How to Build Positive Buzz From Negative ReviewsHere’s a popular misconception about consumer review websites: “Only nuts and whiners write reviews and they’re mostly negative.”  Yes, a small percentage of your reviews may be written by unreasonable people. Overall, however, people who write reviews praise when they get great service at a store, have a pain-free experience at the dentist or have a superior meal. Here’s the breakdown of reviews for a recent month on

  • – 92% were Positive (4 and 5 stars)
  • – 2% were Neutral (3 stars)
  • – 6% were Negative (1 or 2 stars)

If your business is underperforming in the quality or customer service departments, your customers will tell you through reviews. Think of customer reviews as business intelligence you don’t have to pay for.

Review WebsitesYelp is just one of many consumer review websites.  Here’s a list of popular websites you should be monitoring:

First Steps to Review Site Success

  • Consumer review websites allow you to claim your business; you’ll have to do this to respond to reviews by customers. Follow the directions for claiming your business. Complete all the fields in your business profile—it’s free advertising and will help customers find you. Profiles usually allow you to add photos, post hours of operation and list your business website and contact information.
  • Some sites allow you to post food or service menus and offer deals and online ordering. If your business serves food or drinks, remember to update the menus and specials.

How Responding Benefits You

Businesses have three choices when it comes to online reviews: argue, ignore or engage. Argumentative businesses look like they have something to hide. Businesses that ignore reviews look like they don’t care. Business that engage customers demonstrate transparency and integrity.

  • Responding to negative reviews in public builds your credibility as a small business owner who cares about the customer and works hard to make customers feel valued.
  • When potential customers read negative reviews and see that you have done all you can to improve your product or customer service, you’ll attract new sales.
  • Reviewers who have been won over by your efforts may modify reviews in your favor.
  • What you’re doing right
  • What you’re doing wrong

Next Steps

Take a deep, relaxing breath and read the reviews about your business. Reviews illustrate two important trends in your business: If you’ve got lots of glowing reviews, congratulations! If you want to respond to a favorable review, a sincere thanks is probably all you need to do.

  • Do not offer goods, services or food to reviewers who are positive. It ruins your credibility and that of the reviewers. A public thank you is enough.


Here are a few things to do to help you turn what may seem like a bad review into a positive experience for your business and your customers.  If you’ve got some negative reviews, give yourself a few minutes to think about what you’re reading.

  • Do not respond impulsively. Negative reviews are an opportunity for you to get more information about possible problems in your business and solve them.
  • Look for trends. Is the complaint something that more than one person pointed out? Can it be fixed quickly? Examples include food quality in a specific dish, your company’s telephone greeting or an employee grooming issue.
  • Contact the reviewer. How you accomplish this varies by site. You may have access to an e-mail address, or you may be able to respond via a comments system. Check the “help” link on the site if you’re not sure how to go about making contact.
  • Check your comfort level. Until you get the hang of it, you may be more comfortable having these conversations offline, but take the conversation or outcome back to the review website as soon as possible. You want customers to see you acting responsibly and delivering great customer service in a transparent environment.
  • Ask for details. Ask the reviewer to tell you exactly what happened so you can figure out whether your customer service or products fell short. Reviewers are not always specific; you may have to coax the details out.
  • Explain. If the situation is based on a misunderstanding, an explanation might make the reviewer happy. Examples of misunderstandings include the use of industry jargon when plain language would be more appropriate, improperly marked merchandise or cultural miscommunication.
  • Apologize. The old saying “The customer is always right” is still true. The goal is to move the customer from an adversarial position to one of cooperation.
  • Offer to make it right. Ask your customer what it will take to make him or her happy. If the request is within reason, act on it. Remember, everyone has bad days, even customers and clients.
  • Maintain high standards. If a reviewer offers to change a review in exchange for a seven-course meal for 10, that’s called extortion. Courteously decline the offer.
  • Cut your losses. If it appears that nothing will change your customer’s mind, it may be time to walk away. Apologize and end the conversation.  But be willing to reopen the conversation if the customer initiates it.
  • Do not respond to reviews if you are angry. Walk away. Come back when you are calmer.
  • Do not be defensive, insulting or aggressive, no matter how nasty the customer gets.
  • Do not harass your customer.
  • Do not threaten to sue. Your customers have the right to discuss your business online; trying to quash the dialog in court only makes you look like someone whom customers don’t want to do business with.

What Not To Do

A Dex Media local marketing consultant can help you navigate these troubled waters. You can also receive valuable inside information about how to market your business in your area. The Dex rep lives in your area too. And remember: The best way to get great reviews and to avoid negative feedback is to offer service and products better than the competition — and maintain high standards.

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