Don’t Take It Personally

How to Handle a Bad Review

Bad Online Review Crying Meme

If your business exists digitally in any form, odds are you will inevitably receive a bad review/s. It doesn’t necessarily mean your service/product sucks (though it could) but generally indicates a misalignment between your customer’s expectations and what was delivered. Essentially, your client wasn’t satisfied with the service they received compared to what they thought your business would provide. What do you do from here?

Unfortunately, it is a lot easier and less intimidating for a customer to air their criticisms anonymously online than it is to confront a manager/owner in person at the time of the grievance.

While you can take a variety of steps to facilitate the internal receipt of customer complaints instead, these aren’t always effective, and you may still find some clients want to voice their issues publicly (because they are vengeful creatures). So, let’s presume they have already posted the review; what’s the best course of action from here?

You could try flagging the review with the hopes of taking it down, but honestly, all reputable review platforms either don’t allow or don’t make this simple for you.

Customers can be cold, unreasonable monsters that want to wreak havoc on your hard-earned brand reputation. While you may not be able to get around this, your response to these attacks on your business is pivotal to the decision-making process of any potential customers. They will see you have negative feedback, but the way you respond can serve to redeem you in their eyes and even strengthen their confidence in you.

To determine the most effective means of responding to bad reviews, we first need to look at the various reasons that you might receive a bad review:


There was a miscommunication…

Somewhere down the track, the customer may have interpreted information from branding materials and/or staff incorrectly. Either they got the impression that the service/product was going to be different, or they felt they were not adequately informed on some aspect or condition of the transaction.

In the case of miscommunication, it’s essential to be (or at least appear) as empathetic as possible. Miscommunications often lead customers to feel ripped-off which leaves a bad image of your business as being either incompetent, apathetic or deceitful in their eyes. View their review as a chance to prove it was not your intention to mislead them and that you do care about providing with an honest, quality service. Your goal should be to make their opinion feel heard and important, and if possible, to find a resolution that will satisfy all parties. Even if you think the blame for miscommunication falls entirely on the customer, saying that isn’t going to make anyone any happier. Ultimately, you are the professional in this interaction, so it’s crucial to find a professional remedy to the situation. After all, it’s your reputation that’s at stake here, not theirs.


A consistent piece of advice we will offer, regardless of what motivated a review, is to encourage these customers to get in touch with you outside of the review platform. This could be as simple as providing an email/phone number with a  contact name so they can reach out. Doing this allows you to investigate the situation further and offers an opportunity to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.


It’s a fake review…

Sometimes you might receive reviews that are untrue in some way – either the circumstances described are inaccurate or exaggerated; otherwise, you may even find reviews which are entirely fabricated, down to the person who posted it. It’s essential to approach these situations calmly and professionally. You may be tempted to call out the reviewer as a liar plainly, but ultimately, potential leads are going to judge your customer service by your responses to these bad reviews. They may be of the mindset of “if I have a bad experience with this company, this is how I will be treated”. Even if insulting their integrity is entirely justifiable, the way you should do this is implicitly and professionally.


Option 1: Exaggeration/Inaccurate

I’m very concerned to hear about your experience, (Reviewer’s Name). What you have described is entirely against the standard we hold at (Company Name), but my internal investigation provided different information to what you have provided. Could you please get in touch with us at (Email Address) so that we can discuss the events? I completely understand your expectations were not met and want to find a fair resolution for you.


Option 2: Entirely Fabricated

I’m very concerned to hear about your experience, (Reviewer’s Name). Could you please send an email to (Email Address) with the name you completed the booking/purchase with alongside your booking/order number?

What you have described is entirely against the standard we hold at (Company Name), but to resolve this, I need to find you in our system. I assure you once we have these details, we will investigate the situation thoroughly and do our best to find a fair resolution for you.


You actually suck…

Something we really want to emphasise is that it is crucial to investigate all bad reviews. Even if the review sounds far-fetched or you can’t find the customers details straight away, you should treat each negative review as a prompt to make some quality control inquiries. This means following up with your staff on proper etiquette with customers, reviewing current processes and even implementing more internal customer satisfaction checks. This way, you can rest easy knowing that you are on top of your business, and everything is running smoothly. Unfortunately, upsetting a paying customer is not difficult, so you want to make sure you have done all you can to prevent it from happening (even if it never actually happened in the first place).

Furthermore, say you do investigate and find out there was an error on your company’s part – what do you do from there? While you may be scared that admitting fault will hurt your business, being apologetic, working to improve and finding a means to compensate the client can have significant positive impacts. For potential clients, they gain insight into your business; that you care enough about your customers to take steps to rectify issues both with the customer and within your company. This helps dissuade any ideas of your business being underhanded and money-hungry.

In some circumstances, if you do well enough at making it up to a customer, they may even amend their review – though we highly advise that you do not explicitly request this. Outwardly suggesting that a user removes or alters their review can result in your genuine efforts to reconcile with them appearing as bribery or an intimidation tactic.

While we have given some examples of the types of responses we would recommend using to respond to angry customers; a template won’t be suitable for every situation, and we suggest using them as more of a guide. It’s critical to treat each review personally so that reviewers feel heard and cared for. If you are sending the same response to everyone, it may cheapen the action in the eyes of both current and potential customers. When putting together a customised reply, there are some approaches we recommend staying clear of to maintain a strong brand reputation:

How not to handle bad reviews

Don’t Sweat It

While you might be feeling disheartened that your 5 Star reputation has been tarnished, honestly, it might be a blessing in disguise. Having a perfect 5 Star rating can appear suspicious for searchers, particularly if you don’t have a large volume of reviews. Even if they are all real, a perfect score gives the impression that you may have manipulated your own ratings. No one is perfect after all, so if you’re trying to claim that you are, some customers might be apprehensive.

Don’t get it wrong though; you should still work to have a review score of higher than 4. We would say anything below four can be off-putting to potentials. If your average rating is middle of the road, customers will assume the same for you. At the end of the day, you are still being compared with your competitors, so you have to find a way to beat them, while not looking suspect.

Anything within the range of 4-5 Stars is the sweet spot you should aim for across your review platforms. Ideally 4.3 Stars and up but as long as you’re in the top range, this should be enough to instill confidence in your brand.


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