How to deal with negative reviews and feedback

27th Feb 2017

You may have driven by a car dealership and seen someone with a large sign, saying something like “Lemons Sold Here.” And everyone has certainly seen labor union strikers with signs, not to mention political protests. Sometimes, news media will cover these events, and protesters get publicity. The average consumer has traditionally not had a “loud” voice when they had a complaint or an issue with a business. Dealing with the company and hoping for a good result was the only recourse.

Times have changed, and as a business owner you know this. An unhappy customer can splatter his complaint anywhere – on review sites, on social media – to anyone who is looking.

So, what can you do when there are customer complaints and bad reviews? Here are some top tips that may help you repair the damage.

Don’t hide the complaints

Recently Airbnb was caught blocking poor reviews, and the company suffered as a result. This is a big mistake. You cannot get away with this, so do not try.  In this case, you miss an opportunity to respond publicly and to show that you are listening to your customers and that you want to do what is necessary to resolve their issues. This promotes trust and goodwill. You will never be able to keep up with negative comments – you cannot delete them from social media accounts and from review sites. You have to review them, respond appropriately, and resolve customer issues.

Respond immediately

You can use different tools to monitor your brand online and get notified whenever there’s certain action happening around it. When the sentiment is negative, try to respond as quickly as possible. When you do so, and contact that customer personally, that customer’s bad experience with your business can turn into a good one. Further, the chances are much better that the customer will post his good experience, following the bad.

Never respond with sarcasm or anger

Some businesses have made this mistake and paid dearly for it. Things tend to go viral quickly. Probably the most famous was that of Pigalle Restaurant in Boston, a high-end eating establishment. There are other less offensive examples, but this portrays just how low things can go when business owners react in anger.

Always, always, let your emotions dissipate before you respond. No matter how unfair the comment may be, you have to be the “adult in the room.”

Find ways to get positive reviews

One negative review can be devastating to a business. And it will take a number of positive reviews and comments on social media channels to offset that. But it can be done.

When customers are satisfied with your brand and your customer service, ask them to write a review or post something to their communities. They like to provide opinions, but they also like incentives to do so. You can offer discounts or other “freebies” in exchange for positive reviews.

One word of caution: Do not write “fake” reviews and do not get friends and relatives to write them either. You need to be ethical and the reviews and posts need to sound genuine. When you can get customers to post on their social media platforms, they have far more force, because they are believable.

Testimonials have to ring true

There is an entire industry now that will verify and certify testimonials for businesses. They verify that the individual is an actual customer, and that verification is posted along with the testimonial. Shopworx Business Software reported using this approach and how it instantly gave credibility to testimonials that they post on their sites, and foster trust. When negative content is out there, it helps to have testimonials that customers can believe.

See the benefit of bad reviews

This is a difficult “hurdle” for many business owners to get over. When they see bad reviews, the immediately go on the defensive and want to “prove” that the review is wrong. Rather than take that tack, read the review carefully, listen to your customers, and see what truth there is in the complaint. When you do this, you can evaluate your products/services and your customer service procedures and take steps to improve what you offer. This is always a good thing.

Your goal is to satisfy customers – you know that this is a long-term strategy. So, when you receive those negative reviews, evaluate them in terms of what you can make better for your customers and potential customers. Look at every negative comment as an opportunity to get better.


Saying “I’m sorry” has big benefits. If you have been in the wrong; if a customer has received poor service, it is important to acknowledge that with an apology and a promise to do better in the future. It is human nature to want to forgive, and you can use this trait to your favor. Just be certain that you then take the steps to rectify the problem and ask for a second chance.

You have worked hard to build your brand whether you're an author or an ecommerce store. You are an ethical business owner who wants to do right by your customers. Unfortunately, there will always be customers who have issues and who are not satisfied. Don’t ignore them. Take all of the steps you can to resolve their issues; admit when you are wrong; promise to do better; ask for reviews from satisfied customers; maintain your ethical practices. Over the long-term, you will thrive.

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