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how to deal with bad online reviews
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How to Deal with Bad Online Reviews

It happens to the best of businesses – someone didn’t like the brew of coffee they received in room service; the pillows weren’t plumped quite to their liking. Perhaps a more serious mistake was made, which wasn’t caught by your customer service team.  Either way, bad online reviews can hit anyone. The ordinary keyboard warrior, with just a few taps, can change someone’s outlook on your and service you provide. It can reflect badly on your staff and your business, regardless of who, if anyone, was at fault.

What makes everything more difficult is the host of reviewing sites, which have spread across the web. From TripAdvisor to Yelp, and even Facebook posts. Even doddering old Granny Margie, with access to an internet connection and a mobile device, can rip into your carefully constructed business with her series of bad online reviews.

And just like in the real world, people are far more likely to voice their negative opinions than their positive ones, which becomes an issue when it takes between ten and twelve good reviews to make up for one bad one.

So how do you solve the ever-arising issue of bad online reviews?


Respond promptly

Leaving a negative comment up on the internet unanswered, especially for an extended period of time, shows you’re not willing to do anything to change the situation. Answer the comment publically, and professionally, showing you are willing to engage in discourse, and that you are reachable should someone else have a bad experience. This public forum can work to your advantage, as it allows you to set the agenda and tell your side of the story. A good format for response is to thank the person leaving the comment, apologize for what happened, and explain how you will fix it. It is best not to get into a “he said, she said” discourse with difficult customers, although it has happened in the past that bad reviews have become the subject of news stories, after hotels or restaurants revealed the bad behaviour which led to the actions of staff against a customer. Try to avoid this if at all possible, instead leaving a professional but warm message where others can view it and make informed decisions.

In responding promptly, you must tailor your words to the type of review you received:

  • Genuine mistake

It can happen so easily – a mix-up with bills or a wrong meal. We’re all human and mistakes occur. The best method of dealing with this is to apologise, if you feel it necessary, offer some compensation, and explain how you and your team are taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

  • Problem with staff

A problem with a member of your staff team could be either the employee or the customer’s doing. If a review criticises a nasty waiter, get their side of the story. Ask them what happened before following up with the reviewer. If it appears the employee wasn’t at fault, find a way to say this without putting the customer offside. Try something like “We’re sorry you had this experience, we find Marshall always tries to put his best foot forward.”

  • Wrong review

Whoever said the customer is always right has clearly never met a customer. Sometimes, people are just wrong. Whether it’s something small such as them misunderstanding what their meal package included, or them trashing the room and then complaining about being charged extra, it is hard to know how to respond to a review that is glaringly incorrect. If it’s something small, which won’t affect your business, let it go. However, if customers will read it and get the wrong idea, make sure you correct it, as politely as you can. “We apologise that you were misinformed about your meal package, which includes breakfast and dinner every day. We hope you weren’t too inconvenienced and will stay again soon” or “We’re sorry this charge wasn’t clear when you checked out, and we hope we can answer any questions you have about your bill. It is true a standard room is $300, and you indeed paid $400, however the extra charges were for the replacement of the desk lamp and vase you broke during your stay. We hope this clarifies things for you.” Again, try to avoid these situations if you can, but don’t let a largely misleading review go unanswered, as it could lose you business.


Provide a forum for bad online reviews (and good ones too!)

This may seem counterintuitive to your method of dealing with bad online reviews, but if you provide an easily accessible way for customers to send their questions, complaints and concerns straight to you, you can firstly avoid them appearing publically on the internet, and potentially create a peace offering to diffuse the situation before they take it to an open forum.


Ensure customers are satisfied before they leave

While it is important to know how to tackle bad online reviews after they are published, the best avenue for solving the issue is stopping it at its source. Ask customers if they were happy with their service, was anything amiss, is there anything else they need, what could we have done better. If there was a problem, it is best to appease customers then and there, so they leave without a bad taste in their mouth. A mildly disgruntled customer whose problem was promptly solved is far more likely to write a good review than a bad one, commending staff on fixing a problem rather than the annoyance simmering until it manifests in a complaint online. Keep checking in with customers, keeping your eyes and ears open in order to provide the best customer service and avoid those pesky bad reviews.


Nobody knows exactly how to respond to a poor review, and it cannot be handled the same way as if the customer were standing in front of you, as people become more confident as they venture online. The best you can do is continue to provide excellent service, and come to a general consensus with the rest of your team when tackling difficult comments.

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