One of the worst things you could possibly do as a business owner is to respond to a poor review with even poorer conduct. While some review sites seem to really promote negative reviews from customers, such as RipOff Report, it is important to remember that negative reviews come from people who have had negative experiences with the business. As a business owner, your reputation is at stake with a bad review out there – so don’t make it worse by having a meltdown in response to the review! Check out some of these examples of business owners behaving badly when confronted with a negative review:

yelp review example

another yelp example


yelp behaving badly

Other companies have taken to filing lawsuits against customers who post negative reviews, which is another tactic that can only serve to ruin a company’s reputation even faster and prompt more negative reviews from people who never even visited your business. When business owners respond to negative reviews with a lawuit or other financial actions, the news is sure to be picked up by the media. When this happens, you can expect to see a slew of new negative reviews pop up – all of them by people who have never done business with you. Have you heard the story about The Union Street Guest House in New York, the hotel that created a policy of charging guests $500 for every negative review their party posted online?



After the press picked up the story on this hotel’s strange online review policy, the number of reviews soared to well over 700, most of them negative and written by people who had only seen the news report. Even though the hotel abandoned the policy and quickly changed the text on their website to reflect the change, the damage to their reputation had already taken effect.



It soon became clear that many of the reviews were from people who had never stayed at the hotel, but rather were just posting reviews based on the media coverage.





screen shot 2014-08-04 at 9.19.33 am

While Yelp eventually removed most of the fake reviews, the Union Street Guest House still has only a 1.5 Star Rating with 39 reviews; 30 are negative.

So now that you understand the consequences of responding poorly to negative reviews, you must be wondering how you should respond to negative reviews in a way that resolves the problem and maintains your reputation.

How to Respond Appropriately to a Bad Review

So you just received word that one of your customers had a negative experience and that they posted a scathing review on Yelp or Google – what do you do? If your idea of conflict resolution is to take two doses of sarcasm and anger and type up an equally-scathing response to the review, you may want to hand your mouse and keyboard to a responsible adult until the feeling passes. Friends don’t let friends respond to online reviews when angry.

Take a deep breath and re-read the complaint. Remember that the person who wrote it is human, a customer and this brings about an opportunity to make you look like the good guy. Most (reasonable) people are not expecting perfection from every business they visit; what they are looking for is compassion and a sincere response. When you get a poor review, look at the concerns of the reviewer. Apologize no matter what and be transparent about what you are going to do to resolve the issue. Always be gracious for their business, even if you don’t particularly feel that way at the moment.

Take the time to explain what has changed since their visit and address their legitimate concerns.

Here are some examples of great ways to handle negative online reviews:

yelp good owner

wf fb reply


But what if the reviewer is not telling the truth, or is misinformed?

This is another opportunity to be the bigger person. One of the best ways to handle a dishonest review is to respond just as you would for any other negative review and gently correct the misinformation. For example, Whole Foods is inundated daily with complaints and reviews on their Facebook page, and many of those are based on false stories that have circulated the internet. Yet, the social media team always responds with kindness and gratitude, taking the time to educate their customers.

wf fb 3

fb wf 2

Essentially, all you can do in the case of dishonest, misinformed or downright crazy reviews is to respond with kindness, correct the error, and thank the reviewer for their feedback. If the review is really irrational, other visitors to that review site are likely to ignore the review, especially if you have taken the time to respond appropriately to all of your online reviews. If you do not respond to your business reviews yourself, it is important to develop a company policy for handling responses to reviews and to train your employees to represent the company in the best way possible online.

While this article is about negative online reviews, we cannot forget to recommend that you respond to positive reviews as well. Positive reviews online are the equivalent of word-of-mouth recommendations offline and you should always thank positive reviewers for their feedback.

How does your company handle online reviews?

Read More: Dealing With Bad Yelp Reviews.