How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

TripAdvisor, Twitter and Facebook can be powerful tools in your marketing kit.

But, in a world of instant sharing and global reach, how do you deal with negative reviews and comments?

Some big brands have been burned by negative publicity resulting from social media reviews, and others have learned to turn it to their advantage. Here are our top tips on handling online complaints.

Respond quickly

Recent research from Lithium Technologies found that 72% of customers who complain on Twitter expect a response within an hour.

Twitter exists for instant, brief communication so perhaps that isn’t surprising. But it means you need to be prepared to handle negativity as it arises. Facebook users will expect a similarly timely reply. TripAdvisor reviewers may wait a little longer, but it’s in your best interests to resolve any issues before they escalate.


And do it properly. Your customers are smart, and can spot a false apology. If your customer’s experience was anything less than the excellence they expect of you then a sincere apology shows respect for them, and communicates to other readers that you’re serious about customer satisfaction.

Be specific

Use the customer’s name, and refer back to their specific issues. Your customer needs to feel listened to and have their concerns validated.

This isn’t the setting to argue your point, but it’s okay to reiterate your brand values. So a good reply might read:

Hi Kevin. I’m sorry you had such a long wait for your drinks. We at X Hotel pride ourselves on excellent and prompt service...

Get the conversation offline

My middle school football coach had a motto: “if in doubt, put it out.” If you get into difficulty, just boot the ball to the sidelines, regroup and plan a response.

The same principle applies to critics on social media. The negative comment has been made - and will remain - but there’s no point having the whole conversation in the public domain and risking further negative exposure.

Make it simple for the complainant to get in touch another way. Include a phone number or email address in your response, or ask them to direct message you their details so you can get in touch with them.

Have a plan

Good customer service staff are equipped and able to handle complaints and queries. The same needs to be true for your online relations team.

Do you have systems in place to flag up negative online comments quickly? Do your team know how to quickly and professionally deal with online complaints? If not, then invest in that training now.

Learn from it

Sometimes things go wrong. A staff member has a bad day, a drink gets spilled, a bag gets lost. Your goal should be to retain the disappointed customer and impress others with your ability to act quickly and sensitively. Deal with it quickly, apologise and move on.

But sometimes patterns can emerge from negative reviews. Are there issues which are showing up more than once? If so then how can you use these reviews as opportunities to fine-tune your service?

Some good news to end. Customers who have received a prompt and helpful response to their complaints can be retained as customers, with 84% of TripAdvisor customers saying their impression of a brand is improved by an appropriate response. These customers can also go on to create free positive PR. The survey from Lithium showed that 47% of Twitter users who receive a satisfactory response say they would then go on to recommend the brand.