Dealing with a bad online review

The Best Actions to Take When Faced with a Bad Online Review!

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Has your business ever received a bad review? As a social media manager, have you ever had to deal with a negative reviews for a business you were managing?

Yikes! It’s scary and nerve-wracking when it happens! It’s only your or your clients’ online reputation on the line, right? 

No matter how involved you are, how great a company is, there is just no way to guarantee every customer's happiness. Unhappy customers are part of life, and part of business. At some point, you will encounter this issue.

Today’s article will spell out what actions to take when receiving a bad online review. You will learn how to put a positive spin on a negative experience, because taking no action when faced with negative feedback should never be an option. 

What is Considered a Bad Online Review?

You might ask yourself: what exactly is a bad online review? For some business owners, anything less than a 5-star product or service review is bad. For others, the threshold lies at 4 or 3-star reviews. 

A ‘bad review’ is one where there is an obvious, clearly spelled out customer service issue. Do not confuse a bad review with a fake review – while a fake review should not be ignored either, handling fake reviews is a bit different than bad reviews.

If you are looking for advice on how to deal with fake reviews, skip to the last paragraph of this article! 

A bad online review is one where a current or past customer expresses their dissatisfaction with your brand, product or service. 

Reputation Management 101: Be Prepared!

The number one rule with reputation management is to be prepared

When working with a business, you should always have a reputation management plan on file. For online reviews it means a document that spells out the procedure to initiate when a negative review first appears online. 


Because time is of the essence when handling a negative review!

Create a written action plan with clear directives:

  • who will handle the negative online review
  • action steps to respond to the bad online review
  • required response time
  • what to do when things escalates
  • whom to contact internally when things escalate
  • what you can and can not say to the reviewer
  • standard responses to common issues

Your reputation management plan should be a living document that is shared between all marketing team members, and should be reviewed each time a negative review is resolved. The best way to prevent a negative online review is to learn from mistakes. 

Share your findings with the appropriate team who might have contributed to the issue at hand i.e. shipping, customer service, sales, delivery, quality control etc.

5 Actions to Take When Faced with a Bad Online Review!

As stated above, your reputation management plan should include an action plan that you can execute on as soon as you receive notification of a bad online review. 

In order to be notified, you do have to have notification one for Facebook, Google My Business and other places like Yelp where customers can leave your reviews! Not monitoring these type of online spaces is the number one reason business owners miss their window of opportunity to make things right. 

Whether you assign this monitoring to your social media manager, marketing team or to your

1) Acknowledge You've Read the Online Review

As soon as you see the bad review, acknowledge it. If you don’t have a standard reply ready to go, give it a response like “Thank you for reaching out to us about our product/service. We will be in touch shortly.”

If you can, skip this step and go right to Step 2. 

2) Respond in a Timely Fashion to the Online Review

Based on the strategy laid out in your reputation management plan, this would be the appropriate time to respond. 

Make sure you convey the fact you’ve read the review, and you and your team are working on a response or solution.

3) Take the Conversation Offline to Resolve the Conflict

Next, or in that same conversation, ask the reviewer to contact you via email or by phone. You can either ask them for their email address, give them yours or exchange phone numbers.

You want to take this conversation offline ASAP! Whomever on your team responds should be a person authorized to offer a replacement product or service! 

4) Address the Issue within the Company and Team

Here is the positive spin on a negative story: Once you have the story of what transpired, fix it so it can never happen again. Bad service? Fix it? Bad product? Fix it. Slow shipping? Fix it! You get the idea!

For this particular customer, fix their issue offline, not in the public eye. Never, ever, ever offer to give something for free in a public forum. What will happen then is that other customers, or online trolls, will start leaving the same (but fake) review because they want something free! 

Be sure to document everything and address the review, the issue at hand and the response and outcome with the appropriate shipping, customer service, sales, delivery or quality control team! 

5) Start Collecting New Positive Online Reviews Immediately

Last but not least, use this bad online review as a catalyst to kickstart a new campaign to gather positive reviews! On social media, post review site links, and ask for customer reviews within your online community and among your fans! 

social media manager

You’d be amazed what a review response you can get when you ask nicely! 

What NOT to Do When You Receive a Bad Online Review!

It goes without saying you should stay calm, cool and collected. However, we’ve seen plenty of posts go sideways after a customer leaves a negative review! 

  • Do not panic
  • Do not respond in kind
  • Do not rant or rave
  • Do not call the customer bad names
  • Do not tag anyone to drag them into the conversation
  • Do not publicly shame them
  • Do not publicly attack them

If the person who left a bad online review does any of these things, take the high road! Do not resort to their tactics. More often than not, your supporters will jump in and defend your reputation by leaving positive feedback! 😉 

How To Deal with Fake Online reviews?

Have you ever gotten a fake review? Or a review from a “potential customer” – btw how does that even work? “I was planning to eat at your place but since you were closed, you suck. Here is a 1-start review”. 

How sad is that?!

Here are the steps to undertake when you’ve got a series of fake reviews

Here is the truth: loyal customers who love you will see through an irate customer’s unreasonable demands and slander!

One more note: If you have a dispute with a customer that can not be resolved, and they ask their friends to leave (fake!) reviews for you, do not panic. We recommend your either hire a PR firm to help you, or put out a press release on your website, and repost it to social media. 

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