Managing Online Complaints and Bad Reviews

How to deal with negative feedback and online complaints

If you have a successful business then at some point you are going to have to deal with a complaint.  A few years ago people complained directly to the service provider or retailer, but today, many decide to complain publicly by either writing an online review, or making a publicly available post on social media.  Dealing with these publicly viewable complaints can be quite emotional for you as you’re likely to feel the person is criticising you directly, for everyone to see.  So, before you receive your first publicly viewable complaint it’s a good idea to know the best way to deal with it.

First, and most importantly is to never instantly react to a publicly available comment.  Doing things like commenting that the disgruntled customer is an idiot, or stating that they don’t know what they are talking about, is not going to look good in the eyes of other people reading the review or complaint. Try and see things from the customer’s viewpoint, even if it is wrong in your eyes.

The other big no-no is don’t just delete the review/complaint.  Doing so will just make the customer feel even more aggravated and could lead to them posting the issue elsewhere, where you might have no control, and also not be able to put your side of the story across.

You Basically Have Four Options

Option One

After reading the customers issue you should keep calm, and respond in an appropriate manner.  This is best done by stating that you are sorry that they feel the way they do and telling them that you will look in to the matter straight away.   You might also ask them to email you their details so you can find the information.  Doing this will give you the chance of placating the customer with direct communications that are away from the public platform.  If they do have a genuine complaint then this method will also appear to be more beneficial for the customer, as they will be dealing directly with the issue instead of posting their problem into a third party communications platform.

Once you have resolved the issue you might then want to go back to the publicly posted complaint/review and make an additional comment stating that the issue has been resolved and thanking the customer for bringing the issue to your attention.

What at first probably appeared to be a negative incident that looked bad, has now turned into something positive, and something that looks great from the perspective of a new customer reading the complaint or review.

So, here’s a quick recap on turning a negative review into a positive one

  • Keep Calm and NEVER instinctively react.
  • Apologise to the customer, even if they are wrong
  • Move the issue away from public eyes
  • Resolve the problem
  • Publicly thank the customer

Just a quick word regarding apologising for an issue.

Legally an apology can be seen as an admission of fault.  You need to apologise that the customer is feeling the way they are.  Do not state you’re sorry for the problem.  Use something along the lines of…’Hi, Michael, I’m sorry you feel we haven’t provided you with a good service.’
Or possibly ‘We’re sorry you feel that way, can you please send me an email so I can look into the problem for you…’

If the person refuses to move the issue away from public view then you need to deal with things openly. Address the issue, and if you are in the wrong then make an apology, and give reason to why the issue occurred.  You might then wish to state that you have learnt from the incident and have now put things in place so that the event cannot take place again.

Option Two

If you are unable to turn the situation around to your benefit then the next logical option would be to bury the negative comments in positive ones.  Be proactive and ask your customers for reviews, providing you get enough positive ones your potential customers will see the negative comments as irrelevant, or as just being left by someone who was having a bad day.  As most review sites rank the reviews in order of date the newer reviews will push the negative one down the list, and possible out of sight.

Option Three

If the comment or review is posted within a review site or within Google Places then there may be options to have the offending item removed, providing it meets specific criteria.   If the comment is slanderous, is off topic, uses explicit language, or hate speech, then you have a legal right to have it removed.  If the comment has been posted to Google Places then you can bring this to Google’s attention by flagging the comment(s) as inappropriate. See  If the comment is on another website then contact them informing them of how the comment is inappropriate and telling them that you want it removed.

Option Four

If all else fails and you can’t get a bad review or comment removed then you might want to remove your business from the website where the comment is made, for Google this would mean removing yourself from Google Places.  Although this might at first appear to be a bad thing to do, it might also be your best way forwards.  Removing your business from a review site will automatically remove the negative comments.  You will have to make the decision as to whether the reviews are losing you more business than the publicity gained from being on the site brings in.
Many people remove their business if they receive several negative comments, they then set up another profile and slightly alter the business name so that it appears as a brand new business.  Obviously the best way to run a business is to deal with negative comments and learn by them, but in some cases getting them removed is the only option available.


As the saying goes…’Any publicity is good publicity.’

This isn’t always true, and negative comments can’t normally be seen as publicity.  However, if the negative comments are attracting people’s attention and being shared on social media, then you might gain more than you lose from the incident.  For instance, several years ago I wrote a blog post that attracted attention for all of the wrong reasons.  I had published the article without checking spellings and grammar, and without checking that my information was actually factual.   It was late at night and I needed to get some sleep.  Instead of hitting the Save Draft button I hit the ‘Publish’ one instead.  When I logged in the following morning there were hundreds of replies from people criticising my writing and pulling the article into a million fragments of hateful, and mocking comment.   Reading the comments was an harrowing experience, people can get so nasty when they have the opportunity to feel more superior than someone else.

My initial reaction was to just delete the entire article.  It was my mistake for letting it be published and as an unfinished piece of writing I felt deleting was the thing to do.  Before doing so I checked my Google analytics account to see how many people had seen the article.  As I logged in, the live feed informed me that at that present moment in time there were around 140 people looking at the page.  This carried on for several days, and by the end of the week aver 400,000 people have viewed the article.  The result ended in me receiving a nice cheque from Google for the advertising I had set up on the page. I might have made a mistake that looked bad, but the publicity it gained was certainly a positive experience for my bank account.



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