Bad online reviews can often seem like a disaster for businesses, and it’s easy to see why.

When you’re trying to convince people that you’re the industry best, it’s disheartening to see that some existing customers might disagree. With the majority of consumers reading online reviews before making a purchase, you’d assume that multiple paragraphs of negative online reviews would turn any readers away from your brand.

negative online reviews

Luckily, the occasional complaint doesn’t have to mean bad news for your business if you know how to deal with them properly. Managing your negative online reviews can actually allow you to use this public criticism to make your brand even stronger.

Respond to complaints

Ignoring a negative comment simply suggests you don’t care about the issues a customer has had with your company, which could deter them from using it again in the future. It also looks bad to other people who may be perusing the reviews website to research your brand, as they would be unlikely to show interest in a company that won’t take responsibility for its shortcomings. This is why 89% of consumers will read a business’s response to a review.

Even if you believe a bad review is unfair, it’s important to take the feedback on board without getting too defensive, which could make your business look even worse. An apology shows that you empathize with their problems, and are committed to a resolution which will give them a positive experience. For example, following this Lotto Social review, the company apologized for unclear terms of service, and thoroughly explained the source of the miscommunication at the heart of the complaint. Similarly, this response by Avenue Restaurant & Bar demonstrates that the customer is being taken seriously, with the eatery promising an emergency meeting in light of the customer’s comments.

If complaints like these are rare, you can also use your response to highlight the business’s strengths, and frame the incident in question as a one-off mistake. This limits any damage to your reputation, while also ensuring the reviewer feels heard. However, time is of the essence when it comes to responding to customers online. According to Harvard Business Review, the average person is willing to spend $20 more on a service in the future, provided their complaint is addressed at least five minutes after they’ve made it.

Don’t delete unfavourable feedback

Roughly 95% of a business’s potential customers will suspect censorship or faked reviews if there are no bad ratings to be seen, so you should avoid looking like you have anything to hide. Rather than deleting any negative reviews, which could suggest inauthenticity, you should instead use your negative reviews to shed a positive light on the good ones.

As over half of global shoppers don’t trust businesses, being honest about your feedback could go a long way in gaining their respect. If you have enough positive reviews from happy customers, they’ll probably be able to overlook any complaints provided you’ve proactively addressed any concerns outlined. This blend of good and bad shows that all your reviews are indeed real, and will make readers more likely to trust your good ones as a result.

Use criticism to improve your business

Rather than taking offence to any criticism, managing your negative reviews online actually provides meaningful feedback. This is especially relevant if many of your bad comments all stem from the same problem. Work on solving this issue, and you’ll have a lot more happy customers.

For instance, if lots of your bad reviews use the word “disappointed”, perhaps this means that the problem isn’t necessarily the product, but the way you have described it. Ensure that you accurately detail exactly what you’re offering, and you can better meet customer expectations, and prevent their disappointment. Similarly, if there are any complaints about slow shipping, make sure you clearly outline the expected delivery time before checkout. If unacceptable customer service is a recurring issue, consider refreshing your staff training program. Whatever the problem, take it seriously and solve it to make your business better.

Encourage more good reviews

The best way to counter negative reviews is by outweighing the bad with the good. However, encouraging positive feedback is often challenging. As noted by SkyBell co-founder and CRO Andrew Thomas, customers are highly likely to leave a bad review after an unsatisfactory experience of a business. Yet he also estimates that “only one in 10 happy customers leaves a good review” after an excellent encounter. Therefore, you’ll have to work much harder to attract good reviews.

Ultimately, a customer is doing you a favour when they leave a good review, so you could consider offering a small incentive, like a promo code, in exchange. Ideally, you should push them towards leaving feedback on your most expensive products and services. However, the tactic doesn’t come without risk and could damage the value of your reviews. These won’t seem genuine if customers know you’re actively pushing for them, and will probably read strangely if they don’t come from the heart. Instead, focus on giving your customers truly great experiences and make it easy for them to find places to leave feedback. Let them know which review platforms you’re active on, and integrate a simple star-rating function into any follow-up emails.