How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews

Whether you’ve found the negative customer review by luck or by setting up a Google alert – you are horrified to  discover that SOMEONE is bitching about YOUR business on the web.

Unfortunately human beings seem to be wired to bitch rather than praise, so you’re more likely to find negative customer reviews than positive ones.  It’s just the way it goes.

There’s an old saying in marketing and advertising circles that goes, “A satisfied customer will tell 3 people – a dissatisfied customer will tell 16.”  There have been studies on this to verify those numbers – but those were done in the days BEFORE the current social media explosion.   Now – a disgruntled customer doesn’t have to purchase ink by the barrel to share their opinion with the world – they simply need to create a blog post which can tell thousands – even tens or hundreds of thousands of people about their experience with your company.

If you’re like most business owners –  when you see someone write a bad customer review of your business, your emotions kick into overdrive.

Perhaps you’re angry – and feeling more than a bit defensive.

  • Why didn’t this person call the toll free customer service number?
  • Why didn’t he/she read the directions first?
  • Why air this dirty laundry for everyone to see on the web?

It’s important before you respond to get control over those thoughts and emotions.

The first step to handling a negative customer review is to get into the right frame of mind.

A great place to start is to try to frame this as a positive: this disgruntled customer just saved your company a BUNCH of money.

Sure it’s on public display – but you’re going to turn these lemons into lemonade and this negative is going to become a huge positive.  You’re going to handle this negative customer review with such skill and aplomb that you might actually begin to ENJOY the process.

If the complaint is legitimate – you’re about to fix a HUGE hole in your business boat – a hole which is probably costing your business money.  You’re about to diagnose and fix a problem which you might otherwise have to hire a consultant to find for you. Instead of paying a consultant tens of thousands of dollars to study the problem and then deliver a written diagnosis – you’ve had delivered unto you for free an outside view of what it’s really like to do business with your company.

Repeat to yourself: THIS IS A GOOD THING.

Really – it is.  It’s a GREAT thing.


You may wish for the bliss of ignorance now – but by the time we’re through – you’ll be glad to have diagnosed this cancerous growth within your business and beaten it.

If you’re still seething – try practicing diaphragmatic breathing.  Simply breath in through your nose and allow your chest and abdomen to expand as you breath in.  Then, after you’ve held that breath until the count of 6 – exhale through your mouth.  As you exhale, contract your abdomen to fully expel the air from your lungs.  When you repeat this procedure, medical studies have shown that your stress level will drop.

Step One in handling negative customer reviews is to get into the right frame of mind.  The old cliche “problems are simply opportunities in disguise” applies.  This is your opportunity to shine.

While a single negative customer review will not destroy your business… they way you handle that negative review just might.  Be sure to get into the right frame of mind first – before you begin the real work of handling negative customer reviews.