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How To Handle Negative Reviews Like A Pro

I almost had a heart attack when I heard that a customer recently threatened to leave a negative review on our Yelp page. His dissatisfaction was unavoidable, as any business has experienced, but alas, you can’t keep everyone happy. But when a customer review jeopardizes your five-star business on Yelp, what do you do? First, breathe, then realize that you cannot avoid this review but can only try to rectify the situation and show potential clients that you tried to make it right by offering positive comments and feedback. This is tough because as we all know, it is instinctual to counter someone’s negative comment in a defensive way, in order to protect your reputation and brand, ever since review sites like Google +, Facebook and Yelp hopped on the business stage.

So, let’s try and handle these like a pro. Most marketers refer to this at reputation management, because people buy from the people they trust and in order to get people to buy you have to have a great reputation. Negative comments can break a business, causing Google search customers to click on another business because of your reviews.  It makes my stomach hurt just thinking about it, but I thought it would be best to go through a scenario of how we can get a bad review, then deal with it, and in turn hopefully avoid a negative review all together.

Meet George…

George owns an Italian restaurant in your hometown and uses online platforms to promote his business, offer incentives to potential customers and showcase his delicious menu. But George is smart, he knows not everyone will love his grandmothers cannoli recipe (although this still baffles him) so he has a plan for when those rare critics show up.  

Set up Alerts

George first has set up alerts that go straight to his inbox once someone leaves a review on one of these sites so he can respond in a timely manner to address the situation right away.

Always Comment

Although George is extremely busy running his restaurant and catering business he makes time to respond to as many comments as possible. With positive reviews and especially ones with photos, he sometimes runs contests by giving these happy customers a coupon for their next visit. Interaction is key to George and he knows that his customers feel valued if he responds to their reviews.

Positive Reviews

These are my favorite! We always respond to positive reviews, whether to just thank them for their review and appreciate their business. These are the best because it keeps those people coming back and leaving great reviews on other platforms.  Observe the magic:

6/1/2016: We went to dinner at George’s for my 10 year anniversary. We loved the lasagna and spaghetti with clams. Everything was fresh and our server, Angelina was sweet and thoughtful by bringing us a delicious cannoli to celebrate our anniversary! We will be back.

Response: Thank you Genna! We are glad you enjoyed your night and happy anniversary! We will relay your kind words to Angelina and we hope to see you soon for another delicious meal. Come for happy hour everyday 3-7 pm!

Negative Feedback

So, this is the hard part, but the most important. With negative reviews we try and address concerns and try and make contact with the person in order to hopefully resolve the issue. 

We make sure to not engage the person with excuses or justification, or outright denial. Here is an example of what NOT to do…


I am sorry you did not enjoy your food and the pizza you ordered had mushrooms on it but that is the description on the menu and you should have notified your server if that was something you did not like. We are disappointed that you had to wait for a table but you were 30 minutes late for your reservation and we expected you not to show. In order to accommodate everyone we had to use the table. I am sorry your experience was not as you hoped.

This is almost borderline rude, if you want to try and win the customer back try this instead:

Hi Gabriel,

Thank you for your review and we are sincerely sorry about your less than satisfying experience. We would love to make this up to you. Please feel free to contact me, George, the owner personally at XXX-XXX-XXXX and I would like to reconcile this situation. I also sent you a private message. Again, thanks for the feedback, it only makes our service, food and restaurant better!

The Countdown

George follows up with this review within 24 hours and usually does it personally or gives it to his general manager, a person who has the authority to hopefully fix the situation.


Once you have made the customer smile again and rectified their bad experience, George asks them to follow-up with their review and discuss that the issue has been resolved. This is key and can be impactful with online reviews. If not, George always follows up on the review to discuss how the resolution went down.

We know this philosophy can be hard but the old cliché is true, “The customer is always right.”

AJ Printing & Graphics and Wine Country Signs is a commercial printer in Santa Rosa, California specializing in all things signs and printing. We put our relationships with our clients over everything in order to ensure their success. With over 30 years’ experience in the industry, you can leave the printing to us and focus on other things. We are a green business, recycling all of our paper and buying from trusted businesses that commit to the sustainability of our planet. We are your partner in print, design, signs and marketing located at 1315 North Dutton Ave, Santa Rosa, CA (707) 525-8600!