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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina

Bad reviews – why they are inevitable and what to do about them

Updated: Mar 29

Bad reviews and negative comments suck. They hurt our feelings, particularly when we're trying really hard as a business owner. When you're the captain of your own ship, the pressure is all on you. At the end of the day, the success or failure of your business rests squarely on your shoulders, and your business is your baby – it’s really hard not to take it all personally.

However, as a business owner and longtime practitioner of corporate communications, I've come to accept a truth that many of us in the online world eventually face: bad reviews are just part of the game. It's like trying to dodge raindrops in a storm; at some point, you'll get wet. But fear not, because how we respond to those inevitable downpours can make all the difference in the world.

Now, let's talk about those pesky online reviews. No matter how hard you try, you're never going to please everyone. It's just a fact of life in the digital age. But that doesn't mean you should throw in the towel and call it quits at the first sign of criticism.

Before you do any of this, take a deep breath and maybe take a short walk to calm down. You want to respond to feedback quickly, but not at the expense of being in the right headspace to do so. The first rule of negative online feedback is that as far as possible, you respond to every review or comment, even if it's really hurtful. And here are some rules of thumb to guide you.

Bad review step 1 – Evaluate the criticism 

If the negative feedback has a grain of truth, you can use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. I know that's something no-one wants to hear, but it's important. Take the time to listen to what your customers say, and then use that information to make meaningful improvements to your products or services. If there is some truth to what they say, it’s best to own up, apologize, and move on.

Bad review step 2 – Respond professionally

When it comes to responding to negative reviews, always take the high road. In general, people look at reviews both to see what people are complaining about and also how the business owner responds. That says a lot about the business. Remember, your reputation is on the line, so resist the urge to fire back with a snarky comment or a defensive tone. Instead, acknowledge the customer's concerns, apologize for any valid shortcomings, and offer to make things right if possible.

Sometimes the good old “I’m sorry you feel that way”, can go a long way. If you feel the criticism is unfounded, this is a better way to go back to them than to get defensive. Of course, it's a non-apology, but it's better than nothing.

Bad review step 3 – Report the review if possible 

Sometimes reviews are personal, unfounded, and nasty. In these instances, you can sometimes report them to the platform they’re made on and get them taken down. That is unfortunately not always the case though, so you still want to respond. That way, other potential customers can see your response until it's taken down.

Bad review step 4 – Monitor for further developments

In my experience, if you respond to a review, the original reviewer won’t take it further most of the time. People like to vent and then often forget about it! If they do respond further, you can always invite them to engage with you by giving you a call or sharing your email address. They probably won't take you up on it. After all, if they had wanted to engage with you in a constructive way, they would have already reached out, rather than posting something negative. If possible, you want to avoid a public spat, because no one looks good coming out of that.

In the end, it's not about avoiding bad reviews altogether; it's about how you choose to respond to them that matters most. So, take a deep breath, keep calm, and carry on. Because as long as you're willing to put in the work and stay true to your values, there's no storm you can't weather in the wild world of entrepreneurship.

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