How to Handle Negative Reviews

In one of my recent blog posts, I touched on the idea of social review tools and how much I believe in the idea of customer reviews. It sparked a fair amount of conversation about the power of reviews, especially negative reviews. I sort of touched on a similar topic when I wrote this blog post on how to deal with negative blog comments, however, negative reviews are a different kind of animal.

In order to illustrate a few best practices for negative reviews, I’ll use a personal example. My parents own a restaurant, which is, of course, subject to the reviews of customers online on sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor. Recently, my mother pointed out a post that had been left by a somewhat disgruntled customer who was upset about their policy of a mandatory 20% tip on meals paid for with a gift certificate. She wondered what the impact of this review might be, since potential customers were reading it.



Trust The Readers

The thing about negative reviews is that you can’t always tell your side of the story online. Some sites allow you to respond to bad reviews, but not all. Most of the time you’ll just have to sit with those bad reviews and trust that the people reading them will be able to tell the difference between one cheap guest that didn’t want to tip correctly and a poorly performing restaurant.

Delete When Necessary

Although I’m not going to skip a restaurant just because one person didn’t like their server, if someone claims to have, I don’t know, gotten Salmonella there, I certainly won’t be visiting. If anything that someone posts borders on slander and could really impact your sales, then don’t be afraid to contact the administrators of the site to make your case. Don’t let things slide just because you don’t want to seem like a stage mother. If the administrators think you’re out of line, they’ll let you know.

Strengthen Your Stomach

It’s difficult to read negative reviews of your product, but studies have shown that even bad reviews improve sales. Although you might be concerned that people will think badly of your product, negative reviews actually give you the credibility of transparency. Consumers love that.

The bottom line is, customers are extremely savvy. You don’t have to manipulate reviews to make your product look good. If it’s good, reviews will be good. Period. 

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  • Analisa Svehaug
    Posted at 20:21h, 23 October

    This is a great topic, and relevant to me since I just had a bad experience at a hostel in Israel and negative reviews on Trip Adviser helped me figure out what the mysterious rash all over my body was…bed bugs!
    But anyways, I wanted to point out that even when a social review site like this does not allow to corporation to respond to negative comments, there are still ways to combat negative publicity. Take Sigg for example. The CEO wrote a public article apologizing for the chemicals leeching from their water bottles, and admitted that he knew all along. Wow, that is a huge step, and for some people, it completely redeemed the company in their eyes. Link to article in Huffington Post:

    I am also blogging about this topic, since I think that negative feedback is actually a great opportunity for an organization to engage with their community.

  • olivia hayes
    Posted at 21:37h, 27 October

    GAH! Bedbugs, seriously?! What a nightmare. I hope you wrote them a horrible review!

    Absolutely a great point about the opportunity to engage. It’s kind of like the social media example of turning lemons into lemonade: maybe you got stomped in your reviews, but it’s the chance for some honest self-reflection and revision…and who couldn’t use more of that?

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Varinder Kaur
    Posted at 10:56h, 28 July

    Hi Olivia, nice post. But my concern is over the point you mentioned about deleting posts when necessary. I don’t think that will solve the problem, its more like running away from the problem rather than handling it. At times, it really aggravates the problem because the customer gets even more irritated when he sees his post been deleted. I believe the best way is to handle the negative post positively – Thank the customer for taking out time to write review and tell me that steps are being taken to solve the problem. The best part is that the customer feels very convinced when somebody from the business replies him directly.

  • Nelson Samayoa
    Posted at 23:01h, 09 July

    Seeing a negative comment like what is stated above is somehow harsh. But I also sympathize to its author. Maybe the service is not great at all, and maybe the setting wasn’t that accommodating. The author of that comment has all the freedom to express his experience. What’s good with social media is that it allows these comments to reach its primary target. Any recipient of this message should have a positive response and a good outlook in reviewing such comments. Negative comments shouldn’t be flagged as bad publicity, but always treat these negativities as an opportunity for growth.

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