How to Respond to Difficult & Bizarre Reviews

Adam Dorfman

Is the customer always right – even when they’re being completely ridiculous?

When you receive an online review that makes no sense, is insulting or unjustified, or doesn’t really apply to your business, responding to it can be tricky. It’s easy to ignore it or get defensive — but if you do, it could backfire. You may give the impression that you don’t care about customer satisfaction and do real damage to your reputation in the process.

Here are some examples of foolish and bizarre reviews that would challenge even the best online reputation management practitioners — along with response recommendations from the experts at Reputation.

1) Dine, Ditch and — Leave a Review?

This one-star review on TripAdvisor goes down in the books as one of the dumbest reviews ever written — not because it eviscerates an Italian restaurant in the UK, but because the reviewer is a criminal:

Prior to leaving this scathing review, the angry diner left the bill unpaid — and the restaurant owner caught him on video. Oops!

Still, it’s important not to get defensive or accusatory. A response like this may be right on the money, showing a willingness to address the feedback and provide a better experience — without sounding defensive or accusatory:

“Thank you for your valued input. We’re sorry the dining experience did not meet your expectations. We’d like to make it up to you with a free appetizer should you decide to give us a second chance. However, we were unable to locate a form of payment for your meal after you left the restaurant. Please contact us directly to discuss the issue further, settle the bill, and get your desserts on us!”

2) When Free and Amazing Still Isn’t Good Enough

This reviewer’s mani-pedi experience was “definitely amazing,” and she gushes about the staff and the store. But she only gives the business 3 stars, because she thinks the service was “too expensive” — even though it cost her nothing. Huh?

The salon’s response was perfect:

Rather than bite back at the reviewer, the business manager took full advantage of the opportunity to explain why the shop’s services were more expensive — and in the process, expertly differentiated the business from the competition. Bravo!

3) The Food Was Good, But…

We’ll give this reviewer some slack; Fogo de Chao was new on the scene at the time of the review. Maybe he didn’t know what to expect from the unique dining experience —  a combination of buffet and personalized tableside service. But if you don’t like buffets, why go? And a 1-star review when you liked the food?

Our advice to the business? Focus on the positive:

“Thank you for your feedback! We’re glad you enjoyed the food, and it’s good to hear the tableside food delivery was prompt. We hope you come back soon, and when you do, just let your server know you’re in no hurry! They’ll be happy to serve you at the pace you prefer.”

4) When Attention to Detail Undermines the Reviewer’s Credibility

This reviewer tweaked his review four times. The sandwich he wanted was never available and his second choice was never warm enough. At least he seems to have gotten his drink order straightened out.

In this scenario, flattery will get you the results you crave:

“Thank you for taking the time to submit a very detailed review. We see that you spent considerable time making sure you expressed yourself clearly. We value your feedback — thoughtful customers such as yourself help us stay on our toes and deliver warm, delicious food to patrons.”

5) When a 4-Star Rating May Be Unmerited

Uh, blood on the shower curtain is never OK. But this reviewer didn’t seem to mind much.

A review that calls attention to potential sanitation issues must be addressed — with humility and reassurance. Here’s one way to respond:

“Thank you for your valuable feedback. We’re so happy you enjoyed your stay. However, we

apologize for the unclean shower curtain. We strive to provide clean, comfortable rooms to all guests and will address this issue directly with our housecleaning staff. For your trouble, please contact us directly so we can provide you with a voucher for a discount off the total price of your next stay with us.”

6) Do the Ghosts Pay for Their Stay, Too?

Investigating the genesis of a review like this one requires bravery:

Whether or not the phantom guests in Room 303 paid for their stay, a response to such an outrageous review could read as follows:

“Thank you for your feedback. We make every effort to ensure our guests are safe and comfortable. Rest assured we’ll check the room for any unnatural activity and perhaps burn some sage in the adjoining hallway, just to be safe. We’re sorry for any inconvenience you may have experienced.”

7) Note to Self — And to Others

Some people feel the need to educate others publicly on topics they feel passionate about — such as the dangers of fast food. And perhaps writing down their plan to stop poisoning family members with it will help them stick to their commitment:

In our opinion, a good response to this review would look something like this:

“Thank you for your feedback. McDonald’s strives to offer a variety of meal options. Perhaps you’d be interested in bringing your niece and nephew in to try one of our five healthy salads. Here’s a link to a coupon.”

8) Review Requesting Works — Although Some People Are Reluctant

This review gets the reward for most ironic:

Our advice? Resist the urge to point out the irony and take the high road:

“Thank you for your feedback! We’re happy to hear you had a great experience with our business. We take customer reviews very seriously, as they help us continue to provide excellent service and understand areas where we can improve. Although we relish the opportunity to hear from all our customers and we’re working to make the process more user-friendly, never feel obligated to leave a review. It’s completely optional!”

Keep Your Eye on the Prize

In this digital age we live in, reviews are inevitable — and extremely valuable. Some will be positive, a few will be negative, and a few will be — well, weird. When responding, keep these simple strategies in mind, and you’ll handle any review with grace and finesse:

  • If you suspect a review is fake, report it immediately to the review site.
  • For reviews that contain false information or are insulting, take the time to correct the information without returning the insult. You may be able to win over an unsatisfied customer, and even get them to remove or upgrade their review.
  • Never let a negative review fester — address it quickly and thoroughly.
  • Don’t get into arguments. Offer to discuss the problem one-on-one.
  • If the complaint is legitimate, own up to it and offer to fix the situation.
  • If possible, find humor in the situation. It humanizes you!

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