Your business just got a scathing review online, what’s your next step?

As a business owner, you are no stranger to the value of online reviews. You know that a single negative review can make a powerful impact on the perception of your business. Even the smallest issues can develop into a hard hit to your online reputation, so what should be done about it?

In this article, we will address the common first instincts of business owners who are faced with unhappy customer feedback and detail the best steps for maintaining a positive brand reputation online.

First Instincts and Knee-Jerk Reactions Boca Raton Search Engine Optimization, South Florida SEO Experts

You’ve just searched for your business online, and found an inflammatory one-star review from a very disgruntled customer. A common first instinct for business owners is to attempt to have the review removed entirely. Negative reviews often cause panic, and our first thought is to make the issue disappear, but this isn’t the best practice when maintaining your business’ reputation.

Another common instinct is to defend your business. However, if you haven’t taken the time to step back and draft a thoughtful, effective response, a defensive review response can cause even more damage to the perception of your business.

“85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations” –BrightLocal 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey

If you find yourself faced with a negative review, don’t panic! Like you, most of the people reading your reviews have the common sense to know which feedback is concerning and which is unreasonable. For example, a one-star review for a restaurant that states, “Terrible service! Our server only made eye contact 3 times and gave me a full lemon slice when I CLEARLY asked for a HALF slice!” is going to look as silly to readers online as it does to the restaurant staff. While you can’t please everyone, you can try by appealing to the customer with a thoughtfully composed response.

Don’t Remove, Do Respond

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As a consumer yourself you have likely used reviews to make decisions on products or services, and you may have even left a few reviews yourself. How would you feel if you knew that a business you frequent was being deceptive about their customer feedback by scrubbing negative reviews?

Responding to reviews – and not just the negative ones – shows your online audience that you care. Taking on an active role within your online presence shows that you truly value all customer experiences and that you care enough to make things right – even if you were never in the wrong to begin with.


The 5 A’s of Effective Review Responses

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Once the initial upset caused by this new negative review has passed, it is time to craft an effective response. Your review response should express empathy, show that you care about each customer, and show potential consumers that you’re a level-headed and understanding business owner. Through our years of experience in the field of Reputation Management, BroadLeaf Marketing & SEO has developed the 5 A’s of review responses. Appreciate, Apologize, Acknowledge, Ask, and Act. By implementing these golden rules, your review response is sure to effectively handle and resolve any negative customer feedback.

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1. Appreciate

Before you begin any negative review response, you should always thank the reviewer for taking the time to leave their feedback. Regardless of whether their comments are positive or negative, direct feedback from your customers is the most powerful tool for improving future experiences. Show your appreciation for their review and let them know how valuable their words are for the betterment of your business as a whole.

“Thank you for taking the time to leave your valuable feedback!”

Boca Raton Search Engine Optimization, South Florida SEO Experts2. Apologize

Regardless of where the blame may lie, it is incredibly important to open your response with a genuine apology. Don’t waste your energy detailing your track record of excellence or defending your character. More often than not, negative reviews are written to gain the immediate satisfaction that comes from venting after an unsavory event. Your negative reviewer expects an apology, and it’s important to provide a meaningful one to avoid a snowball effect of negative reviews on multiple platforms.

“We would like to apologize for the poor service provided during your last visit.”

Boca Raton Search Engine Optimization, South Florida SEO Experts3. Acknowledge

Your response should always acknowledge and validate the experience described by the review author. By writing out the specific complaints from your customer it shows that you not only respect them but that you are truly hearing their concerns. Too often we see businesses using response templates which remove the ability to express genuine empathy for the reviewer’s experience.

“We are concerned to hear that our server made a mistake with your lunch order…”

Boca Raton Search Engine Optimization, South Florida SEO Experts4. Ask

Once you have thanked the upset customer for their time, apologized for the unpleasant experience, and acknowledged their concerns, you should ask what you can do to make things right. The best practice for inviting possible resolutions is to ask the customer to contact you directly, allowing you to give them your undivided attention. You can also offer a discount or incentive to demonstrate how committed you are to a solution. This shows the review author that you truly care about them and their needs, and that you go above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service.

“We’d like to fix this situation, please let us know if there is anything we can do to make things right.”

Boca Raton Search Engine Optimization, South Florida SEO Experts5. Act

After you’ve posted your response to the negative review, it’s time for you to take action. If you and the customer were able to speak privately and come to an agreement to rectify the situation be sure to follow through. Discussing a solution is one thing, but actually committing yourself to taking action makes a world of difference. In the event that the customer never reached out to you be sure to take their comments into consideration. A team meeting with your staff to prevent similar events in the future can help to ensure poor business practices don’t continue or repeat.

Recovering From a Negative Review

You’ve responded to your negative review publicly and come to a solution with your dissatisfied customer. Now what? While some reviewers like to edit their original post with an update on how the situation was handled, many don’t bother. In fact, most reviewers air their grievances and you never hear from them again. Now there is a blemish on your business’ online reputation, and you’re wondering what can be done going forward.

It’s Okay to Ask for Reviews!

Boca Raton Search Engine Optimization, South Florida SEO ExpertsYou know better than anyone which customers had a great experience with your business, so why aren’t they leaving five-star reviews? It’s just human nature. We’re more likely to focus on and complain about the splinter in our foot than we are to think about the comfortable couch we’re sitting on. Most customers don’t think to leave positive reviews so it’s important that you encourage them to do so!

According to a 2017 survey by BrightLocal, 68% of consumers leave a local business review when asked – with 74% having been asked for their feedback. If you’re a part of the 26% of businesses who aren’t asking for comments from their consumers, it’s time to make a change. Many of BroadLeaf’s clients express concern when the topic of review generation comes up. You may feel weird, needy even, for asking your customers to provide feedback. Worry not! It all comes down to showing that you care about your customer’s experiences. 

The best ways to encourage new reviews is by sharing your preferred review platform on social media, through your email newsletter, or as a quick in-person reminder when the customer is at your shop or receiving services from your business. Many customers will be delighted to see you care about your reputation, and will be more than happy to leave a few kind words online.


Negative reviews are not the end of the world. While frustrating, or even infuriating, they can be handled with a level-headed, professional outlook. By taking the time to craft a genuine and empathetic response you’re not only doing damage control, you’re showing potential consumers that you’re a dedicated and caring business owner. If you find yourself faced with a negative online review you no longer need to panic, just follow BroadLeaf Marketing & SEO’s ultimate guide to handling negative reviews and you will do just fine!


Are you having trouble managing the online reputation of your business? Has your business been targeted by angry customers or competitors writing more negative reviews than you can handle? We can help!

Contact BroadLeaf Marketing & SEO to speak with our Reputation Management experts and get your online reviews cleaned up today!