Maintaining your business’s reputation is completely different than it was 20 years ago. This thing called the Internet was invented and, in time, companies such as Yelp, Facebook, and Google My Business (GMB) popped up, allowing, nay, encouraging users to write about their experience. Behold the birth of the online review.

In fact, 92 percent of consumers now read online reviews, 66 percent say positive reviews make them trust a local business more, and—get this—95 percent of consumers suspect censorship or fake reviews when they don’t see bad scores.

In other words, negative reviews are inevitable. More often than not, the business owner or social media moderator will focus on how to get that negative review removed. They’ll disable the reviews on their Facebook page, hound Yelp, or even rebrand their entire company to shake that nasty GMB review that the helpful rep on the phone said he would not remove.

Stop what you’re doing. It’s time to take this opportunity to respond with positivity, transparency, and action to ensure your online reputation stays intact.


Negative people are difficult to deal with. But sometimes it’s even more difficult to control our reactionary emotions. The Dalai Lama once said, “In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.” Such people have most likely faced adversity that we don’t know about. Therefore, developing a sense of compassion (however hard this may be!) is the first step to turning the tone around.

Discuss positives and goals your company strives for. “Even if you do get negative feedback, you can turn it into a positive by engaging in a constructive way and showing that you’re a genuine business,” says Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group and author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing. Begin your response by thanking the customer for taking the time to review his or her experience.


Canned responses are bad. Dissuading customers from leaving a negative review? Really bad.

In 2013, The Union Street Guest House in New York added some fine print to their check-in papers notifying a wedding party that if any of their guests left a negative review, they would be stuck with a $500 fine. Not surprisingly, there was a backlash: they received 3,000 negative reviews, and they are now closed down.

Another example of creating a bad online reputation comes from AmericanAir. This company was known for generating the same response over and over again, despite people’s comments. Ross Sheingold tweeted: “It’s funny that @AmericanAir is responding to every tweet coming their way.” AmericanAir’s response: “Thanks for your support! We look forward to a bright future as the #newAmerican.”

Robotic responses are not what people are looking for. They are seeking a humane, genuine, and honest response. They want to know the company listens and acknowledges the customer’s feedback.


One of the worst things a business can do is ignore a negative review. Some review platforms like Yelp allow the business to respond in a private message. Private messages are an effective way discuss the personal situation and what has been done to rectify the issue. More often than not, if the customer is satisfied, he or she will remove the review.

When the response is public, focus first on validating the customer’s feelings. Let him or her know about the action you either have put in place or would like to put in place to alleviate their concerns. Invite the customer to reach out so you may learn more of his or her experience and improve the experiences of future customers. Ask to hear more. This type of response will help plant the seed for potential customers to know that they will be heard and taken care of.

In fact, you can follow a formula:

  • Acknowledge the reviewer’s feedback.
  • Discuss positives and goals of what your company strives for.
  • Apologize for any disserve the reviewer feels the company has incurred (be humble!).
  • Hear more (provide validation and learn).


It turns out that a bad review is not that bad after all, as long as you turn it into a positive experience. The equation is simple: be positive, be transparent, and take action. Watch your company’s online reputation flourish as your responses develop trust.