• MMH CPA

Small Business: Handling Negative Online Reviews



The best defense is a great offense. You won’t have to address negative reviews if you never have them in the first place.


Proactively identify possible negative experiences and encourage customers to respond directly to you to resolve their issues.


Here are some ideas on handling any pesky negative online business reviews if they do pop up.


Know your dissatisfied reviewer. Before responding, conduct research on the customer. Are they habitual complainers? Online forums have created many of these types of customers. On the other hand, people simply get frustrated with poor service and are simply at their wit’s end. It’s important to know the difference.


Fix the problem. When you get a negative review, identify the customer and contact them directly. Then work with them to solve their problem. If a solution is not possible, be willing to cancel their service or refund their money. While you may not like the solution if the customer is unreasonable, at least they are not out any money.


Then consider the experience a gift. You either now have a process that can be improved or you have identified a complainer you do not want as a customer. Either way, your business is better off. Once this is done, ask the customer to post about how you solved their problem.


Write your response. Remember, your written response to the complaint is meant for future readers of the complaint. Your response should contain the following elements:


  • Acknowledge the customer’s feelings.

  • Restate the problem.

  • Explain how you solved the problem.

  • Encourage the complainer to contact you directly in the future so you can handle their issue more effectively than through a public forum.

  • Avoid acting defensive, over-apologetic, or getting into a back-and-forth discussion.


Today’s online review systems can give too much power to a few complainers. Your goal is to use these systems to your advantage to find new buyers by showing top-notch customer service.

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