November 29, 2022

How to Handle a Bad Online Review

Negative Online Review One Star

In today’s digital age, online reviews can make or break a local business. However, as the saying goes, “You can’t please everyone.” Whether it’s a justified critique, an unjust assessment, or even a blatantly fake review, businesses need to navigate the choppy waters of online feedback with grace and professionalism. Here’s how to do just that:

1. Acknowledgment is the First Step

Start by acknowledging the review, irrespective of its nature. A timely response shows potential customers that you care about feedback and are proactive in addressing concerns.

2. Addressing a Justified Review:

  • Apologize and Take Responsibility: Begin with an apology, even if the situation wasn’t entirely under your control. An empathetic approach resonates well with the aggrieved customer and observers alike.

  • Offer a Solution: Whether it’s a refund, a replacement, or another form of redress, clearly lay out how you plan to rectify the situation.

  • Take the Conversation Offline: Share a business email or phone number, encouraging the customer to discuss the matter further privately.

3. Handling a Non-justified Review:

  • Stay Calm and Polite: Your response should be courteous, even if you believe the review is not accurate. Defensiveness can further inflame the situation.

  • Clarify with Facts: Gently correct any misinformation by providing accurate details about the situation. Use a neutral tone, focusing on information, not confrontation.

  • Encourage Offline Discussion: As with justified reviews, offering an avenue for private conversation can prevent the issue from escalating in a public forum.

4. Navigating a Fake Review:

  • Maintain Professionalism: Avoid accusations or aggressive language. Instead, mention that you don’t have a record of their experience and invite them to get in touch directly.

  • Report and Flag: Most platforms like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor have mechanisms to report fake or suspicious reviews. Use these features as a first line of defense.

  • Gather Evidence: If you’re certain a review is maliciously fake, gather any pertinent information—like customer records, communication logs, or CCTV footage—that can be used to validate your claim.

5. Legal and Online Recourses:

  • Online Options: Apart from flagging a review, platforms sometimes allow businesses to publicly respond. Always keep these responses professional and constructive.

  • Consult Legal Counsel: If a review is slanderous or damaging and the platform doesn’t remove it, consider consulting with an attorney about possible legal remedies. Some jurisdictions consider false reviews as defamation, especially if they cause significant harm to a business.

  • Engage in Proactive Reputation Management: Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews. This can dilute the impact of negative feedback and offer a more balanced view of your business.


Responding to negative reviews is as much an art as it is a strategy. By focusing on professionalism, empathy, and active problem-solving, local businesses can turn potential crises into opportunities for growth and trust-building. After all, in the digital arena, it’s not just about the feedback you receive, but how you respond to it that truly counts.

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