How to Transform Negative Reviews Into Opportunities

Small Business Tips
Feb 12, 2020 / 4 min read

Every business with an online presence will experience it at some point. That dreaded, awful feeling that comes when you see a “less than glowing” review from a customer pop up online. 

Maybe their order came late, or not at all, or arrived broken. Perhaps they felt they ended up with lackluster customer service. We’re all human, and mistakes happen. It’s also possible that your product or service just wasn’t a great fit for their needs, and that’s being expressed in a negative review.

Negative reviews happen, and often they can be turned into an opportunity for your customer service to shine. In fact, 73.8 percent of customers are either likely or extremely likely to continue doing business with a brand that resolves their complaints. So before you try to start hiding or deleting them, pause and take a deep breath. 

Besides, consumers who see nothing but dozens of five-star testimonials can get a little suspicious that it’s too good to be true; having one or two negative reviews pop up actually increases customer trust, as long as you have many more people singing your praises than pronouncing your flaws. They can also give you a chance to show customers that you’ll own up to mistakes and make it right and that your customer service is top-notch.

In this post, we’re going to take a close look at how you should deal with negative reviews and how to turn them into a positive for your small business.

Have Strategies in Place to Identify Negative Reviews Immediately 

If a negative review pops up online, you want to know about it immediately.

When you’re using review software on your site, you likely have the option to assess new submissions before they’re automatically published. You can’t do this with platforms like Facebook, Google+, or Yelp, which publish the reviews automatically, and you definitely can’t do this with general negative postings that people make on their own timelines that mention your brand directly.

You need to have systems in place so that you can identify negative reviews as soon as they go up online, allowing you to address them quickly. Reviews are most dangerous when you haven’t even had a chance to tackle them yet.

Make sure that a member from your team is checking all of your review sites daily, and enable notifications via email when new reviews come in. It’s also good to check your social channels regularly or use social listening software like Mention so you can track anyone talking about your brand publicly online. 

Investigate the Customer’s History if Possible 

As soon as you see a negative review pop up online, do a quick investigation into what may have happened if possible.

This is important, and it will shape the next steps you take.

If you have CRM software, this can help speed up the process. You can track past interactions from a customer, including past complaints, appointments, support tickets, and purchases. You can verify parts of their story, and see what efforts you made to repair the problem along the way, if any.

You may not be able to find every customer who left every review. Maybe they’re leaving the review under their name, even though their boyfriend is the one who made the purchase. Don’t rule someone out automatically just because the names don’t line up, but you can also look for fragrantly false reviews at this point. 

Respond to the Review Publicly 

Responding to the review publicly and promptly is one of the best things you can do. It will show the customer that you care, potentially giving you a chance to salvage that relationship. Perhaps even more importantly, it will show other potential customers that you care and that you’ll care about them, too.

Here’s the basic formula you need:

  • Apologize and empathize
  • Address the specific situation
  • If you have their phone number inform the individual you’ll be reaching out TODAY. If not, ask them to reach out to you privately on a specific channel; leave instructions.

It may look something like this:

“Hey Patricia. We’re so sorry to hear that your shipping experience with us was less than satisfactory. We’d love a chance to make it right. We will be shipping you a replacement today and will happily refund you for the trouble. We will notify you with tracking information today.” 

You can be fully apologetic and still put your foot down when appropriate. If you have a clear record of the incident and the customer isn’t being entirely truthful, it’s okay to gently and professionally address that with a message like the following:

“Hey Patricia! We’re sorry to hear that you weren’t happy with your experience with us. Our records do show that our customer support team reached out to offer a full refund or a replacement. If you could reach out to us at [email protected], we’d love to talk more about how we can help.” 

Stand your ground where appropriate. It’s your business after all, and the customer is not always right. Just ensure that you’re always being polite and professional, or it will rub other customers the wrong way. 

Try to Have the Review Removed If It’s Fake 

Do you have reason to believe that the review is fake? If someone is making outrageous claims that you know aren’t true, you can flag the report for review on most major platforms. They may hide it temporarily while they review and ask one or both parties to share evidence to justify either taking the review down or leaving it up.

Reviews should only be hidden or removed if there’s no possible reconciliation because they aren’t true. Sometimes irate ex-employees or even individuals from our personal lives get vindictive, and that should never interfere with our livelihoods. 

How to remove reviews will depend on each individual platform, but you can start here for the major ones:


Negative reviews are never fun to receive, but they don’t have to take a major hit on your business. In many instances, they may even help your business. Having a strategy and quickly offering a solution can often lead to edited reviews that will make you look like a customer service superstar. 

In addition to taking these reactive steps, it’s also important to be proactive. Reach out to customers who you knew were happy with their experience, and ask them personally to leave reviews on the major platforms. Start with Google, as it has a major impact on driving search visibility. This will ensure that negative reviews are drowned out by more positive ones, giving you more control over the situation and taking it away from one or two unhappy customers.