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Effectively Managing Negative Online Reviews

In our increasingly connected online and social world, consumer reviews on popular sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List are fast becoming a powerful influence on consumer behavior offline. In fact, a recent survey by Search Engine Land revealed that over 65% of consumers said they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from their friends while nearly half said they would be more likely to visit a business after reading a positive online review.  With that in mind, it is clear that positive online reviews are powerful tools for growth, but what happens when your business gets a negative review?

For every business, no matter how great its customer service or product, negative reviews are always a matter of “when” rather than “if.” Dissatisfied customers are a reality of business and less than stellar reviews are bound to happen. Despite this inevitability, business owners do not have to accept bad reviews as an unfortunate byproduct of doing business but should instead embrace them as an opportunity to convert unhappy customers and create a sense of involvement in the online community.  Having a plan of action in place to respond to a negative review is crucial in effectively managing a company’s online reputation and is something all businesses, regardless of size, should be ready to implement at a moment’s notice.

With timeliness being critically important in successfully responding to a negative online review, here are three ways a business can turn a negative review into something positive and ensure that they are ready when the next one occurs.

  1. Empathize With the Customer: At times, empathizing with the customer can be difficult but is imperative in order to establish a sense of rapport and work to improve their experience. Unless the review is completely off base and malicious, it is often best to avoid debate and instead come from a point of understanding and concern.  By establishing a caring and friendly tone up front, businesses will be able to better understand what caused a customer’s dissatisfaction and then be in the position to take the necessary actions to right the experience for the consumer.
  2. Give the Consumer a Reason to Come Back: More often than not, consumers who have had a negative experience with a business are willing to give them a second chance if an attempt is made to right the first wrong. Refunds or discounts on a future purchase are two of the most effective ways to convert unhappy customers to fans and often results in a second, more positive review by the consumer.
  3. Take Actionable Lessons from the Reviews: Reviews, both good and bad, provide tremendous insight into how customers perceive a business. With online reviews, consumers are openly stating what they like and do not like about a business, free of charge. As a result, reviews should serve as a focus group of sorts and drive action that both builds on the good and corrects the bad.


Word of mouth has long been the most effective form of marketing for businesses and as consumers move online to share their opinions, it now travels faster and further than ever before. Online reviews allow a business to monitor in real time what customers are saying and take meaningful action to both deliver on its successes and improve on its faults in a way that has never been possible before.

Responding to negative reviews and interacting with consumers through that response is a tremendous way to build a point of differentiation, stand out from the competition, and create a loyal, engaged group of consumers who will continue to drive sales and growth in the future. Please contact us to learn more!