Handling Negative Reviews From Customers and Rivals

There are times when all of us end up having to deal with negative reviews. Usually these come from when there are situations involving customers who have had a poor service or are angry at your business for some reason. There are also circumstances involving trolls and rivals leaving negative comments. Sometimes, I’ve even seen a case where someone has the wrong business and they are complaining about someone else. (In these cases, point it out and request a removal!)


In every case, whenever a customer leaves a review that’s negative, you should try and address their review as quickly and professionally as possible. Whatever happens, do not get emotionally involved, frustrated or angry with the person leaving the review. If you do, this can look bad when you respond to them. Instead focus on handling the complaint in a calm, friendly and professional manner.


The reason for this is simple: Your other customers can see your responses and how you deal with a potential issue on Social Media can cost you customers if you lose your cool with someone. You don’t want your customers seeing you as scary and intimidating. You want them seeing you as friendly and welcoming. It can be really, really hard if you are emotionally attached to your business to deal with some customers. Sometimes people can say things which are cruel, dishonest or unfair. In these cases it’s best to get someone else to handle the customer complaint, rather than doing it yourself. 


Here’s an example of how you could respond to a customer:


Hello Forename, I’m really sorry you had a bad experience with us today, can you tell me more about it? Please message our page and let us know what happened.


This is a good response for Facebook. On Google My Business and some other sites you may have to respond and talk to the customer publicly, but I would recommend asking them to email you to get things sorted out. What you want to do is get the customer out of the public eye because they can say some terrible things and cause you drama. On Facebook they can drag their friends in and cause all sorts of diabolical damage, you want a one on one with the customer with no room for reinforcements. The reinforcements can also end up leaving negative reviews which can be horrendous to deal with. In a lot of cases the customer won’t respond and you can get the comments and reviews removed.


Follow these five steps for handling customer complaints.


1: Don’t get angry or upset.

2: Remain calm, friendly, helpful and professional.

3: Try to get the customer off of the review.

4: When customers don’t respond get the review removed.

5: If customers do respond, be gentle and sort the problem out.


What to do if the customer responds


A customer who has been through a bad experience is likely to want to talk. They left the bad review in the first case because they wanted a reaction from you or to spite you. In either case, you can actually turn things around with a customer by being civil, apologising, offering a refund and talking to them about it.


The psychology behind this is pretty simple. Customers who are angry find it hard to stay angry when you are nice, polite and friendly with them. Allow the customer to talk about the problems and listen to what they are saying. Make notes and address the issues in their responses. Get to the bottom of things and see if there is a genuine reason the customer is upset. If a customer feels you are on their side, they are less likely to attack your business and do damage and may relent and remove the review of their own accord.


As a restaurant social media manager, I usually offer a refund and a 50% off discount the next time customers book in so I can then ensure they are provided with excellent service. A customer leaving a bad review will just as easily leave a good one, and they can come back for many years to come. People take advantage of it and bring their families, and friends, but this is actually pretty rare. If they do, and you run a good restaurant, you may just have got a tonne of new customers and great reviews. (If you’re not dealing with the world’s worst people…)


Should I ask customers to remove their negative review?


I used to ask people if they would remove reviews. This is a no-go zone and will almost always provoke a negative reaction from people. When it comes to being magnanimous in this position, you have to accept that sometimes the customer isn’t going to change their mind, and let it go.


It’s better to rely on the nature of the person leaving the review. Genuine customers who have had a bad experience are likely to end up either removing a bad review if the service is corrected and sorted or leaving a good one after you’ve fixed things, but this is something you need to leave them to decide. It can feel very hard as a business owner not having 5 stars on everything because of one or two 1 star ratings by people. This is just the nature of the review system and it’s pointless to get upset about it.


Responding to Customers by Star Rating


5*: Thank the customers for their words, and thank them for taking the time to leave a review. Tell them that you appreciate their custom and you’d love to see them back!

4*: Thank the customers for what they’ve said, and ask them what you can do to improve your services. 

3*: Tell the customers that you’re sorry they’ve had a bad experience and then ask them what could be done to make things better.

2*: Take the dialog off social media and sort things out or get the review removed if you get no response.

1*: Take the dialog off social media and sort things out or get the review removed if you get no response.


No matter what people say in the reviews, everyone likes to be noticed and appreciated. Usually, most customers will appreciate a response to their reviews and thanking someone for a good review can mean the difference between losing someone and getting a lifelong customer.


For 4 and 3 you are looking to improve your services and accepting there may be some fault of yours in the latter. This looks good on Social Media, as you can always add that you are trying to improve your services and really appreciate the customer’s feedback. It helps them feel useful, your other customers feel your services will improve to even better than the ones they are used to, and everyone wins because you look good.


With 2 and 1, you want these people off Social Media where they can do a lot of damage. If they don’t respond for 3, 2 and 1, get the reviews removed. I’d recommend citing a conflict of interest. You have as a business provided customer service and tried to sort the problem, which is all you can do under these circumstances and if someone doesn’t want a dialog about it, then there’s little you can do to protect the integrity of your company. Often rivals will leave negative comments on your reviews. You should deal with these before they drive away your customers.


If there is no star rating and you are dealing with a recommend or don’t recommend system, the process is simplified. 


Recommend: Thank, respond and say you’re improving services if there is an issue.

Don’t Recommend: Take things to private messages or email and get the review removed if there is no response.


I hope this helps!


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