What to Do When Your Business Gets a Terrible Review

feedbackThese days, if you have an unhappy customer the entire internet will know about it in short order thanks to the many online review websites. When your business gets a terrible review, what can you do to limit the damage and learn from the incident?

The prevalence of online review sites is both a blessing and a curse. If you do things right, it allows positive reviews about your business to spread throughout the world, which can be even more powerful and effective than advertising. These word of mouth recommendations can encourage more people to visit your establishment; customers listen to other customers because they know the review isn’t coming from a paid advertiser. But of course, when things go wrong a negative review can sour your reputation — online and off.

Read on to discover solutions, including how to respond to the customer online and reach out to them to soothe their frustrations, how to minimize the damage to your reputation and how you can learn from the review to do better next time.

First Step: Address the Customer

Your first priority should be reaching out to the customer who wrote the negative review. If they were upset enough to take the time to write a review, they deserve a response from you. No matter how rude or disparaging they were, it is important to keep your cool. Avoid writing an angry and defensive response, as this will only make the situation worse. Reviews should be addressed in a civilized manner, and if they are really harsh and unfair you can flag them for evaluation by the user support team of the review website.

When crafting your response to the online review, keep your tone as civil and professional as possible. Let the customer know that you have read what they have written and apologize for any mistake. You can also offer a solution whenever it is appropriate. If you can do this step well, you might even be able to gain back a customer. If you can win them over, they might even modify or remove their initial bad review.

Should You Respond Publicly or Privately?

Most online review sites will give you the option to respond in a private message to the individual or to respond in a public message that is displayed after the comment. When should you use each of these options?

If you feel like the criticism is unwarranted and you want to shed some more light on the situation and tell your side of the story, it is a good idea to respond publicly. This will let other customers know that you are willing to take the time to address the problem, and you can explain the situation professionally. Responding publicly will demonstrate to other customers that you have listened to the customer’s feedback and that you are taking action to solve the problem.

Minimize the Damage to Your Reputation

How can you reduce the negative impact that the review has on your company’s reputation? One strategy is to encourage your existing customers to post positive reviews online as well. If enough people do so, you can drown out the negative review with the positive voice of the customer about your business. If a business has only two reviews, one negative and one positive, the negative one carries a lot more weight. However, if the business has 10 reviews and only one is negative, the customer will assume that the nine people had a typical experience and the one person just caught you on a bad day or was a difficult customer.

Learn From the Review

Whenever you get a bad review, don’t let it discourage you. Instead, see it as an opportunity to incorporate the customer feedback into your decision-making process in order to improve your business.

Take the feedback from the review and use it to look at your business objectively. For example, if the criticism of your restaurant is that a guest had to wait 45 minutes for their order, you might consider bringing in an extra staff member during peak hours to serve customers faster. If the review complains about the prices of your merchandise, you might want to have a good look at whether you are providing the best value for money.

With the right attitude, you can turn a negative review into an opportunity to improve your business for the better.


About the Author: Shane Allan is a cafe owner who has received plenty of online reviews about his business, some that are glowing, some average and some not so good. He tries his best to respond to each one.