How to respond to reviews

A Guide to Negative Review Management

No matter what kind of business you run, you’re going to have to deal with negative reviews. Even the best brands and businesses will have to deal with an occasional piece of negative feedback on social networks like Facebook, review sites like Yelp, or even on their website.  Negative review management is incredibly important. In fact, it is more important than it ever was. Today, we’ll discuss why you need to be ready when negatives come in, how to track them so you miss nothing, and how to deal with those pesky negatives when they do.

Why You Need to Deal with Negative Reviews

People trust online reviews. It’s as simple as that. Because people know that bloggers and social media influencers can be bought…and that they don’t often disclose this type of relationship they are more likely to trust those unsolicited reviews that are shared on review sites. Let’s look at the numbers:

  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they would a recommendation from a friend (source)
  • 91% of people read online reviews on a regular basis (source)
  • One negative review can drive away 22% of your customers

This attests to the power of reviews and review sites such as Yelp and their competitors. As of 2017, Yelp alone had 28 million monthly app users and 83 million desktop users. That’s a whole lot of people.  According to one study, in Seattle, a one-star increase among Yelp restaurant reviews led to 5-9% growth in revenue.

Negative reviews and online comments, which can have an indefinite online shelf life, can possibly cost a business far more in lost receipts than what positive reviews can do for increasing revenue.

The fact is, whether they know it or not, and some do, customers have a decided online advantage over small, local businesses when it comes to disputes and conflicts. Because a reviewer is inevitably perceived as the powerless victim who has fallen prey to a business owner whose first interest is making a quick dollar.

The takeaway? Don’t ignore reviews and online feedback.

How to Track Negative Reviews & Feedback Online


Tracking reviews and online mentions is a ridiculously time-consuming task. There’s Yelp, TripAdvisor, FriendsEAT. Then there are all the things people say on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Did we mention blogs? Sure, you could log on to each of these sites daily, or you could simply use a dashboard like Socialdraft that puts all of those mentions all in one place for you to manage. A dashboard like this will save you time and money. You can sign up for Socialdraft’s risk-free trial here. 

Negative Review Management and Response Tactics

That’s why it’s vital to prevent negative online reviews from appearing in the first place. You can neutralize negative reviews using the following steps:

  • Prevent negative reviews from happening
  • Privately deal with disputes
  • Publicly respond to negative reviews
  • Promote positive reviews

1. Prevent

As with our health, prevention is the key, and prevention is where business owners should invest the most energy. Providing the best possible service, and adhering to the most impeccable standards greatly minimizes any chance of receiving negative reviews.

No expense should be spared in making sure customers have access to open and fluid lines of communication via all forms of social media. Business owners should even assign key personnel the job of managing and monitoring social media because no matter how well your business is run, someone will complain and you need to be alert so negative reviews don’t get out of hand.

When someone does complain while at your place of business before a negative review is posted, it’s imperative to immediately deal with customer concerns and criticisms, and accommodate feedback no matter how trite a complaint may appear. An online review lives forever…whereas a complaint in your place of business does not.

Business owners should seize every opportunity to communicate by speaking with customers in person; communicating with them by phone or exchanging e-mails.

Whatever the mode of contact, find out what the customer wants and acquiesce — even if your business loses money in resolving the conflict. Because in the long run, quick conflict resolution is far superior to the drawn-out protracted impact caused by an angry, dissatisfied customer’s negative word-of-mouth or online review. It is near impossible to get a negative review removed.

The longer an unresolved dispute goes without being addressed, the more it may spiral out of control and even itself become the sole source of more negative reviews. For example, I’ve read negative reviews for a business on Yelp written by people who had never used the business and had only read other online negative reviews.

2. Privately Handle Disputes

It is important to take the negative offline

In the event that a negative review appears online, the first priority for a business owner should be to move the issue offline as fast as possible. Encourage the customer to communicate with you by phone or email so you can negotiate in private.

Offer a solution in exchange for the customer promising to delete the bad review, or at the very least, have them revise the review to note that their complaint was solved to their satisfaction.

At all costs, business owners should avoid any and all back-and-forth or tit-for-tat online exchange that could draw even more unwanted attention to the review (as seen in the above example). This will only put the business in a bad light with other potential customers. In other words, make your customers an offer they can’t refuse. You are in the hospitality industry after all.

3. Publicly & Neutrally Respond to Negative Reviews

A good response to a negative yelp review


If a customer refuses to change or delete a review, forcing you to reply online, you should document the actions you took to resolve the dispute to your customer’s satisfaction. Mention any discounts, substitutions, replacements, or complimentary service you offered in an attempt to make the customer whole.

If the majority of the reviews your company receives online are positive, any negative review that’s accompanied by a reply on behalf of your company outlining steps taken to compensate for a grievance by an unsatisfied customer will successfully mitigate the damage.

In most cases, when potential customers can see a small business is attentive to complaints and goes overboard to resolve disputes, people are more than willing to dismiss a few errant negative reviews.

Hotel Max has some great examples of public responses to both negative and positive business reviews.

4. Promote Positive Reviews

Sharing your positive reviews on social media sites is a good strategy


Provide a “feedback form” or “satisfaction survey” on your website or place of business to serve as a proactive step in fixing a problem, or making an improvement. By presenting a venue for feedback during a visit, customers are far less inclined to take negative publicity away with them and onto public forums like Yelp or TripAdvisor.

When you or your employees come in contact with your customers, ask them if they’re happy with your company’s services or product. If they are, encourage them to show their appreciation by submitting positive reviews online. Go the extra step and make it easy on them, have cards with QR codes that lead to your preferred review site. Hand these out to only those customers who loved your service and products.

Remember, some customers may be unfamiliar with the online review process or social media in general, but customers who are deeply satisfied with your business will take the time to post a positive review and become brand advocates.

Don’t forget to feature links on your website to online review pages and social media pages so customers can easily post positive feedback.

Ask clients for an e-mail address.  Message your customers after an order or a service and request feedback (and maybe offer a small perk). You can then ask them to subscribe to a newsletter for future promotions.

When you do get those positive reviews, share them on social media. This is social proof of your amazing business (and free advertising).