How to respond to negative online reviews


  • Negative reviews are a part of doing business.
  • There are ways to minimize the damage of negative reviews.
  • Admit if your company is at fault.

You know online reviews are important to business, so when you begin racking up some good ones, you’re stoked. You’re even fine with those that offer a bit of constructive feedback—until you get a negative review.


Not only is it distressing to see an unflattering review of your business when you work so hard to please your customers, but that 1-star really does a number on your hard-earned rating.

If you’re at fault and the rating is justified, so be it. But when it’s not at all reflective of reality, it’s especially irksome.

“Negative reviews are rough, but they come with the territory when you’re in the service industry,” says Jeff Simonson, owner of Green City Heating and Air Conditioning.

Bill Cahill, president of Beacon Plumbing, agrees. “Unfortunately, no matter how great you and your team are, you’re going to get a negative review at some point.”

When you get a nasty review, stop and take a deep breath.

5 Tips for Dealing with Negative Online Reviews

Here are some guidelines for effectively tackling negative reviews so they do as little damage as possible to your company’s reputation and to your peace of mind.

1. Hold off on responding to the review.
“People have become more colorful and aggressive with their online-voices, so these days negative reviews can sometimes be downright mean,” says Cahill.
When you get a nasty review, stop and take a deep breath, he advises. “Replying in the heat of the moment is NOT advised. Wait until you’ve had some time to think so you can respond in the most effective way possible.”

2. Investigate the review claim and its source.
“I always cross-reference the name of the reviewer, if it’s available publicly on the reviewer’s profile, against our work-orders,” says Cahill. “Doing this often enables me to pinpoint the job.”

Next, Cahill talks to the team member in charge of the job. “For all you know, there’s a lot more to the story than what you see in the review,” he says. “Speaking to your team will highlight the reality, giving you valuable information for proceeding with your reply.”

3. Check for fake reviews.
“Make certain the reviewer is actually a customer,” advises Simonson. “I’ve had several reviews that weren’t genuine. I was able to prove they weren’t valid with the help of Google and get them removed from Google reviews.”

Negative false reviews can come from one of two sources.

  • Friends or employees of competitors hoping to divert leads to their business and sabotage your company’s ranking.
  • Ex-employees fired for poor performance with an axe to grind.

You can identify if the review is potentially false by examining the negative reviewer’s profile and their review history.

“Does the person only review HVAC businesses? Are nine of those reviews 1-star and only one happens to be a 5-star?” asks Simonson. “If so, that’s probably a good sign it’s a conflict of interest, because most homeowners don’t have 10 HVAC companies come to their house to work.”

If you get a bad review and your company is at fault, it's best to acknowledge the error. Click To Tweet

If the reviewer is an old employee who left on bad terms, it’s pretty clear what’s occurring. “You can easily prove to the review site that the former employee is sour and out to ‘get you,’ ” says Simonson.

4. Admit when your company is at fault.
If your company is at fault, acknowledge the error, advises Cahill. “I share publicly if we’re in the wrong and vow to make it right,” he says. “Many customers just want to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed.”

Simonson agrees. “Owning mistakes is a sign of character and integrity, and customers know that. Business owners who recognize this are partners with their customers, and that goes a long way.”

5. How to respond when the customer is at fault.
“If the customer is at fault, of course, be professional, but don’t back down to a bully,” says Cahill. “Respond with your side of the story in a matter-of-fact manner and try to part ways as peacefully as possible.”

It’s wise to keep in mind that there will always be naysayers.

“You can’t please negative, angry people, and you probably don’t want them as customers,” says Cahill. “In those instances, simply march on and get more happy reviews.”

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