Bad Reviews: Turning a Negative Into a Positive

Updated: Aug 1

As a business owner, you are faced with many challenges. One of the top challenges, that both new and seasoned business owners face: bad reviews. First, let me start with saying, you could have a 1000 happy clients, but one unhappy person is quicker to write a bad review, than the other 1000 might be, to write a good one. Bad reviews should not be taken personal. They are not a reflection of your day-to-day business interaction. They are not a reflection of you, as a business owner or a person. Those bad reviews are an indication of an individual situation, that did not go according to planned. (Also – side bar: encourage your happy clients to always post about positive interactions at your business, so that potential future clients can see a well-rounded view of your establishment).

The internet has made it acceptable, to not contact the owner or business directly, and actually try to reach a resolution. Instead social media, Google, Yelp, etc (although helpful tools for businesses) have created a platform for anyone and everyone to express dissatisfaction, whether warranted or not. So, how should you handle such a challenge?

First things first: Should you respond to a negative review? The short answer: Absolutely. This is not only a good business practice but it also sends the very clear message that you care about your client, as well as your business reputation. But how do you respond?

Let’s start with a scenario: A client (whether right or wrong) writes a bad review for your business. You, as the business owner, feel the righteous indignation creep up your neck and soon you are writing a novel to respond to each and every point, that said-client wrote. You make sure to reiterate policy, tell your side of the interaction and soon you realize you have written a bullet point list of all the ways the client is wrong.

This is the time, you should put your finger on that delete button and just keep hitting it until all of those words of yours (although extremely well-written) disappear from the response box. Repeat after me: The client is not always right; But the client should always feel respected and heard. How do we do this?

1. Keep it brief: Remember, everyone and anyone can see what you post, including POTENTIAL customers. So, keep it brief. Don’t go blow-for-blow, on the details in your response. Best suggestion, three to five sentences.

2. Acknowledge the situation. Remember, people want to be heard. So, if they found the interaction to be bad enough to write a review, you need to make sure they know, that you heard them. That you understand they are upset.

3. Apologize. Yes, this is the tough one. You may not be wrong. In fact, they may be 110% wrong. But! Remember, potential clients could see this interaction online. I am not saying, apologize because it will make you look good. I am saying apologize, because you don’t get to tell others if they have a right to be upset about something. So, as a responsible business owner, show humility and apologize for the situation being upsetting to the client.

4. Offer a plan of action. Again, you’re staying in the three-five sentence rule. It doesn’t need to be detailed. It can be as simple as: We will look at this situation within the business and will rectify any issues, to avoid having these situations in the future.

5. Where appropriate, offer a discount or service in order to potentially regain a client. Your goal, as a business owner is simple: Create a client base in order to run a successful and lucrative business. So in all interactions, whether you are right or wrong, you need to keep this goal in mind. Although the client may have been upset at the initial interaction, you are giving them the opportunity to see, first hand, the change you implement. Additionally, you are showing potential clients, that they will mean something to you. That you will do what is needed to make sure a customer/client is happy and satisfied.

In summary, bad reviews don’t make or break a business. But they do offer you an opportunity to take a negative and turn it around to a positive. So, follow these five steps to ensure, that you are showing your customers that not only do THEY matter, but your business reputation does as well.



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