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How to deal with bad reviews

“A bad review is like baking a cake with all the best ingredients and having someone sit on it.”

Danielle Steel

With instant review tools like Google, Facebook and TripAdvisor everyone can become a critic. It can only take a slight misunderstanding or miscommunication for your decent service to receive a less than favourable review. If it’s simply a low star score review, with no text, it could even be a mistake on the part of the reviewer!

As you grow your business, it’s only a matter of time before something happens to potentially damage your online reputation. How do you deal with a bad review?

Is a bad review all bad?

Our research shows an increased engagement when users see a negative review. This makes sense, your potential customers aren’t as interested in positive comments as you are, they want to see what might go wrong! What’s more, a squeaky clean 100% 5-star rating could seem suspicious, or at least like you haven’t been around all that long.

Through the ‘Google My Business’ dashboard, you can gauge how people are interacting with your listing.

SEO Tip: If you are a local business, make sure you have a ‘Google My Business’ listing (previously ‘Google Places’), it’s the easiest and most cost-effective way to optimise your web presence on Google.

We found that users engage more fully with your entire listing (photos, directions and posts) when you have a review that is not overly complimentary. Why? Because people are curious, intrigued as to what could be so bad, and what did you say in reply!? Evidently, your reply is vital to turning this bad review into an engagement tool.

How can you craft a reply that Alastair Campbell would be proud of? Three steps: stop, think, write.


You’re annoyed, frustrated, maybe even angry. You work hard on your business, and everything can be undone by a review like the one you have just received! It makes your blood boil!

As long as you feel that strongly, sit tight. You are not in the right headspace to curate a considered response that turn this 1 star review into a new customer.


Once you have cooled off, start to draft your reply. Who are you writing to? The angry reviewer? No. You are now going to write something your new customer is going to see so put your best face on!


Follow this template to help you come out of this smelling of roses:

  1. Acknowledge, thank and apologise. Don’t overdo this part, one sentence along the lines of ‘We are really sorry you have had a bad experience with us, thank you for highlighting the issue.’
  2. Ask a specific question. You want to resolve the issue, the reviewer probably won’t reply, but it allows you to address the review and put a line under it, something like ‘When did this happen, please email our team and we will make sure it doesn’t happen again.’
  3. Address your new customer indirectly. Turn the negative into a positive. We recommend starting a new paragraph here. Did the customer misunderstand part of your service? I.e. you open 24 hours on request, but they turned up without a booking: Because we operate flexible opening hours, we open at a time convenient for you, did you receive a confirmation email? Or maybe they were annoyed that some items on your menu were unavailable: Because we use seasonal ingredients from local suppliers, we are sorry the dish was not available, we would recommend this alternative…
  4. Reconciliation. Extend the olive branch. Your new customer wants to know if they have a problem, you will deal with them conscientiously. Offer the reviewer something in return if they contact you via email to discuss the issue, ideally something that doesn’t leave you too out of pocket.


A bad review isn’t the end of the world. You can’t delete it, so work with it. Help your new customers to see you run a reasonable business, that tries to resolve issues rather than ignore them or retaliate in an unprofessional manner.