How to Handle Bad Online Reviews

Online local listings services such as Yahoo and Yelp are widely used by businesses looking to attract customers in their geographical vicinity. Users refer to these listings for general info such as location and hours — and increasingly for the recommendations (good or bad) given by others.

While this kind of local online marketing can greatly help a business, it can also hurt if they’re given bad reviews. Not surprisingly, negative feedback can be dangerous as it may drive other possible customers away. However, it can also be a good opportunity to demonstrate how such feedback is handled, therefore it’s important to master the art of dealing with negative reviews. (By the way, even the most reputable, “best” companies get negative reviews, so take it all in context and respond accordingly.)

Four Ways to Handle Negative Online Reviews

  1. Take the High Road. Acknowledge the bad review and say how your business welcomes feedback and will keep working to improve itself. State your company’s philosophy and broad goals for improvement, and don’t specifically refer to the review’s negative points unless you already have plans to address them (or will). Don’t say why the customer is wrong; say how their complaints will likely be resolved in the future.
  2. Don’t Directly Engage in Negative “Back and Forth”. If someone gave five reasons why your business upset them, don’t respond with five reasons why the customer is either wrong or lying. Confronting a person directly about what they wrote will likely just lead to an online argument, which will only scare more potential customers away. Avoid this kind of conflict or else you may start a small online crisis for your business.
  3. Encourage Good Reviews. One of the best ways to deal with bad reviews is to make less of them appear. If you see customers that are happy with their experience with your business, encourage them to review you on your listings page or follow your social media channels. Put small notes or reminders around, making it easy for anyone to do so. If you see customers in person that are upset with something, solve the problem while they’re still at your place of business. They might even write a positive review about how their issue was solved, which can help crowd out any bad reviews that still slip through.
  4. You can Rarely Remove Bad Reviews. Remember, bad reviews are hard to remove unless they break a rule like using too much profanity. Virtually all the time, bad reviews will be there to stay. If you try to remove one just because you disagree with it, this will often just draw more attention to the review and create negative press for your business. For example, Price Chopper  tried to have a bad tweet about one of its stores removed, and as the result the entire incident made it on the New York news. So the better option is to accept the bad review, respond to it carefully and graciously, and move on. Having a few bad reviews won’t hurt as long as you handle them properly.

Share with us – your experiences, tips, opinions on handling negative reviews.

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About The Author

Matthew Harris

Matthew began designing and building websites in 1995, and has since grown Harris Web Works (formerly Medium Well) into a full-service online marketing provider. He continuously adds expertise to become proficient in the evolving world of e-commerce, digital marketing, search engine optimization, mobile web, and more. Client work includes large corporate websites to comprehensive, customized services for small-to-medium sized businesses. He has worked as a designer, programmer, marketer and project manager. Matt is on the Board of Directors of Search Engine Marketing New England (SEMNE), and is a partner at Digital Media Sync in New Haven, CT.