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What to Do When a Negative Review Hits

How to handle a bad review and turn it into a positive for your business.

By Abigail Thorpe

It’s happened to every business owner, that moment when you get a notification only to find that someone is upset … and has left you a bad review. Luckily, it’s not the beginning of the end for your business, but reviews do matter, so it’s important to know how to handle the negative ones when they come in.

Sometimes it just seems simpler to ignore reviews altogether — good and bad, but this is the worst thing you can do. Reviews are incredibly important for driving business, particularly in this day and age of smartphones, online shopping and the ability to look anything up at the tap of a button. In fact, 79 percent of U.S. adult Internet users check online reviews before they make a purchase or visit a business, according to

What does this mean? You can’t afford to leave a negative review unanswered. But how you answer it is just as important as acknowledging it in the first place. Here are some tips on how to turn a negative review into a positive experience.

  • Respond promptly. But don’t just rattle off the first thing that comes to mind. A quick response is important, you want customers to know that you care and take their issue seriously, but you also don’t want to make things worse by getting defensive or saying something that will make them even more upset. Take the time to read your response, and even have someone else look it over if you’re concerned it could be misinterpreted.

  • Take the issue offline. You don’t need everyone else witnessing your back and forth. Respond to show that you care, and then if the issue requires more communication and time, tell the unhappy customer how they can reach you offline. Then resolve the issue between the two of you, and go back and post the resolution so any potential customers know you took care of the situation.

  • Keep it professional. Yes, not all negative reviews will be warranted, and some people can be incredibly rude or demanding, but that doesn’t mean you should respond in kind. No matter how the customer is acting, stay professional, be polite, and try to handle the situation to the best of your ability. Often, people just want to be heard, and they’ll calm down once you show them you’re willing to listen.

  • Be authentic. This applies to reviews as well as your responses. First of all, don’t pressure customers to leave reviews. The best reviews are left because someone feels so happy about your product or service they want to let others know. Make it easy for customers to leave a review, but don’t force it. No one wants to read a bunch of fake sounding reviews. Secondly, be authentic in your response. Don’t send something that sounds scripted or automatic. Take the time to be personal— sincerity goes a long way.

  • Learn from your mistakes. Bad reviews can be a great way to learn what your company can do better. Don’t take every review and act on it— this can be just as harmful to your business and have you jumping at each suggestion that comes your way. Rather, look for themes or repeated complaints, and use those to improve your business.

A bad review is only negative if you don’t take the right action. Need help managing your reviews, coming up with a plan, and implementing it? That’s our specialty here at Rocket Fish Digital. Reach out today to see how we can help.

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