What to Do About a Negative Review

It’s always better to apologize and try to resolve a negative review than to try to argue it – especially online for other customers to read the trail.

Your brand lives in a challenging world in which its consumers’ words make up the bulk of your reputation. Negative reviews feel horrible and punishing for dissatisfactory experiences that may or even may not have actually occurred at your establishment. What they usually do is erode local rankings and create attendant revenue loss. Some business owners become so worried about negative reviews, they ask if there is any way to opt-out and even query whether they should simply remove their business listings altogether rather than deal with the headaches.

But there is a way to win this game – it’s about strategy. Local business customers may be more forgiving than you think.

Stats to start with

If your company receives a negative review and the possibility of a few lost customers, marketing wisdom tells us that it’s more costly to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one happy. The following list shows why you want to try to get the customer to edit a bad review to reflect a more positive sentiment:

  • 89 percent of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews. — (BrightLocal)
  • 8 percent of customers are either likely or extremely likely to continue doing business with a brand that resolves their complaints. — (GatherUp)
  • 57 percent of consumers will only use a business if it has four or more stars — (BrightLocal)
  • A typical business only hears from four percent of its dissatisfied customers, meaning that the negative reviews you rectify for outspoken people could solve problems for silent ones. — (Ruby Newell-Lerner)


The impact of ratings, reviews, and responses are so clear that every local brand needs to devote resources to better understanding this scenario of sentiment and customer retention.

One reason consumers love reviews – empowers the customer

The Better Business Bureau was founded in 1912. The Federal Trade Commission made its debut just two years later. Consumer protections are considered important to millions, but until the internet put the potential of mass reviews directly into individuals hands, people felt ignored until this truly digital voice gave way and provided recourse towards the “big guy” (business) when they didn’t do right by them.

The best reason to try to make things right with a customer who has left a negative review – Consumers can be incredibly forgiving

“What really defines you is how you handle the situation after you realize you made a mistake.”

This is a perfect example of forgiveness in a review and this edited review typifies the reasonableness seen in case after case. Far from being the scary, irrational customers that business owners dread, it’s clear that many people have the basic understanding that mistakes can happen… and can be rectified.

Consumers can also be self-correcting.

The customer apparently isn’t “always right,” and some of them know it. There are several instances of customers editing their reviews after realizing that they were the ones who made a mistake.

Of course, as a business you want to invest in training practices for your staff that leave people with nothing to complain about in the entire customer service ecosystem. But re-dubbing online records of inevitable mistakes as “reviews-in-progress” simply means treading a slightly longer road to reputation, retention, and revenue. If your local brand is in business for the long haul, following-up with negative reviews and reviewers to try to resolve and repost those reviews is really the best long-term goal for your business.


Fair Marketing