New scientific research proves there is an effective way for home service contractors to handle a negative review, and turn it into a positive.

contractor - negative reviewIf you are a home services contractor (plumber, pest control, etc.) or a home improvement or remodeling contractor and you get a negative review on Kudzu, or Angie’s List, or another online review site, what is the best way to handle it?

Let’s face it, if you haven’t gotten a negative review yet… you will (whether you deserve it or not).

There are all sorts of reasons you can get a negative review:

• Sometimes it is because you screw up. Welcome to the human race!
• Sometimes it is because of a misunderstanding and the homeowner thought you would do something that you never promised you would do. Sound familiar?
• Sometimes it is because some people are impossible to please. Can I get an amen?
• Sometimes it is totally bogus. Not even your client, but you get blamed.

When you get a negative review, especially on a review website like Kudzu and Angie’s List, what is the best way to handle it?

The good news is there is a “best” way to handle it… a way that has been verified by scientific tests.

The better news is that a negative review can actually be something that enhances your reputation in the eyes of future prospects.

That’s right. A negative review can be turned into a positive reputation builder. Keep reading… and take advantage of the inevitable bad review.

Good (And Not So Good) Ways To Handle A Negative Review

1. Ignore It– One option is to ignore the negative review. The reasoning here is that by addressing it, you give it more life. Better to just let it just pass away as old news.

This is not an uncommon way things are handled in corporate America. Ignore, stonewall, etc. As United Airlines found out when it tried to ignore the complaints of a passenger whose guitar was damaged in transit (and who posted a bad review), this approach can come back to bit you big time. Negative reviews without a proper response can take on a life of their own.

This approach is NOT recommended.

2. Set the record straight. This approach is the more typical gut reaction we as humans have. We turn into the best trial lawyer and make our case point by point… right below the negative review.

The problem with this approach is that you risk winning the battle but losing the overall war. You may even make some good points, but being combative makes you look really bad (perhaps worse than the original offense).

Most often, this approach is taken with a bit of an attitude… as though YOU were the wronged party. You end up sounding like the screeching voice of protest.

3. Apologize… own what you can… graciously (briefly) set the record straight- This is a hard way to go… but in my opinion the best way to go.

There are 3 parts to this approach… in this precise order:

A. Acknowledge. With this approach, you start not from the vantage point of defending your honor, but from a conciliatory posture. You begin by acknowledging the offense… from the vantage point of the offended party. Whether or not you are to blame for them feeling upset, you can acknowledge that if you were in their shoes, you too would be upset. You’re not saying they are right or wrong. You are just meeting them where they are at.

B. Apologize/Own. Once you have acknowledged their feelings, you own what you can… and apologize. If you screwed up, admit it. Fully. No “but” stuff. If there was a misunderstanding, apologize that you were not as clear as you thought you were. Own anything that could have contributed to the negative result.

Heck, I remember a time that 2nd Mile Marketing screwed up. We ran into delays in getting something done for a client. Part of the problem was due to the client. But, truth be told, we just didn’t operate efficiently on that project. Sure, they contributed to the problem… but if we had our act together, we probably wouldn’t have displeased this client. In the end, I had to apologize. I even gave the guy his money back, which settled him down.

C. Clarify. Only after the above are done, are you allowed to clarify (gently bring new facts to light).

Even here, you want to be careful. No need to refute point by point. Instead, pick one or two points where you want to bring something to light so the outside reader will see that it isn’t as black and white as the negative reviewer made it sound.

Remember, you are writing your response not only for the person who posted the negative response, but for future readers who see the negative review. They don’t need to know your entire perspective, or all 9 points that you insist the other person has distorted. Instead, they just need to know that there are two sides to this story.

In addition, you want the future reader to conclude that you are good to work with—fair, accommodating, not afraid to admit wrong, trying to do what you can to make things right.

An Example Of The Best Way To Handle Negative Reviews

Here is an excellent real-life example of how to respond to a negative review. Notice how the company incorporates all 3 steps in their response:

The negative review—

“I’ve had Peachtree as my termite control for almost 4 years. The technician that used to come out was prompt & clean; then I got a new guy. He would tear up my landscaping looking for the bait traps – even though there were flags placed around by the previous tech as markers; he would make an appt for one day, but not show or call, and the thing that irked me the most
was that I would get a bill before the services were even performed. I’m giving a new company a chance, because Peachtree just isn’t cutting the mustard anymore.”

The company response (actually written by the owner)—

“As a yard person myself I can absolutely appreciate treating your landscaping with care. I sincerely apologize for leaving your property in any condition other than we found it. As owner of Peachtree I take great pride in immediate response to my customers concerns. I realize we won’t always be perfect but we will always care and do everything possible to make things right. Please give me the opportunity to prove it to you. I’ve researched as much as I can and really have no idea who you are. If you’ll call me directly, let’s get your yard and billing concerns corrected. Thanks for the years of business! Corey Arnold; Owner (770) 931-9099.”

Why This Approach Works Best (according to scientific studies)

Social scientist Fiona Lee conducted tests to determine if admitting and owning negative results (not necessarily clear mistakes… just a negative outcome) would have a positive or negative overall result on people’s perceptions of a company or individual.

In other words, if something is perceived to have gone wrong, do observers view more positively an explanation (‘set the record straight why it isn’t our fault’) or owning the negative result?

Well, you know where this is going. Dr. Lee prepared annual reports for fictitious companies—half explaining why certain negative outcomes weren’t their fault (or were someone/something else’s fault beyond their control) and the other half owning the outcome. Those companies that stepped up and owned negative outcomes had a MUCH more favorable view in the eyes of outsiders.

Funny thing is, when you are the one being blamed, it feels counterintuitive to jump on the grenade rather than refute the conclusion. Somehow, we think by simply “setting the record straight” everyone will understand and agree with us.

Nope, it doesn’t work that way. The scientific studies prove this.

Scientific studies prove the best way to handle a negative online review for your home contracting business, but it is counterintuitive

The Silver Lining Of A Negative Review

Many prospective customers I have talked to about how they view reviews tell me they realize no one is perfect (and sometimes certain people are difficult to please). So, getting a negative review in and of itself isn’t the kiss of death. It does depend on the nature of the negative review… and the response to it.

In fact, prospects have reported they are even a bit suspicious of 100% positive reviews. In this day and age when some unscrupulous types pay people to fabricate reviews (or hide negative reviews), having a few negative reviews lends credibility to ALL the reviews.

What is important to prospective customers is the business getting the negative review appears to be going the second mile to make it right. It takes courage and a sense of humility to admit ones mistakes. These are attractive qualities that people admire.

When you properly handle your negative reviews, good things happen… both with your current customer, and future ones.

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