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How to Handle Bad Reviews About Your Company

Bowling pins knocked down by bowling ball

Bad reviews are always pretty horrifying for a small business owner or head of marketing when one hits their inbox. There’s this heart stopping feeling like your reputation is ruined and the business will cease to grow.

While bad reviews can indeed make your product or service look bad, these days, negative reviews are just a part of doing business. It’s best to keep calm and deal with them methodically, rather than freak out and make a rash rebuttal.

We All Know Nothing’s Perfect

As reviews have become a big part of our buying experience, consumers are pretty used to seeing bad reviews, fake reviews, and unwarranted glowing reviews. We know that we should read several to get an accurate picture. Likewise, we know we shouldn’t put too much weight on any one of them. We also know that one person’s bad experience is not necessarily an overall representation of the product or service. People have different needs, likes, and dislikes. What is a fit for one may not be a fit for another. People get that.

So if you’ve received a negative review, calm down. It’s probably not going to kill your business. What’s important is how you address the review. This is important to both the reviewer and any future readers of the review.

If a review reveals some failure in your business, take solace in the fact that perfection isn’t possible. Someone is going to drop the ball eventually. Pick up the pieces and move on.

Handle the Bad Review

Reply to the bad review

You definitely should leave a reply to any bad review you receive. But if you’re angry or upset, give yourself some time to simmer down. A professional, helpful reply is crucial for turning this into a positive experience for the reviewer and future readers.

Once the anger and/or frustration has subsided, consider how to approach your reply. Reputation management takes some thought and patience. Consider these dos and don’ts before you get started.


  • Don’t get defensive
  • Don’t blame
  • Don’t excuse
  • Don’t go back and forth more than once or twice. No one wants to see a battle between business and disgruntled customer.


  • Acknowledge the issue
  • Apologize in an authentic way
  • Paint a positive image of the company
  • Suggest a resolution
  • Offer something for free
  • Suggest taking back and forth communication offline

Unhappy customers expect quick responses on social media and so we should strive to provide that. However, there are times when waiting might be a better decision. If you can quickly resolve the issue, then you can refer to that resolution in the review, which will help quell some concerns with future readers. You can say something like, “Thanks for pointing that out. I’m glad we were able to resolve the issue to your satisfaction.” If a resolution is complicated, construct a thoughtful response as quickly as possible.

Handle the employee

If the bad review was about an employee, get all the information you can about the incident. Baring any extreme or inexcusable behavior, work towards training the employee on the correct way to handle situations with customers. Be sure to explain in the reply how you used the unfortunate situation as a teaching opportunity.

Handle the customer

Try to verify that the customer is truly someone with whom you have done business. If so, check whether or not there was any previous correspondence with the customer. If you have contact info, reach out immediately to suggest a resolution.

Check for spam reviews

Check to make sure that the negative review isn’t spam. Spam reviews are reviews left for the wrong company or bad reviews left discretely by competitors.

Learn From the Experience

It is important to be grounded and focused and not be led in product development by every customer request. However,  listening to customers is also necessary to develop healthy relationships with customers and to provide good service and support. There’s a lot to learn by listening to customer complaints.

When you receive the same criticism over and over, you know your company has a weakness that you should address. If this is the case, work towards correcting the lack. Even if your company fixes the insufficiency months down the road, you can go back to the negative review (or reviews) and leave another reply, mentioning what has changed.

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