No matter how good you are at what you do or how closely you try to manage reviews, a negative review is bound to rear its ugly head at some point in your career.

So, what do you do when someone writes something scathing about you or your business?

Do you:

  1. Ignore it and hope it goes away.
  2. Respond with a justification of why you’re right and the customer is wrong.
  3. Threaten the customer with retaliation for slandering your business and reputation.
  4. Reply with a polite, but a generic, response to show the customer you care.
  5. Craft a heartfelt and empathetic response that addresses the customer’s experience and offer a solution that involves continuing the discussion offline.

Though Answer 5 seems like the obviously correct strategy, you’d be surprised by how many businesses ignore reviews or get combative. Twitter is brimming with countless examples of #customerservicefails that will make you laugh and cringe at the same time.

No one relishes the idea of going online and seeing something negative about their business, but when this inevitable situation does happen, the best thing to do is use it as a way to help grow your business.

At this point, you’re probably wondering how a negative review could potentially help your business.

Four ways that you can benefit, and even grow, from the occasional negative review

  1. Get an SEO Boost

Everyone wants to be on the first page of Google. After all, it’s the best way to get found, especially if you’re serving a local market.

What isn’t always clear is how to climb the ranks of the search engines and climb to the coveted top 3 spots. It doesn’t help that Google is always changing the rules, and they seldom share their secrets.

However, Google has admitted that reviews account for 15.44% of the ranking determination for a local business. In fact, reviews are now the second most important factor, trailing behind GMB (Google My Business) signals such as your location, business name, and business category.

Therefore, the more reviews you have, the better. Naturally, positive reviews are preferable but don’t be too quick to discount the power of negative reviews. A negative write-up should inspire you to draft a response, and Google has also gone on record that they give ranking preference to businesses that respond to reviews.

Google’s support page says, “Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.”

And it’s not just Google that feels this way. If you have multiple reviews on other sites lite Yelp, Foursquare, Citysearch, and websites unique to your niche, then you’ll have more visibility if you respond positively to all of your reviews, even the negative ones.

  1. Use the Feedback to Grow and Learn

Reading something critical about you or your business might not be fun. It can hurt, and it can also deliver a blow to your confidence. Maybe the customer is right. Maybe you’re not the best in the world at cutting hair. Or, maybe your hygienist is rude.

The key is to put on an objective lens when you read a negative review and assess whether the customer has a point. If the customer is right about something you’re not excelling at, then consider what they’ve written to be a helpful tip, and then use it to improve.

Here are some examples:

  • A customer complained that your bathroom was dirty or out of toilet paper. Take a look at your bathroom. Could it be cleaner? Are the toiletries well-stocked? Maybe you need a cleaning schedule to ensure the bathroom is always tidy as well as a better-stocked cabinet that customers can access.
  • A customer claimed that the receptionist was rude. While politeness is subjective, it’s possible your receptionist was having a bad day. Or maybe she isn’t as warm as your customers or patients would like. Observe your receptionist and talk to her about how she can be more approachable and helpful if this is indeed a problem.
  • A patient said they were overbilled for unnecessary services. You take pride in your fair pricing and strict adherence to procedures, but your patients might not know that. Reflect upon this case and how you presented the services and procedures. Even though you acted ethically and professionally, something was amiss in the communication. What can you do to ensure your patients know that they are getting the most accurate assessment of their case?
  1. Strengthen the Relationship with Your Customers

Often, people turn to the Internet to complain because they feel that they weren’t heard. When they’re behind a keyboard, it’s easier to let it all out, so to speak. The words coming from their fingertips may seem vicious, cruel or unfair, but it’s important to remember that the person writing these words is still a human, and they have a reason for saying what they did.

If you ignore what’s been written about you, then you silently agree with their claims. If you lash out or attack, then you are stooping to a low and unprofessional level.

But, if you respond by acknowledging their dissatisfaction and offer a way to resolve the situation outside of the review thread, then you are showing other prospective customers and patients that you take feedback seriously and are always willing to resolve the situation.

It’s helpful to remember the statistic that 97% of customers are influenced by reviews. What’s more, the star rating doesn’t have as much of an impact as what’s actually written, at least for about 73% of people. This means that what you say is more important than if you have a 4.5-star rating as opposed to a perfect 5-star rating.

  1. Grow Your Bottom Line

If you can resolve a situation for an unhappy customer, don’t be surprised if they turn into a raving fan and one of your best referral sources. Not all angry customers are willing to change their opinion of your business, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be able to turn a significant percentage around:

  • Respond to their complaint kindly.
  • Be gracious and apologetic.
  • Acknowledge their frustration and empathize with how they’re feeling.
  • Explain how you are improving or have improved the situation (if applicable).
  • Offer to make things right.
  • Resolve the issue offline by inviting the customer to contact your office directly.
  • Make sure to follow up offline in a polite manner. Send a letter, email or call the person directly on the phone to offer them a discount, special offer, or specific resolution.

This approach won’t work on everyone. Some cases are bound to be lost causes, but you can still consider each negative review as an opportunity to turn the situation around and convert an angry customer into one of your most passionate advocates.

Think about the last time you, as a customer, were angry about a situation. Maybe you ordered a pair of shoes online, and they sent you the wrong style. When you called customer service, how were you treated?

If it was a common experience, you might have been offered a return label to return the incorrect order and an offer to have the correct shoes sent to you promptly. Though this resolved the situation, it’ll probably make you think twice about ordering again, especially if you had needed these particular shoes promptly for an event.

But, what if the customer person not only offered you a return label and a prompt delivery of the right shoes, but he also offered to ship the correct shoes to you overnight. What if he said to compensate you for your troubles, your next order would be 50% off. After you receive the correct shoes, what if that same customer service person called you back to ensure you got the right item and asked if the shoes are satisfactory and if there’s anything else he can do to help?

Compare these two scenarios and think about who you would prefer to do business with in the future and who you’ll recommend to all of your friends and family members.


A negative review doesn’t have to hurt your business. Depending on how you respond to it and what steps you take to upgrade your service, an occasional negative review can help you improve and shine above the competition. Watch a demo on how to use reviews to run your business successfully.