How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

Negative reviews are a problem all businesses have to face. We'll show you how to minimise their impact.

As we all know, consumers set a lot of store on the reviews they read about your products and services on Google My Business, trusted websites and social media platforms like Trustpilot, Facebook, Which?, TripAdvisor and the like.

There are understandably business owners that go into a tailspin if a customer posts a negative review – and there’s no doubt that a string of bad reviews can put potential customers off and thereby damage a business.

Don’t panic though – unless your reviews are consistently negative the odd one or two can be dealt with and even turned to your advantage. The trick is in how you handle them.

We’ve put together a question-and-answer guide on how to deal with your negative online reviews, based on the queries we often get from worried business owners:

What do I do if my business has a bad review?

No-one is perfect, and you WILL make a mistake at some point that will draw you some criticism on the review queue – maybe a late delivery, a damaged product, an undercooked meal, a tradesman that never arrived.

The first thing you need to do is respond to the reviewer (you should always respond to reviews in any case, good or bad, with thanks and acknowledgement). Communication is key in repairing any reputation lost by having a disgruntled customer.

Before you go in all guns blazing to defend yourself and post an argumentative reply that may make matters worse, pay attention to…

How do you respond to a negative review?

Before you decide what words you are going to respond with, there are some general rules that make damage control easier:

  • Be quick with your response (which means you should be monitoring your reviews regularly).
  • Don’t use a generic template response – show you care by addressing each customer’s problems individually.
  • With particularly angry (and perhaps abusive) customers try to get them to take the conversation offline and speak with you directly about their issue out of the public eye.

What’s most important, however, is what you actually say in your first response to a negative review. So…

How do you respond to negativity?

Even if you think the customer is wrong and doesn’t have a valid complaint you can defuse the situation by acknowledging the issue and apologising for it having caused an inconvenience or not having satisfied expectations. Take a genuine and sincere tone and thank the reviewer for his/her feedback.

Next, provide an explanation (if relevant and necessary), but remember there’s a fine line between an explanation and an excuse. Take responsibility for the issue and for the negative consequences it had for the customer.

Offer to make good the error or mistake, or suggest some sort of recompense for the problem, and assure the customer you will take steps to ensure it never happens again.

Invite the reviewer to contact you by email or phone to discuss the issue further if they wish, making sure you provide your name, title and direct contact information.

Above all, keep your cool and stay professional, even in the face of the other party’s anger. Responding in kind will only further damage your business’ reputation.

For more in depth advice:

Here’s a “case study” example from moz.com with some great pointers of how not and how to respond to a negative review.

Why should you respond to negative reviews?

When you receive a negative review you can console yourself with the fact that a few bad reviews here and there can actually work in your favour, building trust with consumers who may be suspicious if your page is flooded with perfect reviews.

Responding to reviews – positive or negative – is another trust indicator, providing you with the opportunity to show your customers that you care about their feedback and take the time to monitor your review boards.

Ignoring a bad review is leaving an issue unresolved, and will lose you the complaining customer as well as others who read his/her review, or hear about the problem in his/her social circle.

A well-crafted response to a negative review can actually win you trust points from a potential customer, who will be impressed that you made an effort to resolve the issue with appropriate care and concern.

How much can a bad review hurt your business?

According to a study by Trustpilot nine out of 10 consumers use a review site before making a purchase at an online business. If there are a large number of negative reviews associated with your product or service, many potential customers will be put off – particularly if your rating is two stars or less.

Something else to consider is that several negative reviews can actually impact your search engine ranking. Search engine algorithms seek out quality businesses for exposure higher up the search engine results, so too many prominent bad reviews won’t make a good impression.

To find out more about the impact of reviews on consumers and your business read the Brightlocal 2022 Consumer Review Survey – it’s packed with useful information.

How do you avoid negative reviews?

It’s obvious that to get a good review from a customer you must deliver a positive experience for him/her. You need to ingrain an ethos of making your customers feel valued, cared about and provide first class service, then they’re unlikely to have reason to complain online.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes – even go to the extent of shopping at your own store or using your own services, so you can iron out any areas where customers may have cause for complaint.

Most important is to make your contact details highly visible and have customer support staff immediately accessible to customers who want to communicate with your business. They may well prefer to vent on the phone or via online chat where you can find a resolution before they resort to leaving a negative review.

A very good tactic is to encourage customers to leave positive reviews. They probably won’t bother unless you give them a little friendly nudge, but most people will be willing to reward you with a review if you’ve established a good relationship and they’ve received good service.

Last, but by no means least, when you do get complaints check them out and act on the feedback. No-one takes the trouble to leave a negative review unless they are genuinely unhappy with something, so its your duty to make sure you fix the problem to prevent it happening in future.

You will never totally eradicate negative reviews, but you can pay attention to making them less likely, and deal with them appropriately when they do happen.

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About The Author

Lucille Parker

Lucille Parker

Lucille is Dentons Digital content writer, crafting SEO friendly content for clients’ websites and blogging for the company. She’s been writing for the web for more than 20 years after switching to digital from a career in print journalism.

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