How to handle bad reviews online

how to handle bad reviews online

By Katy

No matter what industry you’re in, we all work hard to provide our customers and clients with a positive experience. But what happens when something falls short?

In the days of yore before Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, Houzz, etc., one bad customer experience was just that – ONE bad customer experience. Sure, an angry phone call was no fun to hear, but you took your medicine, atoned for your sins and moved on.

But today…

Just ONE bad customer experience can turn into a PR nightmare…

The ONE bad meal at the restaurant can turn into the patron sharing all the hairy (maybe quite literally) details of the terrible food with thousands of visitors to TripAdvisor.

The ONE rude employee in the shop can be announced in detail to the patron’s 1,500 Facebook friends – most of which are local to the area.

The ONE delivery that missed its deadline can take an otherwise good rating on Google down and remain at the top of the review list.

The ONE botched nose job… OK, if you’re botching nose jobs, consider this your advice to change careers.

So how does a business address a negative review online?

  1. Pay Attention. You can’t fix what you don’t see. Make sure you’re looking at every notification for your business that comes through any online platform of which you’re a part. Set up Google Alerts for your business. Invest in a service that offers social listening, which can alert you any time your brand is mentioned across a variety of platforms. Hootsuite,HubSpotand Sprout Socialare all good ones. In short, don’t miss any reviews – celebrate the good, and deal with the bad.
  1. Do your homework. Before you respond, look into the complaint. Can you verify the person’s name to find out if they recently visited your business or placed an order? Does the complaint make sense? Does the individual seem to have a legitimate concern, or does he or she seem to be trolling for Internet drama? If a complaint seems outlandish, is written in ALL CAPS, is using profanity or seems generally off-the-wall (depending on the complaint), the best course of action may be no action. However, if the complaint is legitimate…
  2. Craft your response and take it offline. Best practice is to respond to a complaint as soon as possible without jumping the gun. Respond to the individual by name, and thank them for taking the time to voice their displeasure. Then provide them with an alternative method to communicate with you. DO NOT get into a back and forth with them on the platform they used to initiate the complaint. Rather, give them an email address that is monitored by a real, living, breathing human, and request they email you there. The decision to apologize in the comment is yours based on your business. For some complaints, a genuine “we’re so sorry” is appropriate, but if there’s a possibility that the complaint could lead to legal issues, avoid an apology. An ideal response would be:

“Hi NAME. Thank you for letting us know about your experience with us yesterday. While we always aim to provide our customers with outstanding service, we realize that we may have fallen short. We’d like the opportunity to make it right with you. Please email John at so we can learn more about the incident and remedy the situation.”

  1. Follow through. If the individual does email you, take it seriously. Offer a refund, a freebie, SOMETHING to remedy the situation. Then, after they seem satisfied with the result, you may ask them to either remove their original comment or update it to reflect how the situation was remedied. This should be handled on a case-by-case basis though. Use your judgement.
  1. Don’t delete. As tempting as it may be to delete negative reviews or comments, don’t. For starters, people tend to take perfect, 5-star reviews with a grain of salt. No business is perfect 100% of the time, and removing every less-than-perfect review may actually work against you. Additionally, if the author is truly mad (as this writer has been a time or two), he or she may post ANOTHER review, even angrier that the issue was brushed under the rug.

The caveat to this is if something is clearly an Internet troll. You can tell. Delete those and move on.

If you’re running a business, at some point you’ll be faced with dealing with a negative review online. Follow the tips above to mitigate the damage and learn from your mistakes! And of course, if you find yourself in a PR nightmare, give us a call. We’re experienced in handling bad reviews and working with you to turn them around!