Online Criticism: How Businesses Should Respond

A person has left a terrible review on your restaurant, or voiced a complaint on your business’s Facebook page, how should you respond to this online criticism? As it is said online it is an extremely public forum and can reflect badly on your business if it is not handled correctly. The goal is to de-escalate the situation and to be helpful, not angry and defensive!

Don’t React

As Kami Huyse says, it is super important to take a deep breath after reading a negative comment online. Stop. Think about a reply, if your reply is still reactionary and not level headed, do not post it. Give yourself some time to calm down or get some advice from another. Only reply to online criticism when you can be calm and collected.


Explain the process, what are you going to do after this messaging session? Will you pass their complaints onto the relevant person, can you fix or sort out their problem for them? Make sure that they know that you will be taking action and that their complaint was received or will be received by someone.

To learn more about social media for business, check out these blogs

Listen Well

You need to listen to what the person is saying, even if what you think what they are saying is wrong. Sometimes just being heard and acknowledged can be enough for some unhappy customers. Do not try and argue the point with them as this could escalate quickly and it is easy to lose the run of yourself.

Be Prompt

Do try and be prompt with your reply. Try not to leave it months and months like this elevator company, which prompted this tweet. I sure hope she’s not still in that elevator seven months later!

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>This may be the worst customer service response time ever: <a href=”"></a></p>&mdash; Yoni Mernick (@OriginalYoni) <a href=”">September 8, 2016</a></blockquote>
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Be Open

Try and be open as you may learn something valuable about your business. Be able to listen to and hear criticism, if they have this particular problem, then maybe other customers have it too. Think of it as free consumer research on your business, and implement necessary changes needed to your business that were highlighted by the online criticism. It is better that they are engaging and having a response to you, even if it is negative. Any response is better than the alternative according to Susannah Breslin from Forbes.

Avoid Being a Robot

Remember that people like to talk to people not corporate machines. Use human and accessible language, relate to the person who has the complaint. Do not use some stuffy stock answer to reply to their complaint. It is also a good idea to use your name at the end of the reply so that the customer knows they are speaking to a person.

Take It Offline

Take the discussion offline if you can. Settling the online criticism face to face instead makes it a lot more amicable and less easy to get wires crossed. Messaging can leave a lot open to interpretation. Tone is impossible to read. Can you tell hundred percent of the time whether someone is being sarcastic or genuine? I can get the wrong end of the stick a lot, especially as I over think seemingly innocent messages, so an in-person meet up usually resolves the issue beautifully.

Don’t Delete

Try not to delete the comment that someone has posted. Doing this can lead to a snowball effect of lots of angry messages and allegations of not being transparent. Instead of one comment, you could be looking at a lot more online criticism and a big headache in maintaining your company’s reputation!

Hope this was helpful. Why not say hello to me on social media? Click on the my name to connect!