Reputation Management - How to respond to a bad review

Believe it or not, it’s important to handle negative reviews with the same level of professionalism, timeliness, gratitude and attention as you would give to a positive review. How you respond to a negative review impacts not only the reviewer, but all the sets of eyes that come afterward. Seeing a business handle a particularly challenging or derisive review online suggests that management is proud of their business, and willing to listen.

Make potential clients see the light with these four steps: apologize, promote, get offline, keep it simple.

How To Respond to a Negative Review

Apologize & Sympathize

The first step towards fixing a problem is acknowledging that one occurred. A simple apology, and sympathy towards your customer’s experience goes a long way. When thinking about how to respond to negative reviews, it’s important to also think about what factors came together to result in this negative experience. Set your pride aside and listen, while you may not know it at the time, this is likely an opportunity.

Empathy can be hard when we feel attacked, especially as a business owner. It might feel like an attack, and that’s a normal human way to feel, but you can shift this perspective through listening and recognizing the opportunity presented with a negative review. Put yourself in their shoes, listen and seek to understand. Then Acknowledge and validate their voice. Simply let them know that you are listening and they have been heard


One thing we often tell our clients is that a business without a negative review is often met with innate skepticism. Don’t beat yourself up. You’re only human and if it was easy to be perfect everyone would have a thriving business from day one. Speaking of “only being human”, now is a great chance to show that your business is a person two. Don’t focus on your shortcomings but rather your ability to grow and learn – you know, like people do.

Instead I want you to recognize the opportunity. The theatre is dim, the spotlight is on you and now you have an opportunity to set the stage. Let’s say you’re a salon and a customer recently had a less-than-perfect ombre and left you a negative review. The next part of your response now that you have acknowledged the review,  is by taking the chance to promote the very service that is being slandered.

“This is really a shock to hear, and I’m glad you brought it to my attention. You see, Ombre’s are often one of our most coveted services here at my salon and customers have had nothing but good things to say…”

If your business is facing a major PR crisis, it’s best to determine the severity of the issue an rectify it as soon as possible. This could mean termination of an employee, mandatory cultural sensitivity courses, or probation. Whatever the outcome is, it must match up to the current issue at hand. No one wants to feel like they’ve been served injustice, so make sure that whichever way you decide to handle a bad review that can end up being a PR disaster, it not only rectifies  the problem but appeases your irate customer as well.

Move The Conversation Offline.

Remember that this is just a RESPONSE to a negative review, this is not supposed to be a two way conversation. On Google reviews, you only get one response and your client doesn’t get a rebuttal. However on Facebook a review or recommendation can turn into a thread and you want to avoid that at all cost.

 Not all issues can be resolved. Depending on your particular business you can be faced with an epidemic of what we refer to in the industry as “Chronic Complainers” – this is common in salons, restaurants, and other service based retail services. It’s also the reason an active reputation management campaign is in place. With our reputation management campaigns we design automated workflows that keep your negative reviews offline and prompt your happy customers to get off their butts and leave you a positive review.

Keep It Simple

Avoid asking for specifics, as well as questions. These conversations are much better served in a space away from the prying public. One reason why we keep it simple when we respond to negative reviews is because you don’t want the whole world thinking you’re a pushover and if they complain they get this or that as a result. Rewarding negative reviewers is never our intention but reparations will need to be made.

Final Thoughts!

Once you have followed these 4 guidelines on how to respond to a negative review the easy part is dealt with. Now all you have to do is the heavy lifting behind the stage. For instance, when your client actually reaches out to you as you’ve asked them to do.

Remember that your goal here is two-fold. First, save a relationship and protect your business from the loss of your customers lifetime value, and secondly, have that negative review removed and turn it into a positive one.

Being a humble business owner can be hard sometimes, as you put great pride into your business. However, sometimes our pride has to be checked at the door. Bill Gates always comes to mind when I work with clients who are faced with the stress that comes with how to respond to a negative review. I always tell them this:

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

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