What to do if your Business gets a Bad Online Review


As a business owner, you put your heart and soul into your work – and in the internet age your heart and soul are exposed to the world every day.  Many small business owners ride the waves of jubilation and despair caused by feedback from customers. When customer feedback is made public through the company’s profile on google, facebook, yelp or some other review site, those waves can transform into rising tides or devastating tsunamis. In this blog post, you will find practical steps to take when your business receives a negative online review.

1.      Rage OFFLINE:

You must, must, must not respond to a negative online review unless you can do it in a totally professional manner. Anything else will simply validate the negative review in the mind of the public. So, take a few deep breaths, a walk around the block, go work out or do whatever you need to do to blow off steam in a non-public way.  You need to get objective and get over the personal insult.

2.      Bury the negative:

One negative comment is not going to break your business. In fact, if you are in business long enough you will have unhappy customers, either through your fault or theirs, or most likely a combination of both. Focusing on customer satisfaction and even putting a specific strategy in place to encourage customers to give your company a 5 star review can be an extremely effective way to bury a negative online review.  If you have multiple positive reviews for every negative review, the public will often see that negative review as reflecting either a crazy customer or an aberration that does not reflect the business overall (hint – the magic ratio is 40:1 according to this Inc.com article). In the heat of the moment, people say and do things that are extreme. Everyone knows this and no reasonable person will judge your business based off of one person’s negative comment, especially if you can overwhelm the negative with positive.

3.      All problems are opportunities:

Most online platforms allow business owners to reply to comments. If you can get objective and be professional, this is an opportunity to show your professionalism by apologizing (if appropriate) and/or explaining the situation further so that readers can see both sides of the story. Consider writing a polite and concise response to bolster your reputation as a business owner who is professional and cares enough to respond to criticism. Have someone who is not involved in the situation read the review and your proposed response before posting it.

4.      Pick up the phone:

Its a lot easier to say ridiculous things online when the reaction is far away, but hopping on the phone can help remind both parties that everyone involved is a human and that our words actually affect real lives of real people. If you are able to have a professional conversation a phone call can turn an unhappy client into a satisfied customer because most people don’t judge a business on whether or not it performs perfectly, but on how it handles a miscommunication or mistake. If appropriate, you can also offer some sort of incentive for them to remove the negative review.

5.      Bring in the big guns:

In extreme situations, after you have taken reasonable steps to alleviate any issues, it may be appropriate to contact an attorney about any libel that could affect your business. Statements that are flat out false and that harm your business’ reputation are a serious issue that could have lasting consequences. There are laws that protect business owners from false statements and if you have evidence proving the false nature of the review there are legal remedies available. If all else fails and it’s a particularly extreme situation, reaching out to a good attorney is a reasonable step to protect your business’ image.

Based in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, Fourscore Business Law serves entrepreneurs and businesses in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Wilmington, Charlotte and throughout the Southeast. We also represent venture capital funds and other investors who invest in companies located in New York, Silicon Valley and everywhere between.The idea of delivering maximum impact in a simple and succinct manner is what we’re calling the Fourscore Principle. And that is what Fourscore Business Law is based on.  Our clients operate in a broad range of industries including tech, IoT, consumer products, B2B services and more. Questions? Shoot us an email or give us a call at (919) 307-5356. Your first call is on us.