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How to deal with bad online reviews

Hopefully your business is doing a wonderful job pleasing customers and building an excellent brand reputation. But you can still be left bad reviews; it’s extremely difficult to keep every single customer you serve happy – no matter how hard you try – and some unscrupulous competitors may even deliberately post bad reviews to bring down your star rating. So, what’s the best way to deal with negative online comments to save your brand reputation?


The value of online reviews

A study in 2018 by BrightLocal found that today’s consumers place huge value on online reviews:

  • 86% read online reviews
  • 95% of consumers aged 18 to 34 read online reviews
  • 68% of consumers are more likely to use a local business on the strength of its online reviews

This shows the undeniable value of having good online reviews; consumers are more likely to visit your business over one of your competitors if you have clear, visible ratings from existing customers that show just how good your business is.

Case study: The Shed at Dulwich

In 2017 a young journalist working for VICE, Oobah Butler, set up a TripAdvisor profile for a fake restaurant which he called ‘The Shed at Dulwich’. His goal was to get an establishment that didn’t actually exist to the number one spot for London restaurants on TripAdvisor by getting his friends, family and anybody kind enough to oblige to write him fake five-star reviews. Six months after first listing his ‘business’ online, he reached his goal. You can read the full article about the social experiment here.

This case study shows the power good online reviews can have – and how easy it can be to leave a fake one. That’s why, particularly for small business owners, you should be switched on to the benefits that reviews can deliver your business.

Dealing with bad reviews

While reviews can be an excellent way to funnel customers towards your business, they can be a double-edged sword. No matter how hard you work, it’s incredibly difficult to keep every single client you serve happy – particularly if you serve lots of customers – and that one niggling bad review might be turning away potential clients from your business. To make things worse, some bad reviews are fake, paid for or left by dishonest competitors. But there are ways to deal with bad reviews professionally to mitigate the damage they can cause to your brand.

Responding to negative reviews

The first way to deal with negative online reviews is to respond with a professionally written comment. Here are some tips for responding to poor reviews:

  • If there’s some wrong doing on your part, own up to it and explain specifically what you’ve done to fix it so other customers reading the review know that they won’t encounter the same problems.
  • Try to avoid getting into a he-said, she-said situation; it looks unprofessional and rarely resolves anything.
  • If the comment is completely false (maybe the ‘client’ never actually visited your business) then leave a comment that makes this obvious, consider: “Please be aware that this is a fake comment, this person has never visited my business”.
  • In some cases, if a review is particularly angry, it may be a good idea to resolve the issue privately over the phone or by email. Remember, you aren’t there for a confrontation, your aim is to reach a solution. Once the issue is resolved, comment on the review to let people who may be reading know the successful outcome, or politely request the customer modify their review.

Fake reviews

The best way to deal with fake reviews is to have them taken down completely, however, many review platforms make it very hard to do this. For example, if you want a Google review taken down, Google purposely make it incredibly difficult to get in touch directly with their support staff, trying to redirect people to their FAQ page. The best way to get in touch directly is through their ‘book a call’ page on the Google My Business support section, but even then, it’s very difficult to persuade them to take down a review.

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about the fake reviews you receive and the best way to deal with them is to swamp them with positive ones. Encourage all of your happy customers to leave you a review and address your customer journey map to ensure that all of your touchpoints are optimised to ensure maximum customer satisfaction.

Encouraging your customers to leave you positive reviews can be a great way to endorse and promote your brand – but be wary of negative reviews! Dealing with them appropriately can help to keep your customers coming and show that you work proactively to keep them satisfied.

To find out more about how Sharp Minds Communications can help with your marketing, email communications@sharpminds.agency 

 Based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Sharp Minds offers brand development, digital marketing, offline marketing and public relations to businesses across Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Greater London. You can see what our customers say about us here.

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