How Not to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

Adam Dorfman

The occasional negative online review is a fact of life if you run a business. These reviews can range from calm, patient and polite to completely unhinged — and so can some businesses’ responses. Here are some helpful tips on how not to respond to a negative online review — ever — and how to maintain your reputation against a bad review.

The Buck-Passer

Negative review left online.

Some criticism is not worth responding to. A reviewer typing in all-caps, shrieking insults is better ignored; after all, do you really want the kind of business a positive review from that kind of person might bring? That said, if your response is dismissive, hostile or just along the lines of “I’m doing the best I can, give me a break,” most customers will probably side with the reviewer.

Instead, simply apologize and offer restitution. This approach can help turn the negative into a positive, and it’s a lot less defeatist.

Unbridled Sarcasm

Negative review left online.

Nobody is always on their best day, and sometimes you hit your breaking point. That said, this particular TripAdvisor online review response — while certainly making clear the exact circumstances — could have dialed back on both the sarcasm and personal details.

Professionalism is always the best response to a negative online review. Also, notice that this review is from 2014, and we’re still talking about it, five years later. Do you really want this to be the first thing your customers see?

The Legal Details

Negative review left online.

Granted, if what they’re saying is true, this moving company has every right to call out this particular critic. However, notice that of the various accusations, they can really only back up one of them. Worse, the critic’s name is a common one, and it could be an entirely different person. Even if they can prove it, that doesn’t mean you won’t get sued.

It’s better to stick to the legal system if you’ve taken action against a customer. Replying to their online review is just going to make the situation worse, and probably more expensive.

The Insult Comic

Negative review left online.

If you’re thinking about insulting somebody, you should ask yourself this question as a business person: “Am I Don Rickles, beloved comedian and master of put-down comedy?”If you are not Don Rickles, then we recommend never, ever doing this to a customer. Once you insult customers, you only get customers who don’t care what you think. So be polite, even if you’d rather not.

Blame The Employees

Negative review left online.

The employer/employee relationship is an important one to maintain, and, as a general rule, you’ll need to balance supporting your staff with the needs of your customers, particularly when there’s a dispute where both sides may be, from their perspective, right. Ultimately your employees are going to be the people who inspire good or bad online reviews, and you need to work to ensure they give their best even when customers are at their worst.

Or you could do what this TripAdvisor respondent did, and throw your employees under the bus at the slightest provocation. We recommend backing up your employees, even if they really are old and tired.

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