13 Proactive Ways To Fight Against Negative Online Reviews

Navigating negative online reviews present businesses with an opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a happy testimonial. We created the blueprint to make that happen!
Best Ways To Fight Against Negative Online Reviews

Anyone managing their business has confronted less than stellar negative online reviews.

So what is the best way to handle bad word of mouth being shown on GMB, Facebook, or any other online platforms? (Excluding Yelp, That Is A Lost Cause)

We can enact damage control in several ways to help the reputation of our business.

#1 Go For The Easy Pickings First (Current Customers)

Focus on getting recommendations from current customers instead of the traditional 5-star rating. Instead of asking for reviews (which can be negative) ask for recommendations; because nobody recommends something they think is bad!

Up and coming platforms like RelyCircle revamp the recommendation system by making it easier to connect with customers who appreciate your service and offer them a convenient way to submit verified opinions of your business.

#2 Be Quick To Respond To Both Positive & Negative Reviews

Businesses (Especially Smaller Ones) tend to leave their customer feedback on the backburner and struggle with swiftly replying to negative reviews. It’s one of those things that few consider until it’s brought to their attention.

But once discovered, it should be dealt with ASAP. With online reviews having time-stamps, customers notice how much time passes before receiving a reply back. 

It usually takes less than five minutes and the sooner the customer sees they are notices the more sincere it appears.

With that being said, here is another way to view negative reviews. 

If the review needs to be dealt with in the first place?

Every so often a negative online review is just a troll or ex-lover of some that works at the company. In these situations, a reply back might do more harm than good and can be viewed as unnecessary. 

Always Remember, replying to negative reviews is not simply just responding to bad critique. It’s a response to potential customers looking over negative reviews, to get a more well rounded view. 

  • Your customers are intelligent and can grasp the difference between a valid complaint and a hostile troll. 
  • When there is a professional response to a valid complaint, it shows that your business has genuine customer service.

#3: Fix Your Listings For Better Connections (GMB, Social Media, RelyCircle)

#4: Ask Customers or Clients To Review Your Business (Make It Easy For Them Too)

Most customers check out online reviews before deciding In fact 93% of customers will read reviews of local businesses to determine its quality. (BrightLocal)

Keeping a close eye on your business’s reviews has other benefits. 

  • Builds customer loyalty
  • Small signs of apreciation go a long way; like a simple thankyou letter 
  • The active response to reviews helps your SEO (Ranks Better On Google) 

Why Google My Business Reviews Need To Be A Priority?

Every second there are nearly100K google searches happening. A small percentage of that are “near me searches” and questions that will point towards your business. So second check that your info is accurate and up to date (no broken links or fuzzy photos).

#5: Introduce yourself and the connection you have to the business in the response

Having the owner of a busy company respond to each and every online complaint is unlikely.

So assigning someone to respond to a critical review on the company’s behalf is the next best thing. Just be sure that they introduce themselves and inform the reader of their connections with the company.

That way, they don’t think a random internet person is replying to their comments as another irritated customer.


#6: Remember to thank the customer for taking the time to review your business!

The fact is that when anyone discusses anything about your product; they firmly feel (good or bad) about your business.

The goal of marketing isn’t only about getting communities to talk about your business. So indeed when someone mentions something not so pleasant, remember to thank them for taking the time to do so. This achieves a three things:

  • Shows anyone reading that you aren’t frivolous
  • It rapidly reduces the negativity
  • Makes the reviewer sense they are seen and considered.

Breaking the ice with a light phrase such as, “Hi, we appreciate the time you took to write” is the ideal opening line for your response to a negative review.

#7: Ensure that your response is personal and sounds authentic (No Corporate Scripts!)

People are becoming smarter consumers and will notice when your response is from a template (It looks bot-like).

Since poor reviews have such an undeniable impact on your business, it’s essential to take the effort to write them a personal reply to the reviewer.

So remember to address them by name and let them know your relationship to the company. The intention is to humanize this communication.

Thank the reviewer for taking time out of their busy schedule to leave a review.

Why thank them for a less than positive review?

Because this creates psychological safety with both lurkers and other reviewers; it communicates recognition for their readiness to share their valuable customer insights.

#8 Let the reviewer know your company values

In your comments, it’s a valuable idea to let the reviewer (and the lurkers) recognize that this negative experience is the oddity, not the regular occurence.

To make that happen, quickly detail what your present norms for customer service are.

Let the review know that you take their complaints actively, and how customer service is an indispensable part of your business’s values.

You don’t need pander. A basic reply like “We here at [your business name] continuously try to improve our customers’ satisfaction, which is why…” will reinforce your commitment to bringing remarkable service.

Again, this demonstrates to the reviewer that you’re holding yourselves accountable and that their issue is being taken earnestly.

It also shows potential customers that your organization is there to support them when demanded.


#9 Don’t Be A Phony! Have an empathetic response to show your business is understanding

Most of us will get a little defensive after someone writes a negative review about our services or product. But that is not the most professional way to deal with the situation.

So Instead, put yourself in your customer’s predicament. They were angry enough to record their negative experiences to your review page, and it’s your duty to work out why.

That negativity is probably linked to a rough day and the desire to blow off steam.

Remember that the creator of the critique is another human being. Maybe they’re having relationship issues or their favorite restaurant shut down.

When writing your response, be empathetic and imagine yourself on your roughest day. This will conjure up compassion for them (Unless You’re a Lunatic) and restrain you from becoming too defensive or extremely emotional about the situation.

Discern the Difference Between “I’m Sorry” & “I Apologize”

  • When you reply with, ‘I’m sorry,’ you may sympathize with the customer without recognizing the business is specifically to blame. 
  • When you reply with, “I apologize,” you are making the business accountability for something that was the businesses fault.

As the owner of a business, you must give customers the finest service possible. But that shouldn’t mean you are every critic’s scape-goat for their unhappiness.

  • If there is a critical review is from something your business is responsible for, then be earnest in the apology.
  • If there is a critical review is because of something outside of the business’s control, then using the “I’m sorry this happened to you” technique is perfectly admirable.

Be Sure Customers Know Your The Best Choice in 2021 

#10 Avoid Long-winded Apologies (Keep It Simple)

Acknowledge their problem. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with their perspective or not. They want you to address the reason that they’re writing the review. This is part of showing that you understand. When used appropriately, this acknowledgment places both of you on the same side, attacking the problem together. You can acknowledge your customer’s problem in a variety of ways.

  • Rephrase the problem in your own words.
  • Empathize and comment on the consequences of the problem. “Yikes, I’d be pretty upset if I were in your shoes.”
  • Use fear, felt, found. “I ran into the same. Exact. Problem. I was so frustrated; it was

Repeatedly, when we get a critical review, it may seem like a personal attack. Our fight-or-fligh senses might even process.

Still, no response looks worse to potential customers then when response to a negative review long winded.

Why might you ask? 3 Reasons!

  • Drawn-out statements are usually redundant
  • Most readers will simply skim over very long responses
  • Lengthy replies appear overly defensive and even desperate

So making it simple; a customer is not happy with their experience at your business. If it’s your error, atone to it and if it’s not, show compassion.

Just remember, never validate a critical review with a long-winded reply. Earnestly reply with the tips shown above!

If you really value this customer (That Yelp Elite Squad Member, EEK), take the discussion offline to convey your side of the story in a more personal way.

Which leads us to another fundamental tip…

#11 If you can, try to steer the conversation to phone call or in person meeting

Work to produce a solution.

Try to make things great again. This can come as being more accountable for the conflict at hand or taking care of them (financially) if they’ve been wronged.

It’s critical to show customers that your business has the solutions to their problems, even if the problem is from their misdoings.

Steering the conversation offline or to a non-public channel.

Present the angry reviewer with a personal email from yourself or an assistant to ensure they’re able to get the support that they require.

Broadly speaking, this is a fruitful idea. A handful of customers think businesses are keen to take this negative publicity wrapped in the conversation offline to evade bad press.

To some degree, they’re right. Still, there are much more definitive reasons to take the conversation offline.

  • Avoid embarrassing the customer for their foolish review
  • Avoid divulging confidential information (e.g., financial, personal, etc.)
  • Minimize the publicity of sensitive corporate material (which may damage your business)
  • Reduce non-compliance hazards
  • Avoiding liability concerns and(or) legal hazards

 #12 If You Can, Turn Those Negative Customer Reviews Into Testimonies

We previously suggested that not all critical reviews harm your business. The opposite happens from time to, they occasionally help make you appear authentic.

Turning that lemon of a sour review into sweet lemonade is an art form (Like Making Lemonade). So, be diligent and follow up with the negative reviewer.

Inquire if the issue has been resolved and, if so, whether you can receive public feedback on their negative-to-positive experience.

Having a customer go from fuming at their keyboard with a critical review to providing a positive testimonial says a lot about your company.

Lurkers and potential customers will see this revenge-to-raving customer testimony and take your support team sincerely, and it also shows that you value the happiness of your customers.

In actuality, an endorsement from a person who redacted their critical review is prone to be a business’s most potent lead generating tactics.

#13 Don’t Take Negative Online Reviews Personally

I said it like a half a dozen times in this article, but I will state it again!

A negative customer review seems like an intimate assault. And in some ways, it may be… notably when you’re the one running the business.

We all know how just one critical review can have a substantial impact on a business’s success.

No matter if you are the face of your brand or lower-level employee, remind yourself that the reviewer is not targeting you!

They are unaware of how perfect you are, how much time and resources you tend to have on their experience with your business, and how deeply you wish to serve the community.

Frequently Asked Questions On Small Business Reviews

When is the best time to ask for a review?

There is no best time to ask for a RelyCircle recommendation or review.

Ding it close to the time of sale when your product or service is still more preferred because it’s still novel and at the top of mind.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

  • If you work on a food truck, that could be when they are throwing away after finishing a meal. 
  • If you work in a mechanic’s shop, the time between your customer picking up their car and testing driving to make sure everything is fixed

Don’t be that business who asks for a review or recommendation before customers even use your product or service!

If for any reason your business does not provide the best service, it may incline some customers to leave a critical review.

  • (Because they were asked to recommend before receiving anything)

How frequently should I ask for reviews?

In most cases, small businesses should ask for reviews more in the beginning when they have little to no reviews.

Take a more gentle approach after receiving enough to counterbalance one negative review.

  • So ensure that the customer is satisfied before asking. Then evaluate the likely hood of a positive customer, also don’t forget to be courteous.

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The Person Behind DiRHS
Joseph C. Santiago.
Joseph C. Santiago

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Joseph C. Santiago

Local SEO Specialist | DiRHS

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With over 5 years of SEO experience, I have worked in agencies and as a freelancer in different industries (Auto, Real Estate, Law, Health). Start building your web presence today! Need to amplify your digital footprint? Some of the services I offer include GBP optimizations, technical SEO Audits, Keyword research, and content strategy. I’m here to help you establish an online presence or improve your search engine rankings. Let’s step into the future of digital marketing together.

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