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FAQ: How Should I Deal with Negative Online Reviews?

Every day more and more people are turning to the internet for just about everything from buying a home to choosing their healthcare providers.  The good news is that your customers are telling people about their experiences with your business via online reviews.  Word of mouth always spreads much more quickly online than it does offline.  The bad news is that not every review is a good review. It can be difficult deciding how to deal with your first negative online review.  Here are a few examples of negative online reviews, pulled at random.

The Frustrated One

From Yelp


I have contacted this office several times with questions and have only gotten a response once.  I decided to go there for something once and was happy with the audiologist, but the receptionists leave much to be desired.  They made me feel like I was interrupting their gossip time when I showed up for the appointment.  After the first visit, I needed to ask a  question via email and again, never received a response.  I decided to call them and the receptionist who answered the phone answered my question with, “I think we have those” and reluctantly went to check.  She came back with a tidbit of information and when I asked another question about the price she said “I think they are like $9 or something…” not offering to find out for sure how much they cost.  Until this office gets some friendly and competent staff, I will be taking my business elsewhere. 

The Thorough One

From Yelp


“We’re known for our food” the waiter told us… later noting there was no qualitative adjective in that statement. It was one of those meals that makes you angry people can do that to food. The specials: sushi-grade ahi tuna sandwich was fishy. When sent back the waiter said “it IS fish you know.” The fried chicken salad had heavily breaded bland chicken on warm lettuce. Regular menu items: ugh. Pork in the cubano tasted old, funky, and otherwise flavorless – dousing it in mustard didn’t help. The vegetable spaetzle was steamed vegetables over pasta – completely free of flavor or seasoning – though the baby liked it, making it the favorite item on the table.
Otherwise: the beer is good, as are the french fries… so there’s that.

The sticky table with a bug on it and loud screechy music rounded out the experience… this place makes me sound like my grandmother… I never complain about music.

The Angry One

A Google User

1 month ago

This is the absolute worst animal hospital ever. My kitten was stepped on and I was so scared that she was going to die, and they were the closest hospital to me and when I called to ask if they could bill me because I didn’t get paid for another week they told me that wasn’t their problem and said I couldn’t bring her in. They only care about money, not your animals.

I am certain that one of two things can be inferred about the owners of the companies that received these bad reviews:

  1. They were and still are unaware these reviews exist.
  2. They’re aware of the reviews but have no idea what to do about them.

The Three Options of Dealing with Negative Online Reviews

Reviews either are appearing about your business or they will be appearing, it’s just a matter of time.  You have three options when it comes to dealing with negative online reviews.

  1. Find and manage your reviews.
  2. Hire a company to manage your reviews (hopefully they also have a system that can help you to acquire reviews and address existing reviews).
  3. Ignore the entire thing and hope for the best.

Just in case it isn’t crystal clear, Option 1 and 2 are far more preferable to Option 3.

And yes, we offer a Review Management program, click here for more information.

So what can you do when you see negative reviews online?

A great way to handle negative online reviews is with the HEARD technique, pioneered by the Walt Disney Company, a business that hosts 135 million people in their parks each year, many of them angry parents that have to answer to even angrier five-year-olds:


Let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Sometimes, we just want someone to listen.


Convey that you deeply understand how the customer feels. Use phrases like “I’d be frustrated, too.”


As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize enough. Even if you didn’t do whatever made them upset, you can still genuinely be apologetic for the way your customer feels (e.g., I’m always sorry that a customer feels upset).


Resolve the issue quickly, or make sure that your employees are empowered to do so. Don’t be afraid to ask the customer: “what can I do to make this right?”


Get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone; focus on fixing the process so that it doesn’t happen again.

Remember that negative online reviews are not a personal attack; they are a gold mine of feedback! Every one negative online review represents, on average, 26 negative customer experiences. So for that one person who chose to speak up, there are 25 others who chose to stay silent. Use these reviews as a learning experience and as a way to improve your business for future customers. Your business should be constantly evolving and with this precious information directly from your consumers, yours can evolve for the better. The worst mistake you could ever make is sticking your head in the sand and ignoring these reviews.