How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

It’s a hard fact of doing business in the modern era: Bad reviews happen.

And they’re painful. After all, you’ve put countless hours and energy into your business — reading the negative things people say about it on Yelp, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor or Facebook can deliver a blow to the spirit.

What’s a business owner to do?

The bad news is that most review sites won’t remove a negative review unless you have solid proof that it is intentionally malicious or false. If that’s the case, it’s worth a try to contact the site and go through their removal process.

Otherwise? You’re stuck with it on your profile. But before you let that upset you, remember that getting a negative review can be a positive experience — if you deal with it in the right way.

Remember: It’s not about you

It’s important not to let bad reviews ruin your day. They’re not necessarily a critique of your business, or of yourself.

Instead, think of negative reviews as a gift.

On the one hand, your company or product may not have been a good fit for the reviewer. If so, their negative review will be a sign to others what they should expect from an experience with your company. It may help others make a more informed decision about your business, or alert you to new ways you should be positioning your company or product.

On the other hand, if the reviewer is indeed your target customer and did have a bad experience, their review is an opportunity for you to improve your services and do an even better job in the future.

Address the reviewer’s complaint

Most review sites have features which allow business owners to join the conversation and interact with reviewers. This can be a powerful way to let others know your side of the story, or even make amends.

This can be very tricky, however. An angry business owner’s tirade in response to a negative review never helps. It only calls more attention to the review, and can even turn off potential customers who wouldn’t have been bothered by the review in the first place.

When responding to a negative review, be as calm and professional as possible. Don’t issue a non-apology, like “I’m sorry you were offended by our wait times.” That only comes off as arrogant, and will do more to hurt your case than help it.

Instead, react with humility and offer to remedy the situation. You might offer them a free service or coupon. As a bonus, if the reviewer accepts your offer they may consider revising their review.

There’s a phenomenon called the service recovery paradox, which is when a positive recovery after a poor initial experience can cause the level of customer satisfaction and loyalty become even greater than if no service failure had happened. In other words, if you do a stellar job in making amends, you may win a loyal customer for life.

Encourage more positive reviews

People expect to see a certain amount of negative reviews when they search for a business — a small percentage won’t necessarily turn off a potential customer.

You can lessen the impact of those reviews even more by increasing the number of positive reviews you get on your site. Make it a habit to encourage happy customers to leave good reviews:

  • Ask whenever a customer tells you in person how much they liked your product or service.
  • Include an ask for reviews in the closing process for your salespeople, cashiers, or servers.
  • Use signage around your location.
  • Send out newsletters, or make the ask in social media.

The truth is, someone who’s had a good experience with your company is less motivated to search out your site and make a review than someone who’s had a negative experience. You need to remind them to do so.

Want to learn more? Here’s how to get your best customers to sing your praises.

If you take these steps when dealing with a negative review, you can turn the experience into a positive one for both yourself and your customers.

How do you deal with negative reviews on your business? What have you found to work the best?