Top tips for handling negative online reviews - Business Works
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Top tips for handling negative online reviews

Dave Scheine, Director European Operations, Yelp In an increasingly online, social and mobile world, customer reviews play an important role in influencing consumer behaviour, with many using these to guide their purchasing decisions - whether itís going for an early morning coffee or choosing a local florist for wedding flowers. Many small local business owners rely heavily on their Web presence to communicate with customers and attract new business.

Where, once, any fallout from a dissatisfied customer was limited to their friends and family, the popularity of social media has magnified the impact disgruntled customers can have on a businessí reputation. Unhappy customers can sound off instantly to a wide audience before theyíve considered taking their complaint up with the company direct.

Regardless of how great the product or customer service, business owners should accept that negative reviews are part of running a business and have a strategy in place to manage these effectively. Here are a few top tips to tackle bad online customer reviews Ė nipping them in the bud as soon as they strike.

Acknowledge and respond straight away

Itís vital to respond to a customer complaint as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. That way youíll minimise any potential damage and show customers that you care and take their loyalty very seriously. Your customers are always connected, so the longer it takes to respond to a negative or false representation of your business, the more time it has to spread. Time is of the essence and a day is a long time in the world of social media.

Be professional and demonstrate strong empathy

Always respond to the bad review in a respectful and sincere way that communicates you empathise with the customer and understand why they are unhappy. If youíve had a bad day, admit it, apologise for the customerís negative experience and invite them to return so you can make it up to them in some way. Even if you don't agree with whatís being claimed, be positive and avoid getting into an argument. If you feel the review is wrong then say why, but in a professional and reasoned manner. The key here is to create a meaningful, personal dialogue and to do this publicly to show other prospective customers that youíre listening and addressing the matter accordingly.

Take the conversation off-line

Whilst itís important to post a short, immediate public response to a bad review Ė showing other customers that youíre addressing and resolving the situation - further detailed communication with the dissatisfied customer should be taken off-line as soon as possible to avoid potential further public criticism. Communicating via e-mail or phone helps to make things feel more personal, speeds up the resolution process and protects a customerís privacy. This approach can also help take the heat out of the situation and calm things down more quickly.

Turn negative feedback into an opportunity

Reviews can provide key insights into the health of your business and are a great indicator of how customers feel they are being treated. Business owners should be taking full advantage of this feedback Ė encouraging all customers to provide it. Bad reviews should be regarded by business owners as a useful early-warning mechanism for spotting problems and addressing these before they escalate. A companyís response to negative reviews provides a perfect opportunity to show customers that management is responsive to any concerns or dissatisfaction they may have.

Because of the weight they carry, online reviews are one of the most effective word-of-mouth marketing and reputation-building tools for small business. Negative customer reviews have the potential to cause short-term harm if not handled correctly. Following these few simple guidelines will go a long way to avoiding potential long-term damage to business reputation. Better still, these negative reviews can help businesses to better understand their customerís issues and improve products and services offered.


Yelp was set up in 2004 with the sole aim to connect people to great local businesses. Whether you are in need of a hair cut, looking for a great local pub or need to find a mechanic nearby, Yelp is the place to go. Reviews on Yelp are written by locals for locals. Businesses can also sign up for Yelp for Business owners



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