How to deal with a bad review

6 simple steps to dealing with a bad review

Google reviews are incredibly powerful for a business. They create social proof and detail real people’s experiences of working with you. They also significantly affect your visibility on Google.

Having lots of Google reviews gives your business instant credibility and people tend to investigate a business further if it has lots of reviews. If you’re not already on Google, get your business on Google FAST and for free.

Businesses with no reviews just don’t get as much attention online.

Everybody has an opinion and people are pretty happy to share it, especially if they are hidden behind a keyboard… As people spend more time online and the options for leaving reviews grow, it’s inevitable that at some stage you’ll need to deal with a bad review.

Who leaves a bad review?

In my opinion, the best person to leave a bad review is a genuine client who’s had a disappointing experience.

Stay with me for a sec. If this is the case, there’s often a lot you can learn about improving your internal processes, your product or staff training, delivery options or service offering.

These reviews can highlight the fact that your client’s expectations- and remember that unspoken expectations are STILL expectations- are not being met, for whatever reason. You may need to tweak your communication or marketing collateral to make it clear how you will hit your customer service goals.

If you can genuinely engage with that person, take on their feedback and turn their experience around, you have an opportunity to transform them into a raving brand advocate and one of your biggest fans.

The worst person to leave a bad review is someone who’s spamming you with a fake review or worse.

What’s a keyboard warrior?

Alternatively, some people just have an axe to grind. Also known as a keyboard warrior, they are abusive or aggressive online, enjoy the sound of their own voice, and like nothing better than creating drama, conflict, anger, recriminations and angst.

A quick look at their profile will give you a good idea if they make a habit of leaving a negative or bad review. Some of them are serial pests. Sometimes they are competitors who have seriously questionable methods of doing business. Some are random people from different countries who leave unintelligible reviews for no clear purpose whatsoever.

Step-by-step of dealing with a bad review

Let me preface this by saying that a negative review is not the end of the world.

If someone is taking the time to read reviews, they are probably smart enough to read on if they find a negative review to see A, if they can find more negative reviews and steer clear of your business, or B, if they can find positive reviews that outweigh the negative reviews so they can make a decision for themselves

Generally, people take a negative review- especially a really ranty, long-winded bad review, like 1 or 2 stars- with a grain of salt. We read reviews in context.

So if a business has 24 five star reviews and 2 one star reviews, most people will understand that the good probably outweighs the bad.

Bad Review The Marketing Side

Respond to EVERY review

Best practice is to ALWAYS respond to a review, whether it’s good, bad or indifferent.

People learn more about your business by the way you respond to a negative review then they will about the review itself. Your response is visible to everyone, and will be read by the person who left the review, as well as every other human who ever stumbles across the review.

Bad reviews come in two varieties: either totally over the top with details and emotions galore or as a lone star swinging in the breeze with no further identifiable information.

For the OTT reviews: Stick to the facts. Keep it classy & professional. Address any issues. Don’t get drawn into an online argument. Offer restitution or apology, if necessary. Contact them offline if you can, and let them know in your response that you’ll do that.

For the 1 star with crickets? If they aren’t a client o yours, call them on it. Hi Dave. We’re sorry you didn’t get the experience you expected. We don’t have any record of you in our database, so please get in touch with us so we can learn more.  


I highly recommend you screenshot a negative review. It’s helpful to have proof of the review so you can sense check it with a friend, partner or staff member, and also in case there is ever legal action required. Sometimes people remove their own reveiw- especially if they know it’s false or defamatory- so your screenshot is proof that it existed. 

Act quickly

Don’t let a negative review fester. Respond within an hour, if possible. Address the issue and be seen to address the issue.  Make sure your response is visible and clear in the public view. Respond online and, if you have the contact details of the customer, reach out to them via phone or email if this is appropriate.

Monitor the situation

Keep a close eye to see if the issue has been resolved. Occasionally, people just enjoy the fight of an online argument. Just shut down any back and forth, you said, I said, blame game banter and move on with your life. Don’t give it oxygen and most often, it will die. Leave your final response by making it clear that you won’t be responding to any further comments and leave it at that. Don’t be tempted to re-engage!

Flag it

If a review is fake, made up or inappropriate, flag it as such with Google. Google has a review policy in place with flagged reviews, and may remove them if they violate Google’s policies.

Reviews ‘should accurately represent the location in question. Where contributions distort truth, we will remove content’. Go to the review, click on the three dots on the right and select ‘Flag as inappropriate’.

Additionally, if a review is clearlt a fake and from someone who has never engaged with your business, call them on it. 

‘We don’t have any record of you as a customer of ours at any of our locations. Please contact us directly via phone so we can discuss your experience further’.

Ask for reviews from happy clients

The best way to counteract a bad review is to ask for reviews from happy clients. Make sure you send the link to your Google Business listing as part of your wrap up process, or text it to delighted clients with a simple request to ‘take a moment and tell us what you think!’