How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews


When you’re running a small business, negative online reviews can be detrimental, especially in the beginning. According to a survey conducted by BrightLocal, more than two-thirds of potential customers form their opinion of a business just after reading four reviews.

Businesses are often terrified of ratings less than five stars. It’s important to understand that no matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to please everyone, so a negative review is inevitable; as your business grows, you’re going to see more of them. However, you can use this feedback to improve your business, and use it as an opportunity to showcase your customer service. You just need to learn how to turn a bad review into a positive action.

The Bad Reinforces the Good

It’s easy to get in a funk over a bad Yelp review, but that doesn’t mean your business is bad. If everyone who received a bad review packed up and quit, e-commerce wouldn’t be a thing. The customer’s negative experience might’ve been the result of any number of factors: a misunderstanding, mismatched expectations, or just an off day for either the reviewer or the business.

But believe it or not, bad reviews can actually be good for your business. For one, they shed even more positive light on good reviews you’ve received; the majority of consumers trust reviews more when they see a mix of good and bad ones. If all your feedback is positive, consumers become suspicious and are more likely to assume the reviews are fake or company-screened. When a business displays all its reviews, both positive and negative, it shows that the company has nothing to hide. A few negative comments don’t matter, as long as the majority of customers enjoyed the product or service.


Don’t ignore a negative review. Try to respond within 24 hours, and in a professional manner. When customers take the time to leave a complaint, they expect an answer quickly. Instead of writing a long paragraph full of excuses or denying that your company was in the wrong, own up to whatever the complaint is and apologize – even if it’s not your fault. At the very least, say you’re sorry that the customer feels the way they do. Most times, it’s good to keep your response brief, especially if you think the conversation might get messy. Request to get in touch via email or by phone to talk about the issue and include contact info with your response; it will look authentic and not like you just copied and pasted in a prewritten apology.

Make Good

People like to see a business that cares about its customers’ opinions, so the best way to handle a negative situation is to handle it. Offer to fix the issue or propose a special deal or discount and follow through on the promise. JetBlue is a prime example of success due to its focus on customer service. The airline is renowned for its timely responses and addressing customers on social media, and at the same time, using it as a means to promote the company and bolster its image. According to Walmart’s senior director of digital communication, Chat Mitchell, responding to reviews means that, “Best case scenario, we’re able to engage, share some content and change hearts and minds… Worst case, we’re able to have an open dialogue and then move on, agreeing to disagree.”

A Lesson Learned

You not only need to follow up with customers, but also use these reviews to adjust your overall business model, especially taking customer service into consideration. The first step is to look for patterns. If a number of customers have the same complaint, it’s probably not them – it’s you. In that case, apologize and do whatever needs to be done to fix the issue and improve your business.

Negative reviews can do some damage to your confidence, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your business. If you’re offering a great product or service and most people think it’s great, it probably is, and you don’t have to worry about the few individuals that had a bad experience – it’s not going to cause any severe damage to your business. When handled correctly, it can actually make you look better and help build your business’s image.


Helen Jacob | Contributing Writer



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