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How Should You Deal with Negative Online Reviews?

By: Susan Melony


How to Handle Negative Reviews Online

Online customer reviews make shopping and other experiences much easier on the part of the consumer. You can find in-depth reviews for anything you’re thinking about buying. Of course, you have to wade through fake reviews sometimes, including both the good and the bad.

On the businesses side of things, customer reviews can have a lot of benefits as well. When customers can read other people’s reviews, they’re more likely to feel confident to make a purchase. Reviews improve your conversion rate and can help customers trust you.

What happens when the reviews are bad, though?

There is any number of reasons you might get a bad review online. Maybe your return process is too hard, the product was faulty, or shipping was slow. It can also be a customer service issue.

Regardless of the specifics of your industry or the review, how can you appropriately handle bad reviews?


If you take nothing else away from this guide, remember that you should always respond to negative reviews. Responding to negative reviews, when done strategically, can positively impact your business.

Don’t delete them either.

Customers tend to view companies that only have glowing reviews with more suspicion than ones that have a negative review here and there.

Respond as quickly as you reasonably can to negative feedback.

You don’t necessarily have to offer a solution right away, but you need to acknowledge that you see the customer’s feedback and you’re going to look into it. You want to address any negative feedback with a sense of urgency.

Interestingly, if you still aren’t sure about the importance of response, data indicates that 33% of negative Yelp reviews become positive when the business takes the time to respond.

When you’re initially answering publicly, be thoughtful in your reply, even though you’re doing it quickly. Answer honestly as well.

Customize Every Response

A custom response goes even further to show that you hear your customers. Canned responses can be faster to post, but they’re not as impactful and meaningful.

In your response, be empathetic and polite, even if the original feedback was nasty.

Don’t get personal, attack or retaliate when you’re creating your response, as difficult as it might be to avoid.

Go Private for Your Follow-Up

A public apology is what you do for your brand and reputation. Then, once you’ve done that, you want to determine what went wrong privately. You can reach out to the complaining customer by phone, email, or on social media through direct message.

Correct the Wrong

Not every situation where someone complains will require you to take action beyond acknowledging it and apologizing, but some might.

If you do think there’s something you can do to correct the situation, and you owe that to the customer, you might want to include it in your public feedback as well also that customers know you took the situation seriously and did remedy it.

For example, you could indicate the steps you took to fix the problem and publicly let the customer know that you contacted them directly and privately.

Correcting the wrong can depend on what the customer is unhappy about.

If a customer didn’t like their product, maybe you offer an alternative if you have one.

If there was an issue with customer service or delivery, you might talk to them personally and assure them you’re taking steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Suppose the bad review comes from your business’s particular policy, like a return policy. In that case, you can respond and emphasize your policy and let them know to contact your customer service team and see if any other action is available. That at least takes the complaint offline.

Follow Up

Once you feel a resolution has been put in place for whatever led to the bad review, you should follow up with the customer to make sure they agree. In some cases, it’s possible to change a bad review into a good one with the right steps.

Focus on Getting More Reviews

One of the things you can do to offset the perception of a bad review is simply focusing on getting more. The more positive reviews you can get, the better it is for your brand image, and the more it can frame your business in a good light.

It’s normal to have a few bad reviews, but if you mostly have glowing reviews, that’s what’s going to help customers truly learn more about your business.

Encourage your customers proactively to leave reviews whenever you get the opportunity.

What Not to Do

As important as what you do to handle negative feedback is what you don’t do.

First, don’t ignore it. As we’ve mentioned, ignoring a review is the number one worst thing you can do. Along with making the customer increasingly angry when you don’t respond, taking this approach will also make other customers or would-be customers wonder if there’s something to the negative feedback. You’ll seem like you don’t care.

Don’t get defensive, no matter how angry the criticism makes you. Remember, many bad reviews can be used to strengthen your business, but then there are completely unproductive ones, and you still have to deal with them accordingly.

You don’t want to be seen as a hot-headed business owner who can’t handle criticism, so you have to stay calm and apologetic even if you were in the right.

Finally, don’t let yourself get into an online battle. You might initially respond in a prompt, positive way, and the person could keep complaining. There’s nothing you can do at that point, and once you’ve responded, you’ve done your part.

If the person is set on trolling or battling with you, it’s something you have to walk away from so you don’t look petty.

Know when to call it quits on an online conversation that no longer serves a purpose, and view reviews through the lens of being something that provides you with important business feedback and the opportunity to directly connect with customers.

Published: April 3, 2022

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