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What to Do with a Bad Review

Online reviews are like the food at the county fair: It’s all fun and games until you get something that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. As a business owner, it can be difficult to read negative reviews, especially when they seem unfair or are written in bad faith. Even if you have page after page of glowing testimonials, a single bad review can feel like the end of the world.

We’d like to take this opportunity to assure you that a bad review doesn’t spell the doom of your company. According to one study, more than 88% of respondents stated that a single negative review has never caused them to refrain from purchasing a product.1 In fact, if you play your cards right, a negative review is a great opportunity to promote customer confidence and gain a valuable learning experience. Let’s take a walk through what you should do when you get a negative review:

Never Publicly Argue with the Customer

We’ve all seen those viral posts of fed-up business owners unloading pithy retorts on customers who’ve left bad reviews and as satisfying as those can be to read, this is perhaps the worst course of action for you to take. While dunking on unreasonable customer reviews might be fun on a Buzzfeed post, you will end up looking petulant and indifferent to potential customers seeking an honest appraisal of your business. Studies have shown that 93% of customers read online reviews before purchasing a product or service2 which means that they are coming to Google or Yelp for information, not to witness an owner belittle an unsatisfied customer.

Even if the review is intentionally misleading or dishonest, it is incumbent upon you to offer a polite redress to the customer’s grievance. About 54% of consumers report paying special attention to extremely negative reviews3 which means that they will be paying attention to owner responses as well. Remember, most potential customers who are perusing online reviews won’t be able to spot bad faith criticism, but they will certainly notice a company that takes complaints seriously and offers practical solutions.

Talk to the Customer to Resolve the Dispute

Sometimes your business won’t live up to the expectations of your customers; it’s just the inevitability of human error. When a customer has a complaint, the best practice is not to simply attempt to rectify the problem but to do so with empathy and a charitable spirit. Studies have shown that customers respond positively to smiles and direct eye contact during in-person conflicts with company representatives4 and your aim as the business owner should be to approximate a smile and eye contact through your words.

When you are addressing a customer complaint, your response should indicate that you understand the source of their displeasure, that you are sorry, and that you have a sincere desire to set things right. Indicate that you would like to hear more about what went wrong and invite them to contact you directly. In this way, the aggrieved customer feels validated and outside observers see a reasonable business owner who cares about their customers.

Use This as a Learning Experience

A beneficial mindset to adopt is to think of reviews as individual data points that paint a picture of your business's reputation with the public. Positive reviews show you what you are doing right, and negative reviews show you where you can improve. If customers consistently remark positively about the quality of your product or service but gripe about the wait time and customer service, you know it’s time to step in and implement plans to streamline service. If one of your employees is frequently mentioned as being especially rude or incompetent, you have a pretty good picture of what customers like in their representatives. It doesn’t do you or your business any good to view negative reviews as anything other than areas where improvement is needed. Remember that a single star improvement on Yelp has been demonstrated to lead to a 5-9% increase in revenue5, so it is in your best interest to make the necessary changes to attract those glowing five-star reviews!

If you have any questions about social media and review strategies, get in touch with the experts here at Negative reviews can be a pain in the rear, but with the right team working alongside you they can become valuable tools for growing your business!



4 Li, J., Canziani, B. F., & Barbieri, C. (2018). Emotional labor in hospitality: Positive affective displays in service encounters. Tourism and Hospitality Research, 18(2), 242–253.



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