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Bad Reviews: The Cost of Doing Business   no comments

Nov 3, 2016 @ 10:06am Small Business


In today’s increasingly digital environment, everyone has literally become a critic. Taking to websites such as Yelp, Amazon and Google to air grievances, modern consumers are pulling no punches when it comes to their concerns. If your business delivers less-than-stellar service on any particular day, you can expect to hear about it. Back in the old days of even the 1990s, this wasn’t the case. You could afford to make little mistakes without having the entire universe hear about them. However, this is no longer the world in which we live, and every business owner needs to develop a strategy for dealing with their online reviews.


Don’t Take It Personally—The First Rule of Dealing with a Negative Review

Businesses have bad days, but so do customers. Unless you know the client personally, you cannot assume that they weren’t also having a bad day. When you’re both having a bad day, then sometimes this negative energy can amplify, resulting in a negative review. Seeing a one-star review is enough to make any business owner’s blood pressure rise. Keep in mind that the first negative review hurts the most; it will become easier. However, if your business is going to be successful by any measure, it is imperative that you create a strategy for dealing with negative reviews.


A Silver Lining to Every Bad Review

Anytime a customer reviews your product or service, you have an opportunity to take in feedback that you wouldn’t have received otherwise. Maybe you own a boutique and one of your employees could be doing a better job. Obviously, he’s not going to tell you that he’s behaving in an unprofessional manner when consumers walk through the door. While it can be easy to write off reviewers as crazy or irrational, take time to digest whatever was troubling them. Is it possible that there could be some truth in it? How can your business absorb this feedback in a productive way and move on?

While some reviewers will do a “drive-by” one star and not really tell you what was bothering them, others will offer nuanced feedback that can help you to improve your business. Some review sites will allow you to click on the customer’s profile and see the other reviews they’ve written. This helpful tool will allow you to see if they are just a disgruntled person in general. If you see that they reviewer has lambasted other companies without much to back them up, then this is a review you probably shouldn’t take as seriously. However, if yours is the only one-star review amid a selection of glowing reviews that the consumer left for other businesses, then perhaps you should take a closer look.



Your default position should always be to assume that customers are leaving legitimate reviews and telling the truth. If, however, you suddenly notice a spate of targeted reviews that seem engineered to take you down, then it’s time to report them to the website. Although sites such as Yelp have put up safeguards to protect business owners from this type of online harassment, not every method is foolproof. If you believe that something may be awry, then reach out to the review site with your specific concerns.

Keep in mind that they receive complaints like this all day, and state your case succinctly. Most websites will investigate the issue and then get back to you within 24-48 hours. Although they may be able to rule in your favor from time to time, you should always assume that the review is going to remain. To protect free speech, many sites tend to lean on the liberal side when analyzing reviews. Also, remember that reviews are their business. Unless something is patently offensive, it’s usually not advantageous for them to remove reviews.


Decide What Your Reply Policy Is

Some people, such as self-published authors on Amazon, generally make it a rule not to reply to bad reviews. In this case, writing back can often be seen as antagonistic—and just may win you even more online critics in the long run. But if you’re running a restaurant that just received a complaint about unsanitary conditions, then it will look extremely unprofessional for you not to reply.

Some business owners will choose to reply with their email address, reaching out to the customer in an attempt to resolve the situation. If they make the appropriate kind of apology—and perhaps offer something in return—many customers will change their reviews and praise the company for addressing the problem. There is a fine line with this kind of customer service, though. You’ll want to make sure that you’re not giving away products because of extortion-type reviews. Carefully examine each particular situation, and see if there’s any way that you can make it better. When future customers see that the business pays attention to reviews—and goes out of its way to address challenges—they are often very impressed.


Your Product or Service Isn’t for Everyone

One thing to keep in mind is that your business can’t possibly please everyone on the planet; it’s impossible. Even the best companies in the world have some awful reviews, as do some of the best novels ever written. If you’ve ever wondered about this, then look up your favorite novel on Amazon. You will realize that you are in excellent company when you see that even Jane Austen and Ernest Hemingway have some awful online reviews critiquing their famous books.

The fact of the matter is that negative reviews are going to happen. Try not to react emotionally, and move forward with the information that has been provided to you. Eventually, if you know that seeing such reviews can be a trigger, you may decide that you only want to read your reviews every few months or so. Develop a plan for addressing this part of your business, and then execute it. Since some negative reviews are practically a certainty, realize that it is how you respond to them that will determine your company’s ultimate success.


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Written by David Maurer on November 3rd, 2016

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