Got a bad review? 5 ways to take that lemon and make lemonade!

Eventually you will get a bad review, here are some tips on how to handle it.

Bad reviews are a plague that seems to creep up on even the best of us.

In fact, during the span of any business or entrepreneurial journey you will find that all companies with medium-large exposure would have received a bad review. Often times it is wise to keep in mind that with a larger audience you are open to more criticism. Before you let that fear keep you back here are some simple tips to deal with bad reviews that have the potential to turn a bad customer experience into an extremely good one.

Before I get started on the top tips to deal with bad reviews, consider yourself warned:

Never, ever, ever try to get fake reviews or censor out the bad reviews. I’ve seen this so many times in reputation management for professionals such as Rate-MD that you can’t believe some sites (or the credibility of the reviewed person) at all. It’s also really awkward if you get caught. Not to mention the legal implications of fraud or ‘astroturfing.’

What is astroturfing?

This is when someone uses fake reviews to help bolster their reputation. It is a manipulation of your online presence by using falsified testimonials. It is quite common particularly in the health industry, and can have disastrous effects. The worst type of astroturfing is when a competitor puts fake reviews to make YOU seem bad. 

If you feel someone is astroturfing, whether it is to put down your service or boost theirs you can always report it as it can be a legal offence. Because the legal system somewhat lags behind technology it is usually classed as fraud, impersonation or defamation/ libel depending on the nature of the review. If you feel like your business has been greatly harmed please seek appropriate legal advice. Before you do that, consider these 5 tips to help you manage a bad review.

1) Here’s something I prepared earlier…

Anticipate bad reviews

Make sure that all of your policies and terms of service are relevant and up to date. If you have a proper risk management strategy then handling complaints and bad reviews should be a vital element of your risk management procedure. 

Most business owners state that ‘it won’t happen to me,’ then it happens. So let me explain why it will inevitably happen to you.

  • Friendly chargebacks: friendly fraud accounts for the most amount of chargebacks. Some even citing that they were ‘scammed’ or dissatisfied with a service. The typical case for friendly fraud is when someone overspends and make up malicious reviews and stories to try and cover their own tracks. Keep good documentation of your customers and provide exceptional customer service.
  • People use bad online reviews as a threat to get their money back. As ugly as it sounds, it happens quite often. I recommend a no-questions-asked refund policy for at least 7 days to try and mitigate this. Also ensure that they are fully aware of the terms and conditions of their purchase.

Sometimes you just know when someone is going to leave a bad review. It might be in the way they are talking about your product/ service. Other times, people will just blatantly threaten to leave a bad review.


If you are able to provide a rebuttal, apologise for the inconvenience and link the terms of service/ policies which they agreed to. This will also draw attention to the fact that you have a policy which is open and transparent to the public.

2) Handle isolated reviews with knife-like precision

A genuine response from a truly dissatisfied customer is probably the most common form of bad review you will get. It is important to reply as soon as possible directly to the customer. Don’t be one of those companies that try to spin everything into a pseudo-advertisement. Know who you are talking to and figure out why they may be genuinely unhappy. Pro-activity always works in your favour, if not by the dissatisfied customer, then by those that are reading the review.

Don’t get me wrong, I love your positive affirmations and ‘good vibes only’ attitude. But in business, you will inevitably have to be prepared to respond to some negative feedback. Once you have made it big you can hire someone to take care of your online reputation. Until then, you’re in charge of what people say about you online. So it’s time to pull up your big-person pants and take control.

Remember, a bad review doesn’t make you a failure, it just means that your product or service wasn’t meant for the buyer. Thing of it like a tale of two star-crossed lovers. It just wasn’t meant to be.

And that is okay.

As cliche as it sounds, customer satisfaction is always key. ALWAYS. So try your best to address the concern.

3) A dish of facts, topped with a sprinkling of emotion

It’s good to show empathy, but you also need to be objective.

You may fall into the trap of being overly sensitive to a bad online review. It is perfectly normal (and human!) to do so. If you have prepared your policies and documentation at least you will be safe in the knowledge that you will be able to defend yourself properly. For example, when someone tries to call you a ‘scam’ politely tell them that despite their dissatisfaction, a product was sent or a service was rendered. In the case where this was not done, then you need to go back and try your best to satisfy the customer. I hate to be harsh…but you might have had that bad review coming. We all have our ‘off’ days.

If you did provide the product or render the service  then do not be afraid to politely inform them. You don’t have to be friends with everyone. At the end of the day, you are representative of a business – not a counsellor. Despite this, being able to demonstrate some empathy is also an excellent step towards resolving any issues. For example, you can apologise for any inconvenience caused or thank them for their critique. (This is probably where the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ was born from now I think about it.)

4) With a grain of salt

If a review seems ridiculous, or there are multiple posts of the same thing, people will figure it out pretty quickly

I still remember reading a review about a business coach that makes me giggle everytime I think about it. It was so blatantly ridiculous that it didn’t even seem about the service provided and more like a comical attack on the person itself. They even went on to talk about how the coach was a homewrecker. I don’t know about you but I’ve never spoken to a business coach about their relationship status. After that they called the coach ‘an unfunny version of the Vicar of Dibley.’

Huh?’ I thought to myself. ‘Did I miss something here?

The truth was, I hadn’t. It was just a stupid review.

Repeated posts from the same person are easy to tell because they will keep complaining about the same thing. You can always report them for duplicate content as it is clearly abusing the system.

If you think the review has come from someone with a personal vendetta and they are making up reviews the best reply I have seen is. “Sorry, we can’t find you on our records. Our customer satisfaction is key so if you can provide us with further information we will be able to assist you.” People who fake reviews cannot keep up in their lies for too long. If they are abusing the system just report them. But do not retaliate in the rebuttal, subtlety is key.

5) Just like cheese and wine, it gets better with age

Over time, the one bad review will be flooded out by plenty of positive ones.

Encourage people to leave feedback. Often times people who are happy with their service don’t leave feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask a satisfied customer to leave a testimonial. 

Keep a testimonial folder for yourself. Then when prospects come along you can send those directly to them. 

Most reasonable people know that sometimes businesses get a bad review, whether it is with malicious intent or perhaps you were having an off-day. (Trust me, you really only want to do business with reasonable people.) Having a solid policy and procedure for customer satisfaction is crucial to help mitigate and issues you might face with future customers.

When to seek help

If you feel that the bad reviews are doing irreversible damage to your business, it is time to call in some help. Start off by contacting the review site. If you have no joy there, there are some lawyers who can help you for a minimal fee. But with any legal expense, it always has a risk of escalating. In this case you will have to weigh up the amount of potential profit you are missing out on if you were not to call in legal help.

At the end of the day, if you are truly devoted to customer satisfaction and happiness then you won’t find yourself in trouble. How you handle complaints and reviews can actually turn out to be a very positive thing.

If you would like to know more about what I do, or you enjoyed this article you can find me over @christiemartinsxo on Instagram 🙂

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