How To Deal With Negative Reviews

Whether you’re a business owner or a consumer (or both), there's a good chance you have interacted with review websites like Yelp and Google My Business. If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably looked through your business’s reviews countless times. If you’re a consumer, chances are you have reviewed a business before. But what is the real effect of online reviews in this day and age? According to a survey conducted by BrightLocal, 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This means that consumers are reading your business’s reviews and making purchase decisions based on the content of those reviews.

However, just because reviews can contribute to your business’s success, that does not mean negative reviews will cause your business to fail. While having all positive reviews would certainly make life easier, negative reviews happen, and they happen fairly often. It is how you deal with negative reviews that will affect a consumer’s perception of your business most.

So, how should you deal with negative reviews?

Follow this four-step guide as soon as you notice any poor reviews left for your business to execute quick and easy damage control.

#1 Read Google & Yelp’s Content Guidelines To Ensure The Review Follows Policy

First and foremost, know the guidelines! Carefully read through the unique guidelines of the review platform to ascertain if the negative review you are addressing violates any of their guidelines. If it does, report or flag it. Here are two quick links to review Yelp's and Google's.

Here is how you’ll go through the process of flagging or reporting the review on Google My Business and Yelp:


When looking at your reviews on Google My Business, hover over the review and you will see a small flag icon appear next to the date of the review. Click on this flag.

From there, you will be directed to Google’s Report a Policy Violation page. Carefully select which violation the review is in violation of, provide your email address, and click Submit.


Log into Yelp for Business Owners with the appropriate logins for your business. Then proceed to the navigation item on the left that reads Reviews.

Once there, locate the review in question and click the flag next to it.

Select the most fitting reason for the policy violation, provide comments if desired, and click Submit.

#2 Respond To The Review Publicly

A prompt response to a negative review is a critical and often neglected step of reputation management. Respond by signing into your business’s Google My Business, Yelp for Business Owners, or other review website account. Locate the review on your business’s profile and you should see an option to reply.

Things To Consider When Responding To Negative Reviews:

  • Be Professional - Your response will get posted publicly. When responding, be sure to keep the voice of your brand in mind. Also, keep a calm and professional tone.
  • Highlight Any Positives - If the review had language like, “They did a great job on X, BUT a poor job on Y,” highlight the X! Tell the customer that you are glad they had a positive experience with the X before getting into the negative aspect of the review.
  • Address The Negatives - Take the negative parts of the review head-on. Talk about how you are working to resolve the core of the issue.
  • Take The Conversation Offline - Keep in mind customers can go back and make edits to their reviews once they’re posted. This is important to note for two reasons. One, if the issue is resolved, the person can go back and delete or edit his or her review. Two, if the issue escalates, the reviewer can update the review and spew even more negativity. As a result, you should do your best to get the reviewer to reach out to you directly, whether it be by phone or email.
  • Thank Them - Whether you’re grateful for their feedback or not, be sure to thank the customer for his or her time and feedback.
  • Close With A Personal Touch - Instead of signing the review response off as (company name here), sign it with your real name. Whether you’re a customer service representative or a business owner, people love to see a human touch in an increasingly digital world.

    Note: If you are required to be HIPAA-compliant, be sure to read into these restrictions before responding. We recommend familiarizing yourself with these specific policies before replying publicly.

#3 Address The Content Of Reviews

As hard as it may be to admit, the customer could be right. Think about the core issue of the review and do your best to address this. If the complaint was about a team member, speak to that team member and do your best to ensure the issue will not happen again. There’s nothing worse than 10 reviews about the same issue - that gives a lot more credibility to those reviewers. Therefore, it’s important to not only respond to your reviewers but resolve the issues they’ve addressed.

#4 Get More Positive Reviews!

If a negative review sticks around, you will have a lower average rating because of it. While most people looking through reviews do consider context, it is best to have a higher average rating. Take a look at your competition’s review profile, noting their average rating and volume of reviews on various platforms. Once you have gathered this information, set realistic goals that will help you work towards besting competitors in these areas.

So how do you get a higher average rating and an influx of new reviews?  This is a whole separate guide in itself, but here are some quick tips to get reviews in a fair, unobtrusive way:

  1. Email past customers that have given you positive feedback, whether it was verbal or written.
  2. Train team members to ask happy customers for reviews.
  3. Print flyers or cards with a clear “ask” and instructions on how to leave reviews.
  4. Add links to review outlets on your website. Make these links easy to find.

In Sum . . .


  • Ignore reviews
  • Be hasty in your response
  • Violate HIPAA guidelines
  • Start a reviewer-reviewee war


  • Report a review if it’s in violation of content guidelines
  • Monitor your reviews closely
  • Encourage happy customers to leave good reviews
  • Be kind in your response
  • Respond in a timely manner
  • Try to take feedback seriously

With this guide, your business will be well prepared if a negative review ever surfaces. However, the best way to prepare for the worst is by being proactive rather than reactive - talk to your team and get familiar with these steps sooner rather than later. And may the reviews be ever in your favor!

written by: Jessica Dahlstrum

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