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Managing Negative Online Reviews – Mistakes to Avoid, Best Way to Respond & Using Reviews to Improve Your Business


Negative reviews/complaints online can do a lot of damage to a business. And while it’s true that in some cases these negative reviews prove to be entirely false (in some cases placed online by dishonest competitors), your business may be financially injured by these reviews and complaints.

There have been cases where businesses were negatively affected when trying to secure additional financing for expansion… in part because loan officers “Googled” their business and didn’t like what they saw.

And cases where recruiting new employees was more difficult due to a poor online reputation.

And now, since the COVID pandemic began, nearly everybody is going online to do business, and/or to find businesses!

If you do nothing to re-establish the image your business deserves on the internet it could come a time where you almost start hoping no one goes online to check you out!

In this hub, discover the 3 common mistakes business owners make when responding to negative online reviews or complaints and how to avoid them. I show you the best practices on how to respond to a negative review, whether the criticism is deserved or it’s unfair, how to use the information in the reviews to better your business, and how to avoid getting negative reviews in the first place.

Why Respond to Bad Reviews

Responding to negative online reviews is the one tool you as the business owner have complete control over. Your prompt and professional response has more to do with how the negative review(s) are seen by consumers than anything else.

When you have a bad review that you the business owner has not replied to, you risk losing customers to your competitors. This is because a bad review makes new reviewers more inclined to post their review if it conforms to what it seems others are saying.

But when you respond and you can “set the record straight” customers now have both sides of the argument, if we can call it that.

As I will be showing you shortly, you have an opportunity to use this bad review to highlight your internal processes and how your business interacts with its customers/clients – and to show that you’re a business that’s willing to learn from its mistakes.

If you do this right, just there on the negative review, you will actually come off smelling like roses!

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Responding to a Bad Review

The first mistake is hitting back, or attacking the reviewer. Sometimes the first reaction people have when a reviewer has posted a scathing review, especially if they feel it’s undeserved, is to attack the reviewer. This is a big mistake. You have to remember that your online business listing is a piece of prime real estate.

It is your online sales rep working for you 24/7 to bring in new business. You want to keep it that way, by “sweet-talking” a biased reviewer if you have to – whether their claims/complaints are deserved or not.

The second mistake is ignoring the bad or negative review. This one too is very common – some business owners get used to having bad reviews on their listings, assuming that if they haven’t seemed to be bad for business, why should they bother?

Well, bad reviews are bad for business, sooner or later! The other thing is that if your reaction is to ignore the bad review you won’t be motivated to address the claims made by the reviewer, or to take steps to effect any changes or improvements to address the complaints.

The third mistake is denying the claims or the complaints made by the reviewer. Sometimes a reviewer will complain and the business deserves the criticism, but then the business owner’s reaction is to want to deny the claims to save face.

Wrong. The best thing to do in the circumstances is to own up to the issues raised and then do damage control (as by offering guarantees this won’t happen again, or even find some way to placate the reviewer.

As we’ll see, there are ways you could even get the reviewer to strike out their bad review!

Your customers that leave a bad review want you to apologize, according to this study that surveyed 2,000 reviewers! So, it'd be a good idea to try and be contrite on the review site, and to follow up personally with customers that leave a bad review.

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A Bad Response Example to a Negative Review

"Your statements are pretty much all LIES, plain and simple. You cannot even prove you were in our restaurant and you know it. Having a picture of some supposedly 'bad food' doesn't prove anything. Any person with a camera phone can do that. Your comments about the service I cannot verify, as we have no "tall African American server" working on the day you claim you were here. Like much of your "story" it doesn't seem to add up. Try someplace else next time, since we don't sound like your kind of place."

Signed, Owner Fed Up With Lies

Not too good! You want to avoid sounding arrogant or uncaring, so avoid sarcasm and avoid direct accusations about the reviewer.

This business owner above has made himself look foolish in the eyes of anyone who reads this. This approach is not recommended, though it probably would make you feel good!


A Very Good Response Example to a Bad Review

"Thank you for your comment. One of my assistant managers talked to the guest the day they checked out. He discussed the issues she had in her room. He asked her, why she didn’t let us about these problems as soon as she checked into the room? He told her we could have moved her to another room or sent someone to re-clean her room. After all, the guest was here several days. The guest said she was just too busy."

"The assistant manager apologized to her and also extended a 50% discount off her room charges. She was apparently still not happy with that. We can only fix what we know about at the time. It only takes a couple of minutes to let us know of a problem. Our maintenance and housekeeping staff are here every day, 18 hours a day. I would be happy to speak with the guest further.

Signed, Alex James, General Manager"

See the difference? This in my opinion is the template for how to respond to a bad online review, if you're going to respond – and you should!

The comments show the concern of the business owner, but also emphasize that the hotel employees are there, in person, to hear from a dissatisfied guest, ready to find resolution right then and there…no need to go to a computer just to have your say!

So, any would-be negative reviewer that reads this will think twice, wouldn’t you say?

Using Online Reviews to Get Better at What You Do

When you read through the negative reviews of your business on your online listings or anywhere, ask yourself this question: Is there anything we should make sure to include in our product or service so that we don’t get the same responses from our future customers?

You should also use the negative reviews to examine the customer’s buying experience at all points along the delivery chain. You could be delivering exceptional service at your business premises, but do you know the quality of service your people out there delivering your product or service at the customer’s premises are giving to your valued customers?

The bad or negative reviews of your business can give you the opportunity to put yourself in your customer’s shoes – and gain valuable insights you would normally not be able to see from the comfort of a manager’s chair.


How to Prevent Bad Online Reviews

Prevention is better than cure, so, what can you do to prevent the bulk of bad reviews of your business?

Today there is a wealth of information that is available to your customers as well as to your potential customers and so it's more important than ever to offer a good product or service at a good price and ensure that you can deliver everything you have said in your marketing.

This basically means not promising what you cannot deliver.

If you do this, you will gain the trust of your customers and they will give you great reviews. Don't forget that most customer complaints are the result of dashed expectations.

Target your ideal customers in your marketing, your ideal customers being those who buy from you again and again and also give you referrals. This is one reason why most experts teach that service-based businesses especially should focus more on referrals. A referred lead is usually half-way your ideal customer.

Think about it for a moment… Although we are all hard-wired to want to recommend good stuff, people don’t give referrals easily, because their good judgment is on the line if their friends or peers end up getting a raw deal – or worse, if they get ripped off.

And so we tend to give referrals based on what we know about our friends’ and peers’ likes and tastes. What this means is that your ideal customer will typically send you potential customers that are very much like them.

If you have no idea who your ideal customers are, a little research is all you need to find out. In an earlier hub, I show you how to do this. (

If you deliver good customer service your customers will give you great reviews and this is because people love you when you help them quickly.

The other thing about customer service is that it can literally make or break your business. A skeptical buyer can become a rabid fan who buys all your products based on an initial good customer experience. But on the flip side, a customer with a poor experience may decide to never do business with you again …and in fact, they may tell their friends to stay away from you too.

This is why excellent customer service should be a priority in your business.

Most of the time when customer service in a business sucks, the problem has to do with the attitudes, practices, and behavior of the employees. In another hub I have shown you how to motivate your employees. (

Poor service is usually a byproduct of poor employee motivation.

Another thing you can do to prevent bad online reviews is to stack your online listing with good reviews left by people who’ve had a positive experience working with you, or buying from you. This will bury any negative reviews you ever had several pages deep.

Very few customers are going to read 20 or 50 reviews when they already read 5 or 8 glowing reviews left by genuinely satisfied customers.



Customers complaining online, and leaving bad reviews, is happening more and more every day, and not just to bad places, but to good businesses too.

The good news is that when you know how, you can greatly reduce the negative impact that these negative reviews can have on your business – maybe even use your response to these reviews to make a positive statement about your business, and/or use these reviews for insights on how to take necessary steps to improve your business and the customer experience.

I’ve given you a few tips how you can go about responding to bad online reviews to build your branding and your business. Now the ball’s in your court…take action and foolproof your online reputation.

By doing this you will also grow your business listings in the process, such that your prospects are predisposed to have a positive impression of your business before they even step into your doors.

Follow this link for more tips and guides by Chloe on how to effectively promote your services business...

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