Negative Reviews and how to deal with them

Marc BallysmartPRENEUR Blog Series

Negative Reviews and how to deal with them

Have you ever received a negative review? How you respond makes a world of difference!


Research shows that most consumers do research before the purchase process and often trust online reviews, making these reviews key to your business’ success.

88% of consumers trust online reviews about the same as a personal recommendation from a person they know personally.

Negative reviews can have a major effect on sales and your company’s overall reputation.

Online reviews influence local rankings by Google by a whooping 15% and over 6% overall.

A negative review properly handled reflects well on company and its customer service approach.

How fresh a review is more important than you may think. Almost half of the readers did not consider a review to be relevant if it was written more than a couple of months ago.


A positive review is a validation of a job well done. Consequently, a negative review can feel, as Yelp puts it, “…like a punch in the gut…it hurts when someone says bad things about our business. For you founders and sole proprietors out there, a negative review can even feel like a personal attack.”

But although negative reviews can sting, there are steps you can take to lessen the impact or even turn around a poor online review. It all depends how you deal with the reviewer and the complaint. It’s important to remember that Google highly ranks online review sites. Many of these review sites are very popular with consumers as well, so it’s worth creating a plan of action for handling negative reviews on sites like Yelp.


Although every negative review is a bit different and you will have to take different approaches to each one, we stress the necessity of a procedure set in place to roughly frame your responses.

Determine what is and isn’t acceptable when dealing with poor reviews. Figure out an adequate timeframe for your response and a request for more information from the reviewer. You’ll also need to include further steps just in case a negative review escalates, and what your internal investigation process are.

For example, if you installed a home theater, and a client left a negative comment on Yelp complaining about a rude technician, you may require the person responding to the review to also inform your company’s HR within 24 hours. You may also need a procedure on how to handle the offending technician and what and how to let the customer know that you handled the unacceptable situation.


Your company should make sure your clients feel their opinions matter. Therefore, it’s crucial that your company responds quickly to negative reviews. Although addressing them may be unpleasant, a quick reply shows the unhappy customer that their problems are being taken seriously.

There’s always the possibility that you simply can’t solve the problem that led to the negative review. But you can always swiftly acknowledge your shortcomings and apologize for any letdowns.

If there is a bit of uncertainty of the validity of the review, a professional and well thought out response is still necessary. Be careful against an emotional response to avoid coming off as uncompromising. When it comes to negative reviews, it’s best to spend some time on a thoughtful response rather than posting something immediately that will most likely turn out emotionally charged or combative. Whatever you do, don’t let yourself get caught up in an online argument that is visible for all to see.


Occasionally, a personal outreach is necessary for some negative reviews. In a private message to the client, make sure you mention:

  • That you appreciate their use of your services
  • That you are grateful for their feedback
  • That you are genuinely sorry they have been let down by their experience
  • The steps you are taking to address their complaint

You may want to request more information from the client to better help you deal with their review. For example, you’ll want to ask for clarity if they didn’t mention which visit when a rude technician caused their complaint. Gathering this information not only demonstrates that you take the poor review seriously, but it also helps you determine if you need to address a much wider issue.

Depending on the nature of the complaint, you might also want to invite the customer back to see you at your best. A client complaining about having to wait too long for his website design may respond well to an offer for a free logo revision.


If you reached out privately, a public response to the complaint should follow up a private message. Even if you choose not to respond privately, you should always post a public response that: If you reached out privately, a public response to the complaint should follow up a private message. Even if you choose not to respond privately, you should always post a public response that:

  • Thank the customer for their business
  • Acknowledges their feedback and apologizes for the disappointing experience
  • Outlines what consequential steps will been taken
  • If a private message has been sent already, a public acknowledgement shows potential customers that you work pro-actively to address problems among your clients.


If you require further discussion is needed after a public or private response, it’s advisable to take the conversation offline or into a more private forum such as email or phone call. In case of escalation, your company doesn’t need to have a messy argument all over Yelp for other potential customers to see.

About the Author

Marc Bally