6 Strategies for Handling Negative Reviews

Community Concept

Bob Marley once sang, “You can’t please all the people all the time…” No matter how hard we strive to exceed customer expectations, we will never be perfect.

Smartphones have empowered consumers to become critics who affect how other consumers decide where to spend their money – with your business or with your competitor. When negative comments are posted about your business, how you react (or not react) can greatly affect the outcome. Today reviews are placed on Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and so many more. Below are a few tips to help you handle negative feedback properly.

YOUR OBJECTIVE: Get the Conversation Offline

The ultimate goal when negativity is directed at you online is to get the unhappy person ‘offline’ in order to prevent more people from engaging. Address the issue and offer a direct means of contact to handle the complaint outside of the view of the general public either via a phone conversation or via e-mail.  While getting to that point, here are a few key tips to help you avoid public scrutiny for the wrong reasons:


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Tip 1: Don’t Knee Jerk

The natural response when reading criticism is to immediately become defensive and type out a quick response. DON’T DO THAT. Sit with the criticism and let the initial shock that you’ve been publicly called out, settle. The walls aren’t caving in and some of the criticism may have merit. Try to be objective and own your part in the criticism. The biggest mistake is not making necessary changes to ensure a similar review doesn’t pop up in the future.

Tip 2 – Join The Conversation

After you’ve calmed down, it’s better to join the conversation than ignore it. Negativity breeds negativity and joining the conversation is better than allowing one person’s views to rumble into an avalanche of criticism that becomes unmanageable and goes viral. It’s best to be non-confrontational, non-defensive, and act as a caring human being. Be calm in your response and say sorry if you need to. Introducing yourself and showing that you’re a real person puts a face to a business as opposed to a corporate entity with a PR spin. Pick and choose your battles well. If someone is a tyrant and is abusive… the general audience will be able to discern that.

Tip 3 – You Don’t Have to be Right

Realize that you don’t have to be right. People who spend a lot of time online are used to companies trying to spin everything into a positive. If you’re wrong, it’s okay to say you’re wrong. No one is perfect and it can be refreshing to see some honesty. Acknowledge and see if it’s possible to find a resolution by contacting the individual directly. If you can convert a critic into a fan of your business, the positive word of mouth spread will be far greater. Criticism and how a customer’s complaints are handled can be very valuable in spreading goodwill about your DZ.

Tip 4 – Don’t Get Caught Off Guard

Activate Google Alerts. If you haven’t done this yet, stop reading this and do it now. (I’ll wait here while you get this done). Go to Google Alerts and plug in your company’s name. If anyone mentions your company online, you’ll at least be in the know. It’s never a good thing to have an online war raging about your company and to have no awareness that it’s even occurring.


Burble Software is a skydiving reservations and manifest solution.

Tip 5 – Never Go Into A Diatribe (This is the Queen’s English for “Don’t show your ass.”)

Let’s suppose the criticism you’ve received is misguided and wrong. The most common mistake is how people respond; they either a) work themselves into a lather and take a hard stance defending themselves, or b) write a long-winded response that only fuels the comment thread (we see it on a daily basis within the forums of dropzone.com). When responding, keep calm (even if you want to rip someone’s head off) and keep it relatively succinct. Rehashing each detail of the customer encounter WILL fuel more commentary from those watching the thread unfold. Keep in mind, you’re not responding publicly to an audience of a few – it could be a few hundred. No matter how right you may be, acting indignantly will only turn many people off.

Tip 6 – Don’t Hide – Be Transparent

Your first inclination when seeing negative feedback is to delete it. This is not a good idea. Deleting people’s posts can cause rancor for those watching things unfold, and they WILL CALL YOU OUT on it. The best course of action is to respond. Of course, there are some people out there (‘trolls’) who are looking for trouble and are looking to pick a fight. When things get abusive, then it’s time to pull them off.

The Realities

Anonymity empowers people to say things they normally wouldn’t in the presence of others. Showing you’re human, interested in helping to solve a problem, and publicly apologizing will usually diffuse most situations.



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About James La Barrie

James La Barrie is passionate about marketing and changing a company's service culture. Originally from the Caribbean island of Antigua, James melds his approach of marketing and delivering elite service together as one. James has injected his 'service marketing' approach throughout his career to transform companies from good to great.

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