Mike Zammuto

How and When to Respond to Negative Reviews

By: Mike Zammuto | July 29, 2013 | 

respond to negative reviews

By Mike Zammuto

For business owners, there are few occurrences more unwelcome than the proliferation of negative online reviews.

Bad online reviews are damaging to any business owner’s ego, but they are hardly just matters of vanity.

Because so many consumers use online review sites to inform their purchasing decisions, companies beset with bad reviews can face dire consequences.

These include drop-offs in sales, increases in refund requests, and ultimately a plummeting bottom line.

The good news is, there are ways in which companies can respond to negative reviews, we well as engage in damage control.

Minimizing the effect of a nasty online review requires companies to know how — and when — to respond to feedback.

Respond to Negative Reviews

There are two forms of negative reviews. The first is what we might call constructive criticism — that is, a negative review left by an unsatisfied consumer, leaving business owners with information they can use to actually improve their service offerings. For these reviews, it is important to respond quickly and empathetically, and to make every effort to publicly resolve the problem.

Respond to negative reviews using these tips:

  • Make sure you thank the customer for his or her business, and for taking the time to leave you feedback.
  • Apologize, accepting full responsibility for the problem and never trying to pass the blame to anyone else.
  • Note you have every intention of making things right, emphasizing how valuable that customer’s business is.
  • Also, as appropriate, offer refunds, discounts, promotions, or other ways to show you care, and that you are passionate about maintaining said customer’s business.

Dealing with Cyber Bullies

The other type of negative online review is the review left by a cyber-bully. These reviews amount to simple acts of defamation — dragging your company’s name through the mud on the basis of erroneous accusations, or failing to make any specific allegations whatsoever.

For these reviews, business owners are better off not responding at all. This may sound counterintuitive, the idea of letting these false accusations and malicious online notices go unchallenged, but consider this: Engaging with cyber bullies can actually make your brand’s online reputation management issues exponentially more severe.

How so? Whenever you provide activity for an online review — such as clicking the link, sharing the link, or offering a response — it signals to the search engine the review in question is valuable and relevant. As such, the search engine algorithms promote the review further, giving it more visibility and traction.

The ultimate result is your company’s negative press is more accessible and more noticeable than ever and for what? Attempts to engage with a cyber-bully are simply never going to lead to a solution.

The better bet for businesses is to focus on cultivating positive reviews from clients — helping to suppress those nasty, negative ones. This is how businesses and brands are able to address negative reviews — even those from cyber bullies — in a constructive and efficient fashion.

Have you experienced bad online reviews? False bad online reviews? How did you deal with them?

About Mike Zammuto

A veteran of the software industry, having worked at ChaCha, Ontario Systems, and Microsoft, Mike Zammuto now helps individuals and corporations with brand reputation management. Mike is the President and COO of Brand.com.


  What's bad is when a company refuses to address a customer's valid concerns and ignores them. I am having an awful time dealing with Flippa.com. 

They are refusing to unfreeze my account unless I send them my full id via email. (I am already completely verified via their own website as to my identity) 

But instead of addressing concerns, #Flippa has started ignoring me online.  

I am glad I did not submit all private details, because the email attachment I sent was uploaded and is viewable on a support.flippa.com (Zendesk) link. 

So I can publicly view my private info online via the link.

Yes, I can imagine that it would be hard for someone to casually find it, but as Zendesk was hacked earlier this year, I don't find that comforting.

So yes bullies suck, but customers who are ignored for no sane reason have every right to be annoyed.


Thanks Dwayne. You are right: Just saying no to bullies is one of the most overlooked tactics when dealing with negative reviews.


I'm a big believer in the idea that unhappy customers who care enough to give constructive criticism are an organization's best friends. By following the steps you've outlined above, you can so easily vault well ahead on your way to moving them into brand loyalist/advocate territory.  Ignore them at your own peril! Why is that what so many people want to do?  Such a missed opportunity.

But bullies -- totally ignore. Brilliant advice. Smart, concise post here!  


Constructive criticism is essential. You can use what those people are saying to make what you offer better in some way 

They help you improve your product, and increase sales and all that. 

But at it's core you're trying to give more benefits to your customers. 


Good stuff. I particularly like the approach to dealing with constructive criticism. Those are good steps.

I've always found the best way to deal with bullies is to simply out play them. Our newspaper has its share of people who hate us and think we're dead in the water. Fortunately, we generate enough content and enough comments that we can usually pretty quickly bury anything that's a flat out attack.

Of course if it is constructive-type criticism, we like to engage those folks.

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