Don’t Lose Your Head Over Negative Online Reviews

Nothing can ruin your day like a bad online review. Your business is your baby and someone just called it ugly. You have spent so much time and effort cultivating your flawless online reputation and it has just been marred by a customer’s two-star review.  

Your first reaction may be to get angry – angry at the customer, angry at the employee blamed in the review, or angry at yourself. However, getting angry isn’t the best way to handle a negative online review. As difficult as it may be, you should be grateful to that unhappy customer. Grateful because they brought the issue to your attention and now you have the opportunity to fix it. This unhappy customer is a rarity - for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 others remain silent (White House Office of Consumer Affairs). It might be hard to swallow at the time, but you should be thankful when an unhappy customer leaves a review because it gives you the opportunity to step in and save the day.


Here’s five simple tips that you can follow to protect your online reputation and make sure that unhappy customer feels that their concerns are heard and appreciated:

1.      Don’t ignore it. In ignoring the unhappy customer and not addressing their negative review, your silence is saying that you don’t care about your customers. You need to ensure that customer feels heard by responding directly to their complaint. Giving them a call or sending them an email may seem like a good idea if you’re trying to keep the issue out of the public realm, but by keeping it private, other customers reading the review don’t know that you’ve addressed it and they don’t know that you care. Responding to the unhappy customer and trying to resolve their issue is key - when you resolve a complaint in the customer's favor, they will do business with you again 70% of the time (Lee Resources).

2.      Think it over. Responding to negative reviews in the moment is never a good idea. Your response is going to be public and could influence the purchase decisions of future customers. Get your feelings out by writing down your response and then sleep on it.

3.      Take ownership. If the customer is unhappy because their expectations were unreasonable, don’t take this opportunity to try and adjust their perspective. A defensive response won’t be viewed favorably by that customer, or others reading the review. Most customers just want to be listened to. An “I’m sorry” and an “I understand” can go a long way to resolving a bad customer experience.

4.      Keep control. It’s a great idea to establish a set of ground rules for who can respond to negative customer reviews.  If you’re going to delegate this responsibility, you need to ensure that the person(s) responsible understands the importance of customer feedback and how to respond appropriately.  If someone is responding to customer reviews on your behalf, you may want to have final approval before it’s posted.

5.      Be brief and thoughtful. Your response to the customer should acknowledge their complaint and provide a resolution. It should be personalized and you should never copy and paste the same response to multiple reviews. Canned responses are lazy and tell customers that you don’t care enough to spend a few minutes addressing their concerns.

According to a study by Fan & Fuel, 97% of customers factor online reviews into their purchasing decisions. Monitoring your online presence and responding to customer reviews is key to maintaining your online reputation. You should thank positive reviewers for taking the time to leave you a review, and respond to negative ones in the hopes that you can correct those. When you successfully resolve a service issue, be sure to close the loop and ask the customer to edit or remove their review.  Some customers may forget and it’s okay to remind them with an email or phone call follow-up. You want to reclaim that five-star reputation that you’ve worked so hard to earn!


Rodney Steele