How to Deal with Negative Reviews

How to Deal with Negative Reviews

As business people, we’re all used to reviews, testimonials and are aware of their power when displayed online or in print media.  We proudly display them on our LinkedIn profiles, our website widgets, inside the cover of our books.  However, how should we respond when someone posts a negative comment?

If the reviewer is wrong…


  • If the review is factually untrue, and this can be demonstrated, then write to the reviewer and politely ask them to take it down, stating those facts without emotion, blame or threat.
  • Prepare yourself for the possibility that they will refuse.
  • If they refuse, decide whether to remove the review yourself, or not.  (Beware that many public review and testimonial sites do not offer this facility, and there are many that do not offer you any control over the content at all, or any recourse (such as posting a follow-up comment, or refutation).

If the reviewer has a point…

  • If the review is partially or fully true, then write to the review and politely ask them to amend the part that is untrue, or remove the review altogether.  Prepare yourself for the possibility that they will see things differently to you.
  • Regardless of the outcome of this request, offer to make a clearly defined restitution (preferably in kind, though not financial) to the reviewer, by way of an apology for their bad experience of your organisation. Some organisations publicise this restitution, for PR purposes.
  • NEVER make the mistake of offering restitution on condition that the review is removed.  This will only make things worse, and damage your reputation further.  Restitution should make the customer happy, and be of no immediate benefit to you whatsoever.  (We all know that this will benefit us in the long term though.)
  • Statistics show that complainants whose complaint is resolved quickly will most often remain with a supplier, and may become advocates.

If the reviewer makes a personal attack…


  • This type of behaviour can only serve to condemn the writer.  There is one correct way to communicate when making a criticism: truthfully, briefly and factually.  Resorting to personal attacks is the way of the emotional abuser, a person who is lacking in self-esteem.  And, it is lazy.
  • Remove the review immediately, if possible.  (This is especially important if someone uses your website to attack another person.  Avoid being viewed as someone who allows personal attacks on your sites and profiles.) If it is not possible to remove the review, respond quickly, asking for constructive feedback in order to deal with the issue.  This places you in the stronger, positive, assertive, proactive position.
  • If you receive constructive feedback, follow-up quickly with a thank-you and a brief outline of what you have done to improve things.
  • Avoid carrying on a slanging match online.  It makes everyone look stupid.


  • Tell them what they’ve done. Keep it factual.
  • Tell them how it makes you feel.  Keep it short.
  • Tell them what you’d like them to do instead.  E.g. replace the personal attack with some useful suggestions on what the problem really is, and how it can be resolved.
  • Tell them what the consequences will be if they don’t do as you ask.  E.g. you won’t begin to work on improving something, if you only receive a vague personal attack.  Make sure you carry through with the consequences.  That may be, for example, to avoid association with that person, as personal attacks are designed only to harm, not help.

I hope these simple strategies help you to understand what happens when someone reviews your product or service.  And, that you never have to use them.  ;)

Image credit: lavverue.

Comment below on how you have dealt with negative reviews or testimonials on and offline.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, and whether you have tried the suggestions above.

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  1. Thanks for the recent insights guys, all great advice.

  2. Andy Clint

    Hello Dawn…I also agree with Cher…We have to do the best we can and we are confident enough to face negative things..

  3. delcarmen66

    It really pays to read blogs like this. I cannot please everybody and I have no plans pleasing as many people as i can. The only thing I want to please is my God.

  4. If many will give you negative reviews then take them as a compliment because they have spend time to give you reviews. You learn from your mistakes and try to be more careful.

  5. Cher Shives

    Hi Dawn…We cannot please anyone and I think the best thing to do is do your best and for sure, some other people will appreciate it…

  6. How to deal with negative reviews? i think this is an awesome post. Dealing with negative reviews can somehow be stressful and disappointing at times. But it does not mean that you are not good enough. Maybe you just have to accept the fact that all people are entitled in their own opinion and you just have to respect that. Thanks for sharing this one!

    • Joan, many thanks for your comments. Indeed, people are entitled to their opinions, but I feel it is important to take action when they are objectively inaccurate.

  7. Hi Dawn,

    This is really good. One thing I’d suggest is to expect that some reviews won’t go smoothly and not to take it too heart.

    Easier said that done, of course.

  8. There is absolutely nothing more that can be said without going into specifics Dawn. This has now become my master list for dealing with negative reviews in the on line environment for myself and my clients. Well thought out, concise and structured. Love it.

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