The Best Way to Handle Bad Online Reviews

Bad online reviews — justified or not — are inevitable, but you have a lot of control over how things play out from there

The Best Way to Handle Bad Online Reviews

As a business owner, you can’t help but smile when people tell you how much they appreciate your services. By the same token, however, it’s rough to hear from people whose experience with your business was suboptimal. Negative online reviews can be especially frustrating — and even hurtful.

It’s important to remember that bad reviews, posted to sites like Yelp, Facebook, or Google, don’t just impact your personal feelings. They can sink your online reputation, and cause you to lose business. Thus, you can’t just ignore bad reviews. It’s important to know how to respond to them constructively.

The right response

Here are some steps to follow to ensure you’re properly responding to negative online feedback.

  • First, practice vigilance. You can’t respond to negative reviews if you don’t even know those negative reviews are out there. Be aware of any sites where your company gets feedback, and develop a habit of checking your reviews regularly.
  • Practice gratitude. When you see positive reviews, always take a moment to leave a quick thank-you.
  • Don’t lash out. When you see a negative review — especially one that strikes you as unfair — it’s only natural to get angry. However, responding from a place of rage will only make things worse. Take a few hours or maybe even a couple of days to cool off before you do anything else. Maintaining your composure is key.
  • Apologize. Even if you don’t think you did anything wrong, show some humility by telling the customer how sorry you are that they had a bad experience.
  • Offer customer service. Try to make things right, ensuring that everyone reading the review knows you’re taking it seriously. You might offer a discount on future work, a partial refund or a redo of the project — whatever makes the most sense in the circumstances. Seize every negative review as an opportunity to show customers how much you care, and how much you want them to have a positive experience.
  • Take things offline. Whenever possible, get the reviewer to either email or call you so that you can work things out one-on-one, rather than hashing it out in public.
  • Know when to move on. Frankly, there are some people who just can’t be pleased and simply want to complain. If your offers of customer service fall on deaf ears, you may need to walk away from the situation and resign yourself to a bad review. At the end of the day, you can’t force anyone to take down his or her negative opinion.
  • Actively seek positive reviews. The best way to deal with bad reviews is to make sure positive ones crowd them out. Don’t be passive. Actually ask your customers for reviews. Leave links to your review profiles on invoices and in emails. Reach out to loyal customers directly and let them know how much a quick, positive review would mean to you.

Bad reviews happen to most businesses sooner or later, so make sure you know the best ways to deal with them positively and proactively. 

About the Author 
Amanda E. Clark is the president and editor-in-chief of Grammar Chic, a full-service professional writing company. She is a published ghostwriter and editor, and she's currently under contract with literary agencies in Malibu, California and Dublin. Since founding Grammar Chic in 2008, Clark, along with her team of skilled professional writers, has offered expertise to clients in the creative, business, and academic fields. The company accepts a wide range of projects; often engages in content and social media marketing; and drafts resumes, press releases, web content, marketing materials and ghostwritten creative pieces. Contact Clark at


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