How to handle bad reviewsAs a Westchester, NY small business owner, how do you handle bad reviews and make the best out of them?

You can’t please everyone, unfortunately, but you CAN make the best of a negative review.

If a business resolves its issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers return back to your business.

92% of consumers read online reviews, so there will always be Negative Nellies or people who like to complain. However, there are also legitimate complaints. Perhaps you did your best with a product or service you provided, and for some reason it just didn’t work out for the customer exactly the way they would’ve liked. It’s not the end of the world.

Only YOU have the power to turn a negative situation into a positive when it comes to YOUR business.

Here are 5 ways to handle bad reviews about your business:

1. Don’t Be Afraid of Negative Reviews

Negative reviews can actually be good for business. A bad review interspersed within good reviews just shows that the reviews are real; the good and the bad. If all your reviews were stellar 5-star ratings, people will think they were fabricated by family and employees, and not REAL customers. 30% of consumers assume online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews.

2. Respond Quickly to ALL Reviews

Whether good or bad, you should respond to all reviews. It shows you care and you’re listening. If someone takes the time out of their busy lives to actually write something nice, or leave you a 5-star rating, be sure to thank them.

You should respond to a negative review within a few days of it being written. This means you (or one of your employees) should scan your reviews at least two times per week. Address their concerns in a polite manner. Show your professionalism and expertise and explain how you are very sorry for their less than favorable experience, then try to resolve the issue as best as possible.

3. Please the Unhappy Customer

Responding quickly and trying to resolve the issue is great, however, you can do more. As a gesture of “goodwill,” offer the unhappy customer a discount on a future visit, purchase or service.

Instead of offering this in the review response for the public to see, try to take the resolution offline via phone or email. For example, “We’re sorry you were unhappy with our service. We would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this with you and resolve the matter. Please contact me directly at, or 914-450-9149.” One, this shows you’re willing to take the time personally to correct the situation. And two, if you offer the discount offline, others won’t bombard you with negative reviews just to obtain the same discount. 

If the matter is favorably resolved offline, you can post another response stating that you’re very pleased that you were able to help the customer resolve their issue and look forward to future business. Recovering successfully from a mistake can build a stronger relationship with that customer.

4. Use the Negative Reviews as a Learning Tool

Negative reviews can be a great learning tool. You’re getting REAL feedback on problems within your business. Running a business can consume your time where you won’t always see the negatives or the little things behind the scenes. These bad reviews can be a blessing that allows you to see what is wrong and fix it for the future. This can only help your business in the long run.

5. Accentuate the Positive

While you’re apologetic and working on resolving the issue with your unhappy customer, as a side note you can also point out the positives in your business and the other positive reviews you’ve received. However, don’t put too much emphasis on that, as you don’t want to deter from the issue at hand and annoy your customer even more.

Reach out for positive reviews. Go through your list of customers and clients that you know were happy with your product or service. Give them a call to follow up and ask politely if they don’t mind writing a review for you. Make it easy for them by sending an email with very simple instructions on how to write the review, because not everyone is as computer savvy as you may think.

The bottom line is don’t let a few bad apples spoil your business. Make the best of a negative situation and turn it around to benefit your business. After all, if you’re responsive to these unhappy customers, this also shows that you have great customer service.

As a Westchester County small business owner myself, I understand the time it takes to focus on all aspects of your business, including customer service, retention and brand reputation. That’s why we’re here to help, at Exceller Marketing we help you build your business by focusing on those areas you can’t. We know how to keep your current customers happy and create new ones. Please feel free to contact us today for a FREE consultation.

For more helpful information on what might be turning off those customers, visit our blog “5 Guaranteed Ways to Lose a Customer.”

Best regards, until next time!

Kathy Argyros
Founder and Chief Consultant
Exceller Marketing, Inc.

Exceller Marketing is a boutique-style, full-service web design and digital marketing agency in Westchester County, NY.  We empower small businesses and entrepreneurs with outstanding web design and expert digital marketing services that keep our clients ahead of their competition.

Sources: Practical Commerce, Web Leads Inc.
Image: Planet Reputation
Statistics: Vendasta