what to do when you get a negative online review

Every business owner knows that the more positive online reviews you have, the better. But what do you do when you receive a negative review? The response you give to a negative review demonstrates the importance your business places on customer satisfaction to future potential customers. In fact, how you react to a bad review could make or break your business. Just ask Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro whose response to multiple negative reviews on Reddit and Yelp went viral:

So, what is the best way to deal with negative online business reviews?

1) Determine If The Review Is Real Or Fake

The first thing you should do when you receive a negative online review is identify whether or not the review was actually left by a real customer, as it may have been left by a competitor or someone who has never even used your products or services. This will determine your next course of action.

To find out if a review is real you can search your records to see if that person was a real customer. If the review was made by someone who has had no interactions with your business, you will need to flag the review as fraudulent (see step 3). If the review is valid, gather as much information on the transaction as possible to assist in forming your response (what did they buy? When did the transaction occur? Who served them?).

2) Respond As Soon As Possible

One of the worst things you could do after receiving a negative review is ignore it. With technology at our fingertips, consumers expect a quick response, and three business days isn’t going to cut it. In fact, for best results, businesses should be providing a response to negative reviews within 24 hours. This ensures that the issue is resolved before it has the chance to escalate, and minimises the number of potential customers that will see the uncontested review.

Your response should be brief, and written in a polite, professional manner. Do not retaliate, never put blame on the customer, and always apologise (whether you believe the customer is right or not).

After the initial apology, you should acknowledge the complaint of the customer (eg. “I would be frustrated too if…”) and provide contact details in order to organise a solution for the customer away from the public eye. Be sure to follow up on any offers of restitution you make. Once the issue has been resolved, you may then post a follow up comment on the review stating how the situation was rectified.

Note: Even if a review is fake and you have flagged it as fraudulent you should still provide a response as it may take a while for the review to be removed, or it may not be removed at all.

When replying to fake reviews you should follow the same steps listed above (apologise and offer to fix the problem), however, you may want to add that you cannot find any record of their transaction. This indicates to potential customers that are reading the reviews that the review could be fake.

3) Flag Fake Reviews

If you have identified that a review is fake you can flag it as fraudulent.

How To Flag Fake Reviews As Fraudulent:

1) Search for your business in Google maps
2) Click the number of reviews under the star rating

negative business reviews what to do

3) Click the three vertical dots in the top right hand corner of the fake review

4) Click the “flag as inappropriate” button that appears on the right

how to report fake negative reviews

5) A new window will then open allowing you to provide details of how the review violates Google’s Terms of Service

4) Follow Up

Once you have provided a response to the review it is important that you follow up on any offer you have made to rectify the situation (not doing so could result in yet another poor review). This also shows potential customers that you take the satisfaction of each customer very seriously.

Additionally, if upon investigation you have found that there was merit to the reviewer’s complaint (for example, the quality of the paint used on your product is sub par) it is important to address the issue.

In most cases this will be quite difficult (for example, securing a new paint supplier), however, if left unaddressed, you will continue to receive similar negative reviews. Not only will this hurt your star rating, the fact that multiple people have the same complaint will help to convince potential customers that there is a real problem with your products or services.

5) Keep Records

Throughout this entire process it is important to keep track of each negative review and how far it has progressed. For example, keep a record of whether or not a fake review has been flagged as fraudulent, whether or not you have provided a response, whether or not you have offered restitution, and whether or not the problem has been resolved.

Letting a negative review slip through the cracks (for example, offering a refund but forgetting to refund the money) can make your business appear dishonest, and you can bet that the unhappy reviewer will be sure to leave a comment to inform all of your potential customers of that.

6) Regularly Build New Reviews

As the saying goes, the best defence is a good offence. Although you can’t control whether or not you receive a negative review, you can control how much impact one unhappy customer can have. If your business only has one or two reviews, then one unhappy customer can completely derail your star rating and give the appearance that a large percentage of your customers are dissatisfied.

Given the fact that the majority of consumers check online reviews before purchasing, and that consumers are much more likely to take the time to leave a negative review than a positive one, if you are not actively obtaining new reviews you are leaving your business open to be derailed by one customer who is having a bad day.

However, if you are regularly obtaining new reviews from your satisfied customers, a few bad reviews will have minimal effect on your star rating and conversion rate. In fact, studies have shown that it can even be beneficial to have a few negative reviews as it makes the others appear more genuine.

7) Provide Great Service

Another thing that you can do to prevent negative reviews from affecting your business is provide quality products and great customer service. If each customer has a positive experience with your business they will have no reason to leave a negative review.

There are a couple of things you can do to ensure that every customer has a positive experience with your brand. Firstly, ensure that your products are high quality, and are accurately represented on your website. Conducting regular product testing and investigating any concerns previous customers have had will ensure that your customers are satisfied with your products.

Secondly, increase the customer service training that your service team receive. As the last point of contact for any customer, it is important that your point of sale staff are trained in how to provide excellent customer service.


To summarise, whenever you receive a negative online business review it is important to respond promptly in a polite and professional manner, whether or not the review was left by a real customer. If you believe that the review is fake, you should also flag it as fraudulent. Finally, be sure to keep track of the progress of any negative review you receive, and actively work to obtain new, positive reviews to minimise the impact of the occasional negative one.

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