8 Tips for Handling Bad (and Good!) Online Reviews

March 24th, 2014 by Search Influence Alumni

Have you ever had a bad experience at a business? How did it affect your opinions of that company? More often than not, one bad experience will hinder how someone views a business, even if the experience was handled in the best way possible by the business owner/manager. This can affect the online reputation of a business greatly if people decide to write an online review about you.


While the thought of negative reviews may scare you, do not let these reviews discourage you! Remember that a dissatisfied customer is more likely to write a review after a bad experience than a satisfied customer writing about a positive experience. Negative reviews can even help you learn how to improve your business. Here are some tips for actively handling these reviews:

1. Actively check your reviews on various platforms across the web.

A good way to keep up is to assign one day per month (or bi-weekly) to check your online reputation on the different platforms. The list can be endless, but these are some important ones to consider:

**Note that you will most likely have to create an account and verify that you are the owner / manager to be able to respond to the reviews as the business owner.

2. Always be transparent with your customers. This includes:

  • NEVER posting (or having your staff post) fake reviews.

  • NEVER deleting reviews that are negative. This will just anger the person that posted the review, in turn causing a downward spiral effect. Most likely, the angry reviewer will continue to post reviews until they are acknowledged by the business. Instead, take the time to listen to your customer and their concerns.

3. Make an effort to respond to every review – positive and negative.

  • For positive reviews: A quick, “Thank you for your feedback, NAME! We appreciate your business. We hope you continue to be a BUSINESS NAME supporter!” is sufficient for a positive review. Responding to positive reviews can reinforce the already positive opinion that the reviewer has of your business, and reinforce brand loyalty with that person (because who doesn’t like being responded to by a business?).

  • For negative reviews: The dissatisfied customer will appreciate being heard, and outsiders will appreciate that the business takes the time to respond when something isn’t right.

4. Be personal in your responses.

Use the customer’s name if provided, and bring in information from their original review. This will keep the customer from thinking you just have a generic response to all reviews.

  • For example, if a person leaves a bad review on a spa page and you notice in their review they had a massage that day, you could say something along the lines of: “Hi NAME, I’m sorry your massage was not up to par….”

  • Another example comes from our blog! Check out how Tracy Stoller responded to a comment about an error in a code we provided in a previous blog.


5. Provide a business email that the reviewer can contact you on.

Don’t try to make it all perfect on the review. You will be able to go more in depth with the customer through an email, depending on the severity of the review/situation. It’s up to you to decide when to try to go into more depth to resolve the issue.

  • You could say something along the lines of, “I truly apologize for XYZ. Please contact name@yourbusiness.com to help us resolve this issue for you.”

6. Remember that sometimes people have unrealistic expectations of a business.


If something happened that is completely out of your control, explain yourself in the reply. However, do not have a negative tone toward the customer – simply explain the situation to the best of your ability.

  • For example, a customer leaves a horribly negative review after coming to your restaurant and you are all out of their favorite beer. You can apologize for the inconvenience, but explain that things like this happen occasionally. Explain when the product would be restocked and invite them back. This would be an example of when to NOT provide a contact email, because the situation is not that extreme.

7. Do not offer gift cards or other repayment for a negative experience on the review site.

If something is serious enough that you feel the need to refund the customer, provide your contact email and do so through email. Offering repayment or gift cards publicly can be seen as bribery by an outsider reading reviews.

8. Invite your customers to leave reviews!

Post a link to your Yelp! page (or other review site) to your social media accounts and invite your followers to talk about their experiences. This could lead to people leaving positive reviews that would not have normally done that on their own.

It’s important to remember that you can’t please everyone, but continuously having timely responses to your reviews can only benefit your business.