Dealing with a Bad Online Review of Your Business


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Online review sites are the rage. Unfortunately they often are given more credibility than they deserve. I wrote a piece back in 2016 about some disturbing things I have heard more than once about Yelp.

Experts agree that negative reviews to which you respond appropriately can actually do you more good than positive reviews, which are often looked at as biased or from your friends.

Responding appropriately is the issue. What does the fuzzy word, “appropriate” actually mean? Good question, glad I asked it. Sometimes the best appropriate answer is no response at all. Often an apology and clarification is the appropriate approach. However, there can be many “sticky” situations including snarky people and people who are just “over the top.” Responding appropriately to them is a talent and may require some thinking.

We suggest you consider there are two audiences for your response: the original poster and others who may read the thread. You don’t really want to get into a lengthy back and forth with the original person as that is likely to make things worse. What you really want from them is a thank you after your post. While that may not be possible, look at your response from the point of view of making it a happy ending for you and the poster.

The other audience is the larger community of people who will read the review and make decisions about your business based on that review. How do you respond for that audience, which may be different from how you might respond if you were only considering the original writer. This is a talent. I recently found a great example (in my opinion) of how to respond where the greater audience was the primary audience but the response was also likely to shut down the original complainer.

Dealing with online reviews is a real issue in the modern world. Gaining the skills required to appropriately respond is critical.



  1. Good points. I completely agree that diplomacy trumps combat and graciousness is valued over defensiveness. I firmly believe that taking the high ground shows character and sometimes the best response is no response. “Never fight battles that should not be fought.” Yet, there are times when a stronger, more direct response is “appropriate.” How do you respond to a strongly inflammatory review that defames you or your organization and is completely erroneous? How do you respond to an obvious militant whose comments reflect an agenda other than just negative feedback? When do you defend your brand’s honor? I am attaching a post I wrote on this topic a while back. I believe the marketplace rewards a organization that cares enough about its brand reputation to be more assertive when it is maliciously attacked.

  2. My daughter, who has an event planning business in Pittsburgh, recently ran into exactly this situation. Her way of dealing with the totally outlier negative review (someone who had buyer’s remorse about the fee for services) was to invite clients who were pleased with her company’s work and the value they had received (99.99% of her customer base) to provide online endorsements. The gadfly’s negative statement was quickly drowned by a tsunami of positive reviews.


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