Steps to Take When Someone Leaves a Negative Review

Published On: 1 April 2022

It happens to the best of us. You go out of your way to offer top-quality products and the best customer service possible…but that one person who wasn’t happy is obviously the one who makes it known online.

Every business owner dreads getting a negative review, but it’s really not the end of the world. By responding to a bad review in the right way, you can make the most out of a difficult situation, or at the very least prevent it from causing damage to your reputation.

Whether it’s on Facebook, Google or another online review site, here’s what to do if someone leaves a negative online review for your business:

1. Respond publicly to the review – don’t ignore it

Let’s be real, Who likes to confront conflict head-on? Not us! It can be tempting to simply ignore a bad review.

Like it or not, it’s far better to address a bad review directly than ignore it and hope it just goes away or nobody notices. A negative review that receives an empathetic, professional response will always come off far better than one that goes unrecognized.

In most cases, a reader will see it as a positive sign that you’ve taken the time to respond to your customers and are taking action to address their concerns. At the very least, they can see both sides of the story and make their own judgement of the review.

Some tips on how to write an effective response to a negative review:
  • Address them by name (or username) to help your response feel more personal.
  • Be empathetic; acknowledge their feelings and apologize for what they’ve experienced.
  • Don’t just copy and paste a standardized response, customize your response to each review.
  • Be professional; don’t respond with insults or inappropriate language.
  • If exceptional circumstances were to blame, such as an unexpected staffing shortage, you may want to share some context to help them understand the situation.
  • State what you’re doing to prevent their negative experience from happening again.
  • Ask for their contact information, or provide your own, to continue the conversation privately to ensure a proper resolution.

Often, when customers go out of their way to leave a negative review, they just want to be heard. They want you to acknowledge their experience and get a bit of sympathy for how they’re feeling.

Your response may be the only thing that comes out of their review, but often that’s enough to satisfy them. Even if they’re not happy, a proper response can prevent, or limit, any damage done to your reputation.

Believe it or not, sometimes a negative review or two can even make you seem more authentic! A perfect 5-star rating can sometimes seem a bit too good to be true. Readers might suspect some are fake, or that you only gather reviews from your best customers. We’d never celebrate a bad review, but if you think of them in this way, it’s a small silver lining.

If a review is particularly slanderous, the customer leaves excessive negative comments or they give a completely false representation of the situation, you may want to consult a lawyer. This, however, should only be done in the most damaging or extreme situations that go beyond simply sharing a poor experience.

2. Reach out to the customer privately

As we’ve mentioned above, it can be a good idea to continue the discussion with the customer privately. Either provide them with your contact information, find theirs in your customer records or reach out directly to the profile they posted the review with.

This is a good opportunity to gain a full understanding of their experience, either to clear up miscommunication or get the full information you need to make improvements for the future.

This could also be a good opportunity to compensate them for the negative experience with your business. If appropriate, consider a discount on future purchases, arranging for a product exchange, setting up a follow-up visit to address problems with a service you performed or even a partial or full refund depending on the circumstances.

Again, even if the customer doesn’t take you up on your offer to communicate, publicly offering this can come across well to other people reading your reviews by showing that you are responsive to customer concerns.

A little bit of communication (or compensation!) can go a long way toward addressing concerns and preventing damage to your reputation.

3. Consider asking them to remove or update their review

If you’ve been able to come to a satisfactory resolution with the customer, consider asking them to change or remove their negative review. You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to do this if you’ve addressed their concerns.

Not all customers are willing to take this extra step and what they can do will depend on the platform, but it never hurts to ask.

Once again, even if you can’t take away that original review, having other customers see how you handled the situation can help you come across as a responsive and caring company that is worthy of their business.


What to do if you think a review is fake

Unfortunately, fake online reviews are a thing that some companies have to deal with. It is a tactic sometimes used to damage a company’s reputation or negatively impact its local SEO rankings.

Whether it’s dirty tricks from a competitor or an online troll simply looking to cause some trouble, this can have serious impacts on your business’s online reputation.

If you suspect a review is fake, you should respond just as you would to any other negative review (see above!). If you have sufficient proof (such as cross-referencing customer records or if you know they work for a competitor), you should acknowledge this fact in your review.

Unfortunately, responding to a fake review won’t change the impact it has on your overall ratings. It will, however, alert other customers that the review is false. Hopefully, between your response and seeing all of your other fantastic reviews, they won’t take it seriously and will continue to be, or become, a customer.

Most sites will offer some form of removal or reporting system for false reviews. The process will vary by platform and may take some time, but if you’ve been impacted by false reviews this is an avenue worth investing some time into.

Some business owners get nervous about opening up their online profiles to reviews in case they receive negative or fake ones. While, unfortunately, this does happen from time to time, the benefits for your SEO rankings and overall reputation are almost always far greater than the risks.

If you do receive a negative online review, follow the tips above to respond in the most professional and effective way possible to address customer concerns and prevent damage to your online reputation.

Still stuck? Give the digital marketing experts at The Design Thinking Agency a call and we’ll give you a hand in managing your online reputation and making the most of your Google My Business and social media profiles.