Bad Online Review? Here’s How To Deal With Negative Reviews

A negative review isn't the end of the world. In this post we look at exactly what to do when they happen.

Even with carefully trained staff, great products and fair prices, your business is probably going to get a negative review every now and then.

But while an occasional cranky comment won't tank your reputation, a slew of complaints can.

Systemize your approach to negative reviews on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google in order to take the legwork out of responding to them, and remove the headache of them altogether.

Why Reviews Matter

Customers write negative reviews for all kinds of reasons: they felt ignored or disrespected by staff, they don't like the quality of a product, they feel they've been overcharged, or they're just crabby.

Once those reviews are published online, they have big impact.

Some of the findings of a 2016 Local Consumer Review Survey prove the point:

  • 91 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews.
  • 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from people they know.
  • 87 percent of consumers say that a business needs a rating of at least 3 stars before they will even consider using them.

So consumers really value reviews when making purchasing decisions, and a few negative ones can quickly pull down your overall ratings and scare away customers.

Here's another reason negative reviews can be troubling: people are more likely to share their negative reviews on social media than they are to share their positive reviews. A lot more likely. And...

Bad news travels faster than good news when it comes to customer experience.

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That being said, it's important not to sweat the occasional bad review too much.

In one study, brands whose product descriptions included politely-worded complaints were rated as more honest and wholesome than those whose product descriptions included no complaints.

And other research shows that consumers are hesitant to trust businesses with nothing but glowing five-star reviews. When all the reviews are raves, it makes people suspicious.

Responding to Customers

In most cases of negative reviews, the best case scenario is that you change the customer's mind and get them to remove or update their review. But it's up to you exactly how to deal with a bad online review:

Responding Publicly

Posting a response to a negative review gives you a chance to win the unhappy customer back, and show others that you value customer satisfaction. It also gives you a chance to (politely) refute any claims with which you disagree, or apologize for any wrongdoing on your part. A word to the wise: 

Don't respond publicly to online reviews if you don't have a the-customer's-always-right attitude.

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Responding Privately

If you'd rather settle the issue privately, you can try to reach the customer directly. Send them a message asking them to call you to discuss the problem. If the customer responds, you can ask for more detail about what happened and figure out how to resolve the issue so it doesn't happen again. Then you can ask if the person is willing to remove the negative review... or better yet, update the review to make it a positive one.

Not Responding at All

If the review was written by someone who's trying to damage your business, your best bet may by bypassing the customer and going straight to the review site...

Getting Reviews Removed

In some cases, you may be able to get the site where your negative reviews are posted to remove them, but only if they meet certain criteria.


Yelp will only remove reviews if they:

  • Are written by someone with a conflict of interest.
  • Aren't specifically about the writer's experience with your business.
  • Include inappropriate material like hate speech or personal information about employees.

If you feel that a review written about you falls into one of these categories, report it so that Yelp administrators can review it.

  1. Log into your Yelp account for your business. (If you haven't already created an account and claimed the business as yours, you'll have to do that first, using Yelp's Find and Claim page.)
  2. Navigate to the Reviews section of your account and find the negative review you want removed.
  3. Click on the flag icon to report the review.


Like Yelp, Google will remove reviews that include inappropriate content, conflicts of interest or off-topic commentary. Google will also remove reviews that include contact information, infringe on copyrights or advertise for other businesses.

You don't have to be logged into any account in order to report a Google review.

  1. Visit Google Maps and enter your business name and city in the search fields.
  2. Find your business in the results list and click on it.
  3. Click on the link that shows how many reviews you've received.
  4. Find the review you want removed and click on the flag icon.
  5. Fill out the "Report a policy violation" page, which asks for your email address and the review's violation.


If a review doesn't meet Facebook's Community Standards, you can report it for removal. The standards cover a broad range of things, but they're very similar to Google's. Anyone with a Facebook account can request that a review be removed.

  1. Search for the business's Facebook page and find the review in question.
  2. Click on the V-shaped symbol in the upper right corner of the review.
  3. Click "Report Post" and follow the prompts.

In all these cases, you can't get negative reviews removed just because you don't like what they say. That's why it's so important to prevent negative reviews from happening in the first place.

Preventing Negative Reviews

It's better for everyone if your customers leave your business happy the first time around.

Find out what kind of experience your customers are having by asking them directly at the end of your interaction. Follow up with questions like "Is there anything we can do to improve your experience today?"

Still, some customers will leave dissatisfied, but you can catch them and address their concerns before they post negative reviews, using an automated system like ReputationStacker.

By sending a single survey question to recent customers, ReputationStacker separates the happy customers from the unhappy ones, directing happy customers to write positive reviews and directing unhappy ones back to you so you can address their issues before they write a negative review... and turn them into happy customers.

Final Thoughts

No one's perfect, and bad reviews happen to good businesses.

If you can, quickly get to the root of the reason for the negative review and try to win the customer back.

If the review is unreasonable or wrong, try to get it removed.

And to position your business for success in the future, use an automated system like ReputationStacker to prevent negative reviews from happening and to encourage satisfied customers to sing your praises in online reviews.

Get More Reviews with ReputationStacker