15 Smart Strategies for Handling Negative Reviews From Customers

Members of the Young Entrepreneur Council explain the first steps a business should take upon discovering a negative review.

Published on Apr. 07, 2021
15 Smart Strategies for Handling Negative Reviews From Customers
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Top row, from left: Ephraim Arnstein, Jeff Keenan, Avery Carl, Syed Balkhi, Tyler Bray. Second row, from left: Kelly Richardson, Kevin Leyes, John Brackett, Daisy Jing, Samuel Thimothy. Bottom row, from left: Shaun Conrad, Kalin Kassabov, John Turner, Terry Tateossian, Amine Rahal.

No one likes to receive bad reviews or negative feedback from customers. Often, business owners may feel these are personal attacks or coming from a competitor trying to start trouble.

As a result, rather than patiently responding with an open mind, some businesses lash out and become defensive. Although this reaction may feel justified in the moment, the only thing youre doing is adding fuel to the fire — and making the customer angrier.

If you want to handle a negative review tactfully and efficiently, try one of these strategies recommended by the members of the Young Entrepreneur Council.

15 Smart Strategies for Handling Negative Customer Reviews

  1. Take it seriously.
  2. Participate and respond.
  3. Call the reviewer on the phone.
  4. Assess the review’s importance.
  5. Make things right.
  6. Communicate with ease, understanding and respect.
  7. Evaluate the critique.
  8. Document and revisit.
  9. Respond with love.
  10. Hold yourself accountable.
  11. Take their feedback to heart.
  12. Avoid getting defensive or arguing.
  13. Solve the issue quickly.
  14. Look into the review platform.
  15. Own up to it.


1. Take It Seriously

You may find there are at least 10 other customers who experienced the same issue but never mentioned it. Investigate the circumstances around what may have gone wrong to prevent future reoccurrences. If possible, contact the customer to see if the issue has been or can be resolved. Many times, if you attempt to right a wrong, the customer will update their review to a more positive one. —Ephraim Arnstein, Bitbean


2. Participate and Respond

If you dont participate, your customers are having the conversation about you behind your back. Your voice and perspective are important to establish your business as one that cares and listens to customers. Dont just react or respond privately. Let the community online know the steps you are taking to improve. It shows you care. —Jeff Keenan, LeadsRx


3. Call the Reviewer on the Phone

Upon seeing a bad review, I immediately call the reviewer. Voice-to-voice interaction is the key in this instance so that no inflection can be misinterpreted over text. The first thing I do is thank them profusely for their feedback, because if I dont know about an issue, then I cant remedy it. I ask them to tell me the story about what happened, see if I can offer an explanation and then offer any potential solutions. —Avery Carl, The Short Term Shop


4. Asses the Review’s Importance

Negative reviews vary. Some of them are obviously unfair and can be ignored, or you can approach the reviewer with an apology. Some are blatantly misinformed and can lead to your business developing a bad brand image. In this case, you need to address the review with a fleshed out reply. In either case, the first thing you should do is assess how important the review is before doing anything. —Syed BalkhiWPBeginner


5. Make Things Right

I reach out to the customer and simply make things right. I kid you not, some of my strongest relationships with customers began due to a mistake on my part. When customers see youre acting to make things right in good faith, dont be surprised if they remove their reviews or write glowing follow-ups! —Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts


6. Communicate With Ease, Understanding and Respect

A standard best practice for handling negative reviews is to make all communication easy, understanding and respectful. Overreacting and abusing a reviewer, despite whatever else you do right, plants negative thoughts in your other prospects’ minds. The key to handling these situations is to stay calm, agree with the angry customer and resolve the issue without overstepping boundaries. —Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz


7. Evaluate the Critique

Criticism, whether negative or positive, is an opportunity to grow and improve in your work. You should evaluate whichever aspects of your business were criticized; there may be a flaw that needs to be changed to offer a better service or product. If you diagnose the problem and find no issues, dont bother — not every bad review reflects reality. —Kevin Leyes, Leyes Media & VVS, by Leyes Empire


8. Document and Revisit

You can’t stop all negative reviews forever. You can, however, fine-tune your product and website over time to minimize them. When a complaint comes in, I make sure to document it right away. Every month, my team and I go through the complaints and look for common problems that we can resolve with our developers or design team. —John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC


9. Respond With Love

Negative feedback can come from friends or frenemies. You should determine if the feedback is from a friend who is willing to offer a hand to help you grow or a frenemy lashing out at you with hate. The negative review is not always a negative response. It could actually be a person who loves your brand and has something to offer to make it better. If its just hate, respond with love instead. —Daisy Jing, Banish


10. Hold Yourself Accountable

Ask yourself if the review is right. You can only know by taking their complaint seriously. Then, respond appropriately. If you can get past the public sting of a negative review, you can redeem yourself publicly as well. Try to understand that the less-than-satisfied customers claim is an opportunity to improve the product or service. Attend to them and improve. People appreciate honesty and accountability. —Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS


11. Take Their Feedback to Heart

Dont freak out. Bad reviews can be good for your business. Beyond contacting the customer to remedy the situation, take their feedback to heart. Use their criticism to make your business better. Evaluate your product or service, and prepare a public case study about the changes you’ve made. Be transparent and show your customers that you care. This will turn negative reviews into positive stories. —Shaun Conrad, Guitar Repair Bench Online Lessons


12. Avoid Getting Defensive or Arguing

Look closely at what the reviewer is saying to find out if theyre pointing out something you need to address. You have to avoid any desire to be defensive and argue with the person. If the reviewer has a legitimate grievance, you should do whatever you can to set things right. If they’re pointing out a widespread problem, you know its something that needs to be changed. —Kalin Kassabov, ProTexting


13. Solve the Issue Quickly

The best way to handle a negative review is to find a solution quickly. Dont let a customer wait too long, or theres a very good chance they wont come back to your website. Address the issue and offer a tangible solution that shows them that youre committed to solving their problems and appreciate their business. —John Turner, SeedProd LLC


14. Look Into the Review Platform

Find out if the platform where they posted the review is legitimate. How do they verify the review is from a valid customer? Did they check the identity? Weve had clients who get attacked by their competitors regularly because some platforms dont protect against this type of attack. If that happens, you can request your data be removed from their website permanently. —Terry Tateossian, Socialfix Media


15. Own Up to It

Unless the claims are outrageously false, simply follow up by apologizing. In your apology, mention that this goes against your customer care policy and that youre committed to doing better next time they do business with you. The worst thing you can do is sweep complaints under the rug or provoke a fight. —Amine Rahal, IronMonk Solutions

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