by actively begging for good reviews, simply encourage customers to leave a review—any review.

According to a study by Yotpo, 86% of reviews are either 4 or 5 stars—in other words, “good”. On the other hand, only a mere 14% are 3 stars or below.

So place stickers of review sites everywhere appropriate in your office, and encourage customers to leave a review.

The data says you will come out way on top in the end.

And that’s how you deal with a negative review like a pro!

You can even go one step better by sharing all reviews, both negative and positive with your employees so that a customer-centred culture is nurtured at the office.

As a recap, here is why you should smile whenever you receive the odd negative review every now and then:

They Make Your Business Appear Real and Authentic

How you deal with a negative review is giving existing and potential customers a first hand look into the real you. It is the chance to show people what you really are made of.

They Are Useful Pointers to Weak Points in Your Business

“If one or two people call thee a horse, mind ye not! But if four or five do, then buy thee a saddle”

Or so the old saying goes.

If you’ve consistently been receiving complaints over the same issues, then your business clearly has some fixing to do.

Even Bad Publicity Will Help Your Business

It’s not only true in show business. According to research carried out by Jonah Berger, a professor of marketing at UPenn, negative reviews can actually increase sales.

Think about it:

Negative attention puts you in the limelight and creates product awareness. It will also remind regular customers who have forgotten about you that you still exist and are doing business.

You Could Turn Them to an Awesome Promo

A negative review could be a killer advert lying in plain sight! Sure, it requires a deft hand to pull this off but the results are the stuff marketers dream of.

This example from an ad by Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in Utah is epic and will leave you inspired

Now, do you still believe negative reviews are a bad thing? Do you have any other ideas about how to handle them?

If you ever want to chat about your experience from either side of the equation, email me or better yet, call or text me at: 802-861-0150.