Responding to Negative Comments and Reviews with Grace • New Tricks
 In Social Media Tips

Just as in real life we have to make decisions all the time to how we will handle a problem with a client, we also have the same problem magnified online.

Handling  Negative Feedback “In Real Life”

I got an e-mail this week from one of my clients letting me know that I had not credited the photographer who I had spoken to and told her I would.  The photos originally had her watermark on them and after I spoke to her I took off the watermark and added her credit. But when I reworked that post before publishing the site the credit was not on the launched version of  the site. I felt really bad to have overlooked that and have my client be called out for my mistake and knew I had to fix it right away. I also called my client and apologized and told her I would apologize to the photographer which I did. My client was very appreciative that I responded right away, took care of the issue and that I called the photographer.  The photographer wrote me back a very nice note thanking me for the credit and the little write up I did with the links to her site and complemented the site.

In this case, I knew I had made an error, took care of it right away and was able to move on with my day with both of these women feeling good about my work. Case closed. In this case they were the only people who knew about this error. But what if they had blogged about it, or commented on my site?

Handling Online Negative Comments

Along the same line, I got a call this week from my daughter who manages a restaurant about a bad review that a customer had posted on the customer’s own blog. Amanda wanted to write a comment to the the woman in response but the restaurant owner did not want her to do so.

Amanda wrote this letter to her boss to explain her position:

I have a completely different opinion from yours about social media. If people are talking online, I believe there are two options: ignore the reviews and pretend like the reviews don’t exist, or join the conversation and have the chance to turn the negative review into something positive.

Research shows that companies that respond promptly and publicly to feedback and criticism can actually increase their “Know, Like and Trust”  factor with their customers.

It would be so easy just to comment on the blog and say:

“We are sorry to hear that you felt we could have done better by offering wine pairings on the menu. We appreciate your feedback, and will take it into consideration for next restaurant week. We pride ourselves in our staff’s vast knowledge of wine and food and take feedback like yours seriously. We usually have wine parings on the menu but did not since it was restaurant week and we offered the full menu with a special red, white and a sparkling. This gave us an opportunity to provide our guests with a great deal. We hope that you will change your mind and come in again and don’t hesitate to ask your servers for wine pairings. Thank you for taking the time to let us know how we can improve our customer experience.”

Now everybody who reads the review knows:
1) More context for the review, without putting the reviewer down.
2) The restaurant cares, even though the blogger was not a professional reviewer.
3) Our restaurant offered the whole menu for restaurant week.
4) they will get a great deal on wines in addition to restaurant week.
5) they can ask our knowledgeable servers for wine pairings.

By posting online, instead of losing one guest, we actually have the opportunity to attract many more by showing who we are and that we care about what we do.

Online Reputation Management Guidelines

A business should have guidelines in place for dealing with online negative comments

  • Monitor your reputation: Set up Google Alerts and Twitter searches so you know what is being said about you or your business.
  • Cool Down: Don’t reply in anger. While a quick response is usually a good idea, firing off a response in the heat of the moment is always a bad  idea. If you are upset about the review, cool down, talk it over with someone neutral and carefully craft your reply when you are more rational.
  • Some reviews  may not warrant a reply. Is this a person that continually spews negativity on blogs, yours or theirs?  Are they using bad language,  is their message clearly weird? You dont have to respond to it at all. It’s a personal decision where to draw that line.
  • Research the incident before responding. If you are a small business you may already know about the problem but if not then get all of the details from your staff or team about what happened. Take care to come across in a nonthreatening way to your staff so that they actually tell you the truth of what happened. If you are prone to get angry, your staff will not be as forthcoming about fessing up to what actually happened.
  • Were you at fault?  A public apology or amends goes a long way to showing that you care about your service and your customers.  Admit you were wrong and offer to make it right.
  • Try to understand your client’s point of view. If you do this you will be able to write a response that puts your actions and theirs in context. Don’t try and justify why things didn’t work out. Your client doesn’t care why it went wrong unless you admit it and tell them what you will do in the future so it does not happen again to them or someone else.

Everyone has a right to their opinion. It may not be yours, and it may not be right but they can express their opinion and now it may be heard by more people than you ever imagined. It is good to get an online presence and interact with your clients and customers on a regular basis and build up your goodwill factor. Then when something negative happens  and you make an effort to respond to reasonable criticisms with thoughtfulness and consideration, people will notice and respect you and your business. They will trust that you do what you say and say what you do.

Have you had any experiences with negative reviews or blog comments?  Have you left a review and had the business respond?  Do you think Amanda’s restaurant should reply to the blogger? I’d love to hear about it.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Ed Peterson


    This is a great summary of realistic reputation management for small businesses. I always share with my clients that "hating on your haters" after a vitriolic review is never a good idea. It is usually easy for even a casual observer to pick out the folks who live to spread negativity on Yelp and other review sites.


    • judi knight

      Thanks Ed, You are right, it is pretty obvious when someone is what the industry has started calling a "Troll", and to respond to them is like arguing with a someone who is drunk. Not a good idea and rarely works out well.

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