how to handle bad reviews (1)

According to a Search Engine Land Survey, more than half of consumers admit that positive reviews make them more likely to give their business to the positively reviewed store. Notably, 72% of those surveyed revealed that they trust online reviews just as much as they trust recommendations given by their personal contacts.

Online reviews have become part and parcel of doing business in the internet age. If a customer leaves a bad review, you can’t just ignore it and hope that it doesn’t affect your business.  With 97% of consumers now reading online reviews before they make a purchase, bad reviews will definitely affect your business.

handling negative reviews

Being good at handling bad reviews is a valuable skill anyone who runs a business needs to learn. Whether you like or not, the internet has changed and continues to change how consumers interact with businesses before, during, and after a purchase.

It is rare that a business satisfies 100% of its customers. Since a portion of your customers will be dissatisfied with your product or service, it is perfectly normal to get a bad review every now and then. If you handle the situation well, you can greatly minimize the damage that such a review can have on your business. Here are some ideas on how to handle bad reviews:

Responding to a Reasonable Customer

If you are going to respond to any bad online review, you should at the very least communicate that you care. Part of showing that you actually care is taking the time to pull up the exact transactions in question to determine what may have gone wrong.

If you keep good records, this shouldn’t be hard at all. Most people leave reviews using their real names and their review will give you a hint of what service or product they bought from you. You should be adequately informed about the issue at hand before you try responding to the review.

After getting all the necessary information, formulate a strategy to respond to the aggrieved customer. The best way to reach out to them is privately through email or phone if you have their contact information or through the direct messaging feature on the review board if you don’t have their contact information.

Genuinely try to solve the impasse. If a solution is found, most people are reasonable and will gladly update their review to reflect the fact that you actually reached out to help. You can also respond to the review by apologizing for the bad experience and detailing the actions the customer can take to remedy the problem.

Dealing with an Aggressive Customer

You should never be combative when responding to a negative customer review. If you are sure that responding to the negative comment in any way can only escalate things, consider ignoring the whole situation.

Not all reviews deserve a response in the first place. When you interact with a customer offline and find them to be highly confrontational and contentious and then they go-ahead to leave a very distasteful review on a review board you have no editorial control over such as Yelp and Google Places, engaging them may not be a very good idea even if you try to be peaceable.

Your best bet when you find yourself in these kinds of situations is to leave a note saying that you feel sorry the customer feels the way they feel and briefly detail your own account of how the transaction in question unfolded. You don’t want to sound vindictive, though.

Handling Malicious Reviews

Some of the bad reviews that will land on your page will come from people acting maliciously. Some of these people may be your competitors or acting on behalf of your competitors. Most review boards are willing to remove reviews if they are spiteful or defamatory.

The burden of proof is always on you. You have to prove that the reviews are actually not real and come from a malevolent party. Sometimes this is readily apparent to anyone reading the reviews. In other instances, you will have to go to great lengths to actually get any solid proof. If the person left more than one review under different names, you can easily point out that the reviews are coming from the same IP address.

Drowning out Negative Reviews

The occasional bad review won’t hurt your business very much if you have a lot of positive reviews. If you run a credible business, most of your customers will be happy with the services you provide and will gladly leave you a good review if you ask.

bad reviews

Two-thirds of reviews on Yelp are 4 or 5-star reviews. You can expect to have more positive reviews than negative reviews if you have a decent business. Nonetheless, the happy customer is not always as motivated to leave a review as an unhappy customer.

Since the unhappy customer is more likely to leave a review than a happy customer, if you don’t encourage your happy customers to leave a review, the number of negative reviews you get relative to the total number of reviews will be over-representative of the proportion of dissatisfied customers you actually encounter in your business.

You should actively encourage your happy customers to leave a review so that you can drown out the few bad reviews that show up now and then.

Susan Ranford

My name is Susan Ranford. I am an expert on job market trends, hiring, and business management. I often write about issues related to employment and business.