Business TipsEcommerce

How to Handle Negative Reviews

Thanks to social media as well as dedicated search engines, public reviews have raised the stakes for every brand trying to build a strong reputation. Every word published on these portals has the power to make or break, not just the next sale, but your long-term success. In fact, keep in mind that even last year, 97% of consumers would turn to online reviews before making their final shopping call. When the number is so high, it’s obvious you need to pay attention – otherwise, you may risk losing business.

However, this global transparency has led to many an unhappy customer ranting publically (and often with no foundation) and discrediting businesses far and wide. It’s inevitable for your own brand to encounter a disgruntled customer here and there, but how you treat them might be the factor to tip the scales in your favor.

It’s a lesson in disguise

Your point of view is a limited one, because, as a business owner and someone who is nurturing their own brainchild into existence, you are prone to missing a piece of the puzzle here and there. You cannot possibly have complete insight into how satisfied your employees are unless they openly tell you. The same applies to your service or product, as your customers are the only ones on the receiving end, and most of them have yet to form an emotional bond with your business.

That said, if you perceive or treat a negative review as a personal insult, you might be in for a nasty battle. First and foremost, whether we like it or not, everyone is entitled to an opinion, and in this instance, their counts more in the eyes of your potential customers. So, try to look at it from a different angle: negative reviews are sources of invaluable lessons that you’d otherwise miss. They are your ticket to improving your brand and finding ways to solve problems you didn’t even know existed!

This is no time for silence

When customers leave positive comments, you are probably overwhelmed with joy and ready to respond promptly to their post. However, most businesses are reluctant to reply to a negative review, for the simple fear of inspiring even more backlash from the given customer. This is definitely not the road to take, as silence can only mean surrender in the world of reviews.

Remember how many people read reviews to make a decision whether or not to trust a brand. Well, 94% of customers will steer clear of your business after reading a poor review, meaning that the negatives play an equally important role. Use this as an opportunity to apologize, make things right, and win back this customer, as well as dozens that would otherwise be discouraged by their initial bashing.

Strategize beforehand

The web is far from a fair place, and you need to be prepared for a number of unpleasant conversations that could threaten your reputation. No brand is protected from those consequences that come with negative reviews, including the most established brands of our time. However, while you cannot prevent dissatisfied customers or competitors posing as such to sabotage your growth, you can prepare yourself for such occasions.

Every brand needs a crisis management strategy that incorporates appropriate responses to negative reviews, methods to find the primary source of viral negative posts, and the most efficient ways to address such events. These steps will be vital in training all of your staff to handle such situations with poise and respect, as well as in protecting your brand against slander.


In moments when someone is putting everything you’ve worked for at risk, it’s natural to feel agitated and angry. Letting those emotions run the show will definitely not help your cause, nor will they give you insight into the problem behind the negative outburst. Remember, it may start with a single customer, but it may not end there, you would be surprised how bullies easily collect followers online.

That is why you need to focus on truly listening to what they are saying to you and about your brand. Those might be words of irritation and disappointment, but they are fueled by emotion as well. There’s a reasonable claim hiding in those emotional words, and it’s your duty to find that claim and own up to your error, if there was one, to begin with, to protect your reputation.

Focus on the solution, not a defense

However, even if you’re truly not to blame for a mishap or your customer’s dissatisfaction was the result of a simple misunderstanding, you should still express your regret that they have had such a poor experience. Many brands yield to the temptation to defend themselves and justify their stance, but this rarely helps solve the underlying issue.

On the contrary, a genuine apology can go a long way in making things right, especially when paired with your effort to make up for their experience. It can be a coupon, a free product, or something along the lines of that, as long as it states that you appreciate their role in building your brand and that you take their claim seriously.

Although there will always be unhappy customers and less than deserved comments on their part, you can always rise above the situation and make the most of it with the help of these tactics.


Elaine Bennett

Elaine Bennett is a marketing specialist and a blogger, currently based in Sydney, Australia. Topics that she covers include marketing, branding, entrepreneurship, and SMBs. She’s especially interested in social media and technology. Loves coffee, music and video games. Follow her on Twitter @ElaineCBennet

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