How to respond to negative reviews

One of the most powerful marketing tools your business has is its reputation. But, that reputation can be tarnished quickly with just one bad review. In fact, studies show that just one bad review can cost a business around 30 customers, and a one-star change in your rating can affect revenue by 5-9%.

So, what’s a small business owner to do? Is there a way you can remove that negative review on Yelp, Google, or Facebook? Every business is bound to get a bad review at one point or another, but there are things you can do to alleviate the negative effects.    

Here’s what NOT to do when you get bad reviews:

1. Don’t obsess about removing the bad review

Reading a bad review about the business you’ve worked so hard to build can be infuriating — especially when you think the review isn’t true. But don’t obsess about trying to remove the review. Odds are, that’s not going to happen.

Yes, some companies claim they can make all of your review troubles disappear, but it’s not that easy. Online review sites make it very hard to remove bad reviews, and they sometimes go one step further by blacklisting companies that attempt to remove bad reviews.

Moreover, even if you’re successful (which is unlikely), you’ll lose credibility and trust if customers discover that you’ve removed a legitimate review. No matter how you look at it, trying to get rid of a bad review is a lose-lose situation unless you can prove it’s fraudulent. Resist the urge to go guns blazing after negative reviews. 

Plus, new research from Womply shows that negative online business reviews aren’t necessarily as harmful as you might think. Businesses with between 10 and 25% negative reviews make the most money! In addition, in Womply’s study, businesses that regularly respond to their online business reviews earn up to 49% more revenue.

2. Don’t attack the reviewer

Yes, your blood might boil after reading a scathing review someone has written about your business, but don’t lash out. Fighting fire with fire isn’t going to help the situation—it’s only likely to ignite even more fury from the reviewer.

Take a deep breath, even walk away, before formulating a response. Take some time to think about what was said. Is there a legitimate concern? Is there something you can improve? How can you use this opinion to make your business and product better? 

3. Don’t post fake reviews

You can certainly bury a negative review by receiving a bunch of positive ones, but stay away from the temptation of writing fake reviews. Chances are, your customers will see right through this tactic and you’ll once again lose credibility and trust. Plus, this practice is banned by the FTC! 

Here’s what you SHOULD do when you get a bad review: 

1. Use the R.E.S.T. model when responding to negative reviews

Crafting the right response to a bad review can be tricky, so we’ve put together a list of the best practices in responding to bad reviews and called it the R.E.S.T. model:

  • Respond quickly: You can minimize the harm of a negative review simply by posting a response in short order. Again, don’t respond in anger, so sleep on it if you need to, but don’t let the review sit without a response for days or weeks. That sends a signal that you don’t care.
  • Eliminate the emotion: Again, we get it. Negative reviews feel personal, and they might not be fair. Still, take the high road and you’ll be happy you did. Avoid getting personal in interactions with customers on review sites or you might make the situation worse.
  • Say you’re sorry: Again . . . we get it. Maybe it wasn’t your fault, and some customers just want to pick a fight. Without admitting guilt, say something like, “sorry you had a bad experience.” Expressing empathy usually takes the reviewer’s guard down and helps other viewers see you in a positive light.
  • Take it offline: Negative reviews are an opportunity in disguise because up to 70% of complaining customers will give you another chance if you resolve their concerns. It’s best to do this in a private forum, so be sure to provide a way for customers to contact you directly (e.g. an email address or phone number) so you don’t have a drawn-out public conversation online.

2. Get more positive reviews

One of the best ways to dilute the power of a negative review is to hide it among several positive reviews. But, if you’re not supposed to write fake reviews, how can you start getting more positive reviews?

If you’re like most businesses, the vast majority of your customers walk out your door feeling positive about their experience, with only a few edge-cases. But no matter how many happy customers you have, only a small percentage of those customers are ever going to leave you an unprompted review. A customer who feels they have had a bad experience, on the other hand, is much more likely to take their grievances online.

So how do you make sure more of your happy customers are the ones who take their stories to review sites? The easiest and most effective solution is to simply ask. 68% of customers will leave a review if asked, so don’t sit around hoping your satisfied customers decide to leave a review. Develop a habit of following up a positive customer interaction by saying something like, “If you wouldn’t mind leaving us a review of your experience, it really helps us a lot.” You’ll be amazed what a difference such a simple act can make.

If you’d like to take this strategy to the next level, Womply can help. With Womply’s reputation management software, you see all of your online reviews from all the important sites in one place, with one login. And you can go a step further by keeping negative customer feedback private and productive while proactively encouraging your happiest customers to write positive online reviews about your business. 

3. Act on any legitimate feedback in the bad review

There’s a silver lining to receiving a negative review—it presents an opportunity for you to improve your business. Your unsatisfied customers likely have the most valuable information you can use to grow your business. Listen with an open mind and implement their feedback when it makes sense.    

Read about how Kimana Littleflower did just that to improve a signature dish at her popular South Carolina eatery.

Don’t lose sleep over bad online reviews. Instead, take a proactive approach to prevent them from happening and manage them when they do happen. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!


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