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Dealing With Negative Reviews

Dealing With Negative Reviews


Unfortunately it is a sad fact of life that no matter how well your business performs, and how amazing a service and customer experience you deliver – you will not be able to please all of your customers all of the time.

With the connections available on the digital world through Social media channels and review sites, one person’s opinion can now travel a long way.

When a negative review or feedback is left, it can feel – especially for smaller businesses – like a personal attack; and there may be a temptation to simply react and lash out, or ignore the commenter entirely.

Neither of these approaches are good for your business or your brand image. In fact, they could lead to greater damage in the long run.

Getting a negative review isn’t necessarily the end of that engagement with the customer – with the right approach and targeted customer care, it may be possible to change that customer’s mind and have them go on to recommend and champion your company.

Here are some points that you need to consider when dealing with a negative review.

Understand the Customers Point of View

When faced with a negative review, you need to look at what the customer is saying, and try to understand their frustrations. It is also important to understand that the customer is making a point of connection.

If the customer is leaving a negative review, then they felt compelled to do so.

  • Did the customer leave feedback because they wanted the issue to be addressed and resolved?
  • Are they the sort of person that leaves negative reviews on a regular basis?
  • Is the customer looking to gain popularity and using your product as a tool?
  • Are they genuinely frustrated and unhappy, but are willing to engage with you to correct the issue?
  • Are they willing to engage, or are they venting?

Knowing where your customer is coming from will aid you in providing an appropriate response that shows your company in its best light.

If the review is not genuine, and has been left solely to damage the company, it is important to act. If it has appeared on a 3rd party website, it is important to contact them and give them the relevant information so the review can be removed. If it is on your own site, you need to decide whether to remove the review entirely, or respond to it – detailing the facts and truth. Both approaches have merit, but they also have significant risks – especially if the review has been up for some time. Procedures should be developed for such a situation, and the response handled on a case by case basis.

Research the Incident

Don’t just be seen to be saying that you will look into the problem – do it! Even if the complaint seems to be a one off issue, you need to identify what caused it, and decide on a plan of action – does a member of staff require more training? Should your products be labelled more clearly? Look for ways in which you can turn this into a learning experience.

‘Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.’
– Bill Gates

Take the opportunity to discover the root of the customer’s dissatisfaction and use it to strengthen your business – internally with your staff, and online with your brand reputation.

Be proactive with your procedures and reactive to your customer base – this will aid you in providing an exceptional customer experience that your customers will appreciate and feel more like sharing with others.

Respond Publicly and Privately

You should take the time to contact the reviewer to discover the root of the problem, and to apologize that your product or service did not meet their expectations. This courtesy in private, shows that your company is serious about complaints – and is willing to own up to the problems when they happen.

Publicly, you should let the reviewer know that you are contacting them to discuss their issue. This works on two levels –

  1. Should their privacy functions on some Social Media channels be set, your private correspondence may go unseen. By notifying them that they should expect a message, they will know to look for it.
  2. Your audience will see that you are directly engaging with the issue and providing customer care. This will help to boost your reputation and maintain levels of trust that might otherwise have been shaken by the negative review.

It is important that your brand is seen to be trustworthy and responsible. Being seen to be doing the right thing is almost as important as actually doing it – if your customer base don’t see you engaging and interacting with issues, they will assume that you are either unaware of them – or you don’t care, neither of these assumptions is good for your brand image.

Be Polite and Constructive

No matter how a complaint is worded, and how tempted you may be to respond to a flippant remark in kind, you need to maintain your company voice and standards. Being polite and offering constructive suggestions, advice or recommendations that are relevant to the issue at hand will allow others to see you engage with the issue and take it seriously.

Apologizing in public for the situation that has caused the negative review will show that your business is not afraid to own up to mistakes, and provides another example of customer care.

50% use a company more frequently after a positive customer experience.
Customer Service Statistics

Respond Promptly

Time is of the essence – and with social media platforms offering practically real-time contact, you need to be seen responding quickly.

Having a strategy in place to respond quickly and efficiently is essential. You may not be able to respond as quickly as your customer would like, but you should make every effort to acknowledge them and contact them as soon as possible.

Share the Review with your staff

This is not to berate and undermine your staff – but to use as a learning tool. Your staff are your front line, they know more about your customers than anyone else – their feedback on the situation, what went wrong and what could be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again is valuable.

Sharing these reviews and discussing them can lead to improved service and allow for additional training in areas that may have otherwise been neglected.

Encourage Positive Reviews

In general you should be encouraging your happy customers to leave reviews – if your customer service channels are only being used for complaints, a potential customer researching your product may decide not to use it based on opinions that don’t reflect the majority of your customer base.

Good customer service responses may also be a point to encourage consumers to discuss – the more aspects of your business that are being discussed favourably, the better your brand image and trust levels will become.

Develop a strategy for dealing with negative reviews

The more your company is seen to be engaging and solving a mistake or negative experience, the more people will believe that you genuinely care for your audience and are honest. This will generate a growth in trust and brand appreciation.

In short, to make the best of a bad situation – you need a strategy.

Here is an example of one you can implement with EASE:


Understand that your audience mood will vary from moment to moment depending on factors outside of your control. Your customers are only human, and a bad day can make any of us act in ways we wouldn’t normally. Approach a situation with an open mind and consideration for the individual.


Let people see that you are aware of the problem. Send the unhappy party a private message to ask for more details and apologize that their experience hasn’t been to their expectations.
On the actual public complaint, apologize and tell the individual that you have (or will) contact them privately for more details – this is so your audience can see that you are engaging and caring and acting in their best interests.


Take steps to resolve the issue and let the individual know privately what has been done, as well as posting publicly. This may lead to their negative experience being forgotten, and the customer service converting them into a Brand Champion.


Look at what went wrong, what happened and what you had to implement to change it. Are there any other similar areas of your business which could benefit from the changes you’ve introduced? Take this opportunity to refresh your procedures and bring your staff training up to date.