A negative reviewCustomers can now leave feedback about your company, business or brand on line in various review sites like Yelp, Google Maps, Twitter, etc.. There are many social media monitoring tools that allow an organization to listen for this feedback but what should a business do when they have negative reviews?

Why should a business have a strategy for handling negative reviews?

Consumers and businesses use the web and their mobile phones to make decisions about who they want to do business with. The existence of negative reviews on the web and mobile sites can seriously impact an organization’s reputation and make the acquisition and retention of customers difficult. A strategy for handling negative reviews needs to include listening  to customers and deciding what to respond to, what not to respond to and how to respond.

What you do when negative reviews start appearing will be seen by customers and prospects in various ways. Here are some reactions clients and consumers could have to negative reviews.

1. The company is out of touch and doesn’t know what customers are thinking about them.

2. The company is arrogant and doesn’t care.

3. The organization is listening.

4. The business is listening and trying to make things right.

5. This place has turned their problems around and seem to be much better now.

What is a Negative Review?

A negative review can be a tweet on Twitter, a written comment on review sites like Yelp, Google Maps, Urbanspoon, Trip Advisor, and complaints at sites like complaint.com, Better Business Bureau, even a comment left on your own website like Sidewiki. It can be a video posted on one of the many video posting sites,  a blog post with or without pictures, or it can be a ‘dislike’ on Facebook. But whatever medium it is, if it can be indexed by the search engines, it will be on line forever.

How to handle Negative Reviews?

1. Don’t panic. The odd negative review shows you are more ‘real’ than other companies. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. One bad review is not going to harm you.

2. Analyze the complaints in the negative review. Look at the facts being discussed. Are they valid?

a. How many complaints are you getting?

b. Are they talking about the same subjects? If so,

c. Are you getting some positive reviews? What are the positive reviews talking about? These are elements of your product or service that you want to emphasize and ensure they endure.

3. If some complaints are valid, take action to review root causes and fix the issues that caused the complaint.

4. Ensure you continue to excel at the positive elements of your reviews.

5. Consider if you want to respond to the  individual user. Here’s an example of a video response from a Domino Pizza franchise owner. Not everyone is going to go to that extent but the video has been watched over 18,000 times and the positive publicity may be worth the effort.

6. If possible, contact the person who complained and see if you can find a way to correct the problem. If you are successful, ask the person to communicate using the same mechanism that they their problem was resolved

7. If you cannot contact the person, consider if a public apology is appropriate and issue one, in the same ‘electronic media’ that the complaint was made and perhaps in the media as well.

8. It is possible to contact the host of the complaint (e.g. the complaint site) and ask them to remove the offending review. This is useful if you believe the negative review is false and is posted by a competitor or a disgruntled employee and it is impossible to trace back to the owner. This may be hard to do as the owner of the site doesn’t know who to believe.

9. Promote positive reviews. The more positive reviews about you on the web, the less influence a few bad reviews has. Advise your customers how to leave a review about you. Not everyone knows about review sites and how to use them.

What to do if all else fails?

After analyzing negative reviews, taking appropriate remedial action with the customer and the problem, if there is an attack going on against your firm, consider hiring a Reputation Management organization and / or getting the assistance of a legal firm.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

3 Responses to “Customer Satisfaction Tip: How to handle a Negative Review”

  1. Ted Paff Says:

    Adele, great post – thanks!

    One of the best ways I have found to turn a negative review into a positive statement about the business is simply to reply with what process/procedure you (the recipient of the bad review) have put in place to make sure this doesn’t happen to future clients.

  2. Adele Says:


    Thanks for your suggestion. It’s a good one.


  3. Alan Weaser Says:

    A very interesting article. It may be of interest that as our automated customer surveys (http://virtuatel.com) are taking place immediately after the call centre ofr web event, we use proactive client alerts, sent to “triage” staff who immediatly respond to customer issues.

    Those clients addopting such a process find that advocacy or NPS scores improve by 10-15% within 3 months.

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