Getting public criticism is tough. When you pour heart and soul into your work it’s difficult not to get emotional.

But when that inevitable one-star review arrives – and even the best business gets them – you need to think quickly and carefully about how you respond.

Don’t fret. Stay calm. No panic.

Here are some tips on how to deal with those dreaded negative reviews and how to turn them into something positive.

1. Keep it cool

Your passion may be the engine of your business but in this game cool heads prevail.

“A badly worded response sent in the heat of the moment can amplify the damage,” says Sebastian Dedering, Head of Customer Success at iZettle. “In worst case scenarios a bad reply can end up going viral. “

“For strongly negative reviews, get your response checked by a colleague. They can help filter out anything that may inflame the situation.”

Don’t put together anything in the heat of the moment and always think twice before posting a response.

2. Find out the facts

Always show a genuine desire to resolve the complaint. If the complaint is vague, ask for more information. If specific details have already been given then acknowledge them, promise to look into matters and let them know when you’ll be back in touch.

This shows the customer they matter and that you care about resolving the issue.

3. Don’t hide your head in the sand

It is daunting to respond to a harsh review, as talking about your business’s perceived faults can be uncomfortable. But the review isn’t going anywhere.

You need to address it straight on and in a timely fashion so it doesn’t grow into a bigger issue. Feel Hairdresser based in London, Soho is a good example of how to take criticism on the chin and learn from it. The sooner, the better.

Showing you’re willing to learn from a complaint can earn respect, even loyalty.

4. Remember your response is out there forever

Yelp may have a ‘delete’ function, but that doesn’t mean you can always make a poorly judged response go away if you change your mind.

If somebody takes a screenshot of your response, which only takes the click of a smartphone, it’s out there forever and has the potential to be shared elsewhere. And then you’re in real trouble, if they caught you before you deleted it.

So, keep in mind your response will be available for the whole world to see. Are you prepared to stand by it?


5. Be the bigger person – admit when you’re wrong

Don’t make excuses. If the review is fair, then put your hands up and admit it. Where suitable, offer a solution to the problem (this could be a refund, free meal or just the offer of a phone call to chat things over).

Many a customer has been won over by honesty when things go wrong if they feel their complaint has been addressed. This is an opportunity that’s yours to take!


Do this today:

  • Establish a routine to check Yelp once a day
  • Browse around on similar businesses like yours and practice writing responses to their negative reviews.