Turning negative reviews into advantage

Firms dread bad customers reviews. But there is nothing to fear...a few bad reviews can make your business credible

Online reviews have become an inevitable part of doing business. Even the best reviewed companies will admit that the idea of online reviews is daunting. After all your hard work trying to do your best to please customers, it can be very frustrating to think that one upset customer’s review can have a negative impact on your business. At the same time, it’s unrealistic to think that you can please everyone all the time. So do not fret not about negative reviews – they make your company seem real and credible. After all, everyone knows there is always a disgruntled customer somewhere who always has something to gripe about. That is why reviews where everything said is positive appear fake or fabricated. So how can you turn negative reviews to your advantage?

Participate in conversation

Managing your reputation online is an important aspect of business, even if you don’t sell anything online. This is because people will be talking about their experience with your company and sharing it on their social networks. You gain an advantage if you participate in those conversations by managing your own social channels. It gives you the opportunity to manage the conversations and also encourage your satisfied customers to post about their experiences. Their good reviews should overwhelm the occasional bad ones. Another way to manage your reputation online is by claiming your company listings on Google Plus, Yelp, Yahoo, and any other local or regional business directory listings that allow customers to review businesses. Claiming those listings ensures that you will be notified when a review is posted and also gives you the opportunity to fill in the information about your company. Lastly, there are services available and companies that specialize in media monitoring and sending you alerts when your company is mentioned online or in the media. Being alerted to media mentions allows you to quickly respond and resolve a problem if there is one, or commend yourself or your staff when the reviews are positive.

Responding to negative reviews

How you respond to a negative online review or complaint will make the difference between hurting or helping your business. The first thing to remember is to take emotion out of the equation. It is normal to think that you want to defend your business and even feel insulted or angry when someone says something negative about your company. However, when you respond defensively or in an angry tone, it will almost always spiral out of control. Instead, sit down and craft a response. You should work together with a co-worker or someone who has a more objective view on the situation and put together a logical response.


You can apologise without admitting doing anything wrong, but it is important to show empathy. For example, "I am very sorry that we have had a miscommunication here" or "I am very sorry for the trouble you had with your purchase" can go a long way towards defusing the situation. An apology is always a good start to resolving the situation. Of course, if you know that your company did do something wrong admit it. If you admit wrongdoing, you can publicly respond with the restitution you will provide or choose to share that privately, whichever is your preference.


When you thank a customer for bringing the problem to your attention, it helps ease their apprehension, helps defuse a problem and prevents it from escalating further.


Express a desire to resolve the problem to the customer’s satisfaction. Remember that you are not only addressing this one customer, but anyone else who is reading. They could be potential customers and how you resolve problems can make a big difference between whether they purchase from you or not. Make it your goal to turn this complainant into a satisfied customer and it will set an example for others, encouraging them to do business with you.


State the Facts. Often-times customers misunderstood something and that is the basis of their dissatisfaction. Without accusing them of anything, simply stating the facts so that anyone else reading sees the correct information can help set the record straight. This also helps alert anyone who is thinking they will benefit from complaining that negativity does not always result in something free from your company.

Be Real

Answer complaints personally. Don’t make it sound like you are ‘the company’ answering. A personal touch is more convincing and endearing. Refrain from answering with "we" and using third party references. Own your answer.

Take conversation offline

The sooner you can take the conversation offline, the better. No need to "air dirty laundry" in public. Ask the customer to email the details of the complaint so that you can get to the bottom of the issue. Discuss the matter directly with them either through email or over the phone. Once the issue has been resolved offline, if appropriate, you can go back with a closure comment such as: "Very glad we could resolve this for you."

Opportunity not threat

It may seem like a lot of trouble to go through for one upset customer; however, you must understand that in a public forum or social channel there are potentially many more customers. A negative review should be looked at as an opportunity. It is a chance to make an upset customer happy, which can turn them into the most loyal and strongest advocates for your company. It is also an opportunity to show others that you resolve problems and genuinely care about your customers. It can also be a lesson for you to learn about your customers’ experiences and remedy faulty products, incorrect descriptions, or alert you to a problem with an employee. It is an opportunity to turn one negative into many positives.

Elizabeth Victor is Brand Advisor for Isentia

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