How To Handle A Bad Review (Or Complaint)

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

Receiving a terrible online review can feel a bit like that scene from Carrie. You know the one. Like you’re covered in pig’s blood and everyone is watching and laughing in slow motion and you’re humiliated and angry and all you want to do is use your psychic powers t--- I’ll stop you there.


While in the moment, responding with an outburst of fury that would impress even Sissy Spacek may make you feel better, your VERY PUBLIC review page is not the space to burn down the house with your spicy retort to an unsatisfied customer. I encourage you to take a deep breath, keep a notebook of ‘Things I want to say but probably shouldn’t”, get yourself a dammit doll, go for a run or figure out some other way to let out your anger constructively. Once you’ve cooled off, consider below instead. I’ll wait.



Welcome back! Let’s start with assessing the situation and reaching out to the reviewer in a way that is constructive and makes the customer feel heard as well aiding your business for the future. Was one of your employees present when this person was visiting your business? Get the full picture of the situation before you dive into your response. When you do reach out to the reviewer, acknowledge what they experienced and ask for more details if needed. Suggest taking the conversation to email or direct messaging so that they can speak further with you personally. Once you have the full picture, ask if they are open to a solution and offer them a make-good in exchange for improving the review. It’s a good idea to keep a standardized list of potential responses so you can make sure to respond quickly and in a way that is in line with your business’s ethos and values.


On that note, make sure your public response is written in a very compassionate and empathetic way. Truly demonstrate how you value this reviewer and respect your employees. Be humble. Remember the reviewer isn’t the only one reading your response. Other customers, both current and future, are also able to see how you are alleviating this person’s concerns and frustrations. You want your response to have a positive ripple effect not just for this customer but for future customers as well. Once again, consider asking the reviewer in the public forum if they’d be willing to give you a second chance and offer them something to help them come back in as this is a great way to demonstrate your company’s culture.


This isn’t easy. It’s really hard to swallow your pride and respond to (very often) rude and unkind comments on something as personal as your business in a way that is humble and constructive. But it’s also unreasonable to assume you’re never going to get negative commentary. Instead of avoiding these reviews, it’s much more constructive to learn from them going forward. If this is a one off, let it go. If this review is a repeat issue, it’s also a great opportunity to improve your business. Perhaps that’s retraining your staff, maybe that’s removing an item from your inventory, maybe it’s just making sure your services are better clarified. Use your reviews, both positive and negative, as learning opportunities.


And remember this, ALL press is good press. If people are talking about you, it means your name is out there. And that’s a good thing.






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