How To Handle Negative Reviews Online

Best way to handle negative reviews
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You want to buy something from a brand you’ve never used. How do you decide if it’s good or not? You ask someone who’s used it. If you don’t know anyone who has? Then you check what people are saying about it online. In one word, you depend on reviews. And let’s face it: seeing a lot of negative reviews definitely influences the choice you’ll make.  

In a world where most purchase decisions happen over the internet, online reviews have become paramount for companies to maintain their brand reputation. In fact, one study discovered that nearly 90% of customers checked online reviews before making a purchase in 2020.1

So, as a company or brand, what do you do about negative reviews?

Negative reviews: Not the end of the world

Everybody gets them. Whether it’s a review under your product on Google, a discussion shared on a public forum, or even a comment left under one of your social media posts, critical reviews are experienced by nearly every brand or company at some time or other.

If you’re just starting out, you might think that a couple of bad reviews online means the end of the world and death to the business. However, that is far from true. While negative reviews do influence people NOT to buy a certain product, companies should take this as a learning experience.

While you can never fully make negative reviews go away, there are ways to handle it and exploit the constructive criticism in your favour.

Here are 4 simple ways you can handle negative reviews online like a pro.

Step 1: Reply As Soon As Possible

Never leave a negative review hanging! In fact, you should try to reply to all reviews, but negative ones in particular require immediate attention.

Addressing a negative review, apologising to the customer, or simply acknowledging that your team will review the issue should be one of your top priorities. Your company’s reputation must always come first and leaving the review out in the open can really hurt your case.
As soon as you receive a negative comment, promptly analyse it and prepare a smart response fit to the situation at hand. There are many ways to address each type of negative comment, so be prepared for the worst and aim on replying within 24 hours. But regardless, the sooner you respond, the better.

Step 2: Apologise and Take Responsibility

Everybody makes mistakes. Even the largest and most successful of companies. What is important is to handle these situations with maturity, class, and a sense of accountability. If your customer in fact faced a hardship working with your business, whether it be with a product or an employee, you must address it once it has been brought to your attention.

Many companies even offer compensation to the negative reviewers in the form of coupons or a refund. But, even without compensation, a simple apology can go a long way.

Be sure to inform the particular customer (and the general public) that you are looking into this issue and that you will take all the necessary steps to avoid it in the future – and actually do it!  

Actions speak louder than words and changing positively can really help you gain trust and credibility in the market.

Step 3: If They’re Wrong, Tell Them So – Politely

Sometimes, the reason for the negative review may not be your fault at all. Although it may not be the smartest move to argue with every single ridiculous allegation, big or small, it is important to address big issues that may have a very large impact.

Case in point: McDonald’s Pink Slime

You may remember the famous “Pink Slime” case that affected McDonald’s. Back in 2014, a “behind the scenes” video showed what was supposedly a McDonald’s outlet preparing nuggets with an ingredient that looked nothing like chicken. Needless to say, the video went absolutely viral.

The key point here is that McDonald’s did not remain quiet and weep at all the customers who swore never to come back to the brand. McDonald’s knew just how badly this would hurt their business if people carried on believing it, so they took action.

They issued a statement that reads, in part:

“Our Chicken McNuggets are made using USDA inspected boneless white breast meat chicken. We do not use the process known as mechanically separated chicken, nor do our Chicken McNuggets ever at any point, look like this photo.” 2

They even included a video showing how the nuggets are actually made, and finally earned all their customers back – and perhaps won some new ones too!

Then they went one step further, which really helped with their SEO: they actually added a question to their official FAQ page about ‘pink slime’! So now, even if you search for ‘McDonald’s Pink Slime’ – you will first find either their own FAQ page debunking the myth, or articles explaining the truth.

Receiving the negative review, putting together a thorough plan, and publicly issuing a response at the right time should be a damage control step every company is prepared for.

Step 4: Learn From It!

While there are many trolls online who leave negative reviews just for the fun of it, a lot of reviewers are actual, concerned customers that really want to see improvement in your product or service.

The best thing to do is to keep track of these comments, sort them based on the kind of issue they highlight, and consider implementing the changes that will keep your customers happy.

After all, marketing revolves completely around achieving customer satisfaction.

There is a learning curve with every business. Rather than viewing negative reviews as a detrimental occurrence, the most successful companies are those that view them as a positive learning tool.

So, remember: the next time you see a negative review about you, your brand or your product, it’s not the end of the world. It’s just time to make a change and an opportunity to win back your customers.

Did you like reading this article? Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, for more such insights every week. And if you want to read more from the past, check out our blog.


  1. TrustPilot, The critical role of reviews in Internet trust
  2. Time, McDonald’s Made the Right Move in Response to Gross ‘Pink Slime’
  3. McDonald’s USA, FAQ Page
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