Howto, Marketing Tip, Reviews

Is there a good way to deal with a bad online review for your business? 😮

We all know that good customer reviews can take our business places. But just like everything else in this world, reviews also have a mean, devil-horned side: A negative review!

Whenever a negative review appears, you panic, you get angry, you try to not feel bad about it, but do you actually know how to deal with it?

*Interesting fact to set the background of the blog*

Do you know why some people choose your business while some don’t? Researchers from Harvard explained what’s at the back of their minds. I bet you won’t believe what they have to say!


Your customer’s decision to pick or not pick you is influenced by these three things:

  • What they already know of your business.
  • What you tell them in ads and marketing.
  • What they learn from reviews.

It’s called the Influence Mix [New scientific term alert!] a situation where different factors balance each other’s effect. Think of it like this: If you’re wearing a fabulous dress to a party, it might be okay if you don’t have the perfect hair-do. The other guests might just miss your hair and still think that you look great! 

What does this mean for you?

While marketing your business and creating a brand value is important, having a good online reputation is equally important. So, even if you fall short on the other two factors, one way to easily make up for them is by having a lot of great online reviews about your business. 

1. Are reviews really that important? 🤔

Well, the stats from Moz say so:

  • They can get you business!


  • They can take it from you too!

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I know what you’re thinking. Whooaaa! Are those numbers for real?

Absolutely. People will tell. They’ll tell others about their customer service experiences, both good and bad, with the bad news reaching more ears. It is famously known as the Multiplier Effect.

Americans say they tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and nearly twice as many (16 people) about poor ones — making every individual service interaction important for businesses. We might not be the ones to kiss and tell, but we’ll absolutely rant about a bad business.

  • Moreover, with the launch of Reserve with Google, an online search and book platform for services, reviews have become even more important. Customers can now search for a service and see business listings with their reviews and book a service right from Google search. Click here to learn more!

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But it’s okay. Getting a bad review isn’t the end of the world.

Don’t take it personally. Maybe the bad review was because the customer was simply having a bad day. Roger Gil, MAMFT, a behavioural scientist, suggests that one of the most common ways that stress in people manifests itself is displaced anger.

Or maybe your business wasn’t a good fit for the customer. In case it was, the bad review transforms into a very precious feedback. Learn from it and take it as constructive criticism. Try not to repeat the same mistake again. Customer satisfaction should be your preference.

2. The positives of a negative review 🌤

  • A negative review means not having a shining 5-star rating. But that’s actually a good thing. People don’t expect businesses to be perfect. They expect them to be real. And real things aren’t perfect!


  • Businesses screw up. It happens. But when it happens, an interesting opportunity opens up: if you handle it well, you can actually build a stronger relationship with the customer than you had before.
  • Negative reviews evoke trust by making your business look more human. A few bad reviews among the good ones actually add a human element to your business. A bad review of your company is a little piece of honesty… and we all know what honesty leads to; Trust!

A few bad reviews in the mix are simply more realistic.

3. Addressing a negative review. The Absolute NOs. 🚫

  • Trying to take them down

Why? Because it seems a little, well, rude. Moreover, consider this: those who are savvy enough to write a Facebook review likely know of the myriad places where they can write a review online including your website, Twitter, and many others. If they wrote on the windows of your virtual storefront, you would quickly remove it. Your Facebook page is one of the windows of your virtual storefront. Apart from that, it’s actually unethical and illegal. Reputed platforms like Yelp are really sensitive about it.

“if we allowed companies to pay to hide their bad reviews, our users would catch on pretty quickly and eventually stop using the site.  They would wonder why the highest rated mechanic was ripping them off.  Or why the five-star dentist routinely bungled their insurance.  Or why the top restaurant had horrible service and even worse food.”

-Laurence Wilson, Deputy General Counsel at Yelp

  •  Ignoring them

On SiteJabber, businesses that respond to reviews have an 86% higher rating compared to those that ignore them. Also, negative reviews on social media can go viral pretty fast. This means that companies have to get on board fast or risk the wrath of their unhappy customers’ complaints and criticisms going viral. 

  •  Being rude or impolite:

The ‘I’ll show you!’ approach. You feel the complaint in the negative review is unjustified or, for whatever reason, it makes you angry and you can’t help but respond with an angry or defensive comment. Hold back. Don’t do that. It will only worsen the condition. For obvious reasons, enraging an already angered customer is a bad idea. 

The Hairdresser’s Rant Fiasco

After paying £360 for hair extensions and a cut and blow dry, Janice Khoo was unhappy with the result and posted a complaint on the salon’s Facebook page.

What happened next left her lost for words as the hairdresser, Drew Carlton, replied with a torrent of abuse.

Later, Mrs Khoo was offered an apology and full refund from the salon owner.

Read more here.

  • Responding right away

Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group says this is a bad practice for one simple reason. Your immediate impulse is to return fire. Don’t do it. Back slowly away from the keyboard and collect your thoughts. Getting a negative review is a sensitive situation and has to be dealt with a lot of caution and strategy. There are more chances of getting things wrong if your customer thinks his review isn’t being acknowledged well.

4. Your step-by-step guide to addressing a negative review 📖

  • Keep yourself calm.

    Relax. Go back to the starting of this blog and remember why is it okay to get a negative review. Repeat. Don’t take it personally.

  • Don’t respond instantly.

    But be prompt. Plan your strategy. This probably sounds straightforward, but to avoid an emotional and less effective response, it’s helpful to create a plan before taking any action.

If possible, respond within 48 hours. When a business responds in this time frame and addresses the customer’s concerns, reviewers will often either delete their reviews or even bump you up to a 5-star rating if they are really happy with the outcome.

  • Reply publicly and professionally.

Show everyone your side of the story. You should respond publicly, whether on the review platform where your customer posted, or in a comment on their blog, or in response to their social media post. This will leave an impression on your other customers that you care. Also, highlight your opinion on the problem in the reply so that everyone can look at the review from a different perspective.

  • Apologise.

The customer might update their review. Sometimes all a customer needs to know to want to return to your place is that your business cares.

A Nail Lounge’s Apology Story 

Kréme de la Kréme Nail Lounge is the recipient of dozens of positive reviews on Yelp. Angela T., the business owner, takes the time out to thank Yelpers who put in these good words for her. Whenever a bad review comes along – like this one from a honeymooning reviewer – Angela T. responds, too, in a way that just shows how seriously she takes her customers’ comments and critiques.


Here’s Angela’s reply:


Be polite and don’t make excuses or defend. But that response should be an apology for how they feel, and a request for an opportunity to make things right. One of the examples of this as mentioned on the Groove blog,  is the way that Gary Vaynerchuk responds to nearly every negative review of his books on Amazon. Here’s a one-star review from a customer clearly unhappy about his purchase:


And here’s Gary’s response (note the complete lack of defending himself or his book):


  • Send a private message too.

    Many customers only want to communicate via private messages and will refuse to respond to you publicly, so it’s important to respond to them both privately and publicly. Your private message can elaborate on more details than you may want to discuss publicly, especially if your company deals with confidential information or services.

A Famous Walt Disney approach to handling bad reviews: H.E.A.R.D.


This technique pioneered by the Walt Disney Company, a business that hosts 135 million people in their parks each year, many of them angry parents that have to answer to even angrier five-year-olds.

  • Hear: Let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Sometimes, we just want someone to listen.
  • Empathise: Convey that you deeply understand how the customer feels. Use phrases like “I’d be frustrated, too.”
  • Apologise: As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologise enough. Even if you didn’t do whatever made them upset, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your customer feels (e.g., I’m always sorry that a customer feels upset).
  • Resolve: Resolve the issue quickly, or make sure that your employees are empowered to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer: “what can I do to make this right?”
  • Diagnose: Get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone; focus on fixing the process so that it doesn’t happen.

    5. How to do damage control? 🔧

  • Drown the negative reviews in positive ones.

People at Groove believe in this approach. After a negative review is posted they immediately address the problem and work towards making their service better. This leads to more people writing better reviews for the business impressed by the good response. Every positive review will take the sting out of a negative one that you might have. Ten positive reviews and one negative review might give a customer pause, but with 100 positive reviews, even ten negative reviews aren’t such a big deal.

  • Leverage the power of other social media sites.

The idea is not to stop just at leveraging the power of just one social media site. Broaden your horizon from the site where the review was originally posted.

Cute Chef’s Awesome Youtube Idea

The chief of Seastar Seafood Restaurant and Raw Bar, after getting a bad review is able to expand their reach and show not just Yelpers, but YouTubers too, just how much they value their customers’ comments and feedback.

Check it out by clicking the link below the screenshot


Chef John Howie responds to Yelp reviews

By adding a video element to the responses, Seastar Seafood Restaurant and Raw Bar is also able to humanise their brand and lend a face – a personality – that existing and prospecting customers can identify or at least engage with. Having the chef himself respond to the reviews, moreover, establishes the credibility and authority of the responses.

6. Conclusion

Being real is the key

People are not looking for perfection online. What they’re really looking for is humanity and a genuine response, so a negative review can be a great opportunity to respond in a positive and transparent manner. And that has a good impact on all your customers.


Focus on the problem, not the result

Moreover, a negative review is nothing but an impact of the real problem. Rather than focussing on getting the review deleted or amended, take action to solve the underlying problem. This will help you deliver service that your customers will love.


Ever had such issues while handling negative reviews? Let us know in the comments below. We love a good talk.