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How to Handle Negative Online Reviews

Taking a day or two to cool off is the first step.

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THERE’S A LOT TO be said for taking the initiative to run a business; do the best job you can do, keep employees happy, keep clients happy, perform good work, be honest, all while trying to turn a profit. Inevitably, no matter how kind, humble, honest, and hard-working you are, someone is going to spoil the soup. Everyone has an opinion, everyone is an expert, and now the clients who don’t get their way or aren’t completely satisfied have a plethora of ways to tell the world and troll your business.

It stinks. For all the expletives I have muttered to myself when a less-than-shining online review happens, I will keep it relatively “clean” for this article by saying it stinks like a fresh turd on a hot sidewalk in the middle of a muggy summer. It ruins your day by upsetting your stomach and putting you in a downright foul mood.

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That feeling is not the one you should be harnessing when you write your reply. Like it or not, anyone under the age of 50 looks at reviews when seeking new businesses to work with. More particularly, they scan past the shining reviews to find the dirty laundry to see how badly things can go wrong when they do. Like a bad wreck on the highway — show me the carnage!

When it comes to reviews, I am not of the “roll over and take it apologetically” crew, nor am I of the “give ‘em hell” team. Let a negative review simmer for a day or two while you come down from the adrenaline of seeing red (“How dare they?!?!”) and don’t post a reply until you’ve had extra eyes on what you are saying. Ask an employee, friend, or colleague to look at your reply from the outside.

Remember that a review comes from that person’s point of view. There are many sides to a story. In extreme situations of riots, attacks, and politics, different media outlets will show different perspectives (often skewed). Bad reviews may seem skewed, but for the individual, it is their truth. They felt compelled to say something because the situation made them feel something.

Never post a canned response on a bad review. Readers see generic responses as an uninvolved robot behind the scenes just placating the reviewer. It feels like a cover-up.

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Never post a defensive rant! Factual key points are all you need to speak your piece. It’s better if you apologize and accept that you and your team aren’t perfect; we’re all human.

Finally, accept that some people are trolls and you cannot make them happy. It’s OK in those circumstances to call them out. I have publicly responded to an unreasonable review (backed up with facts), noting that the request for a free repair on an item we didn’t sell was irrational, and telling the world the reviewer is not welcome to return to my studio. That particular response has brought in several new clients who got a good laugh and subsequently left positive reviews when they met our team. They love that we are as real in-person as we are online.

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