How a Bad Review Can Be Good for Your Business


Bad reviews! Ugh. The Internet.

That’s how most business owners respond when a bad review lights up their computer screen.

I deal with bad reviews from both sides.

As a business and marketing consultant, I help my clients build their reputation and grow their social proof online (and that usually includes reviews). One of the first questions people ask is, “How do I deal with a bad review?”

I’m also a consumer who buys products and purchases services. When I have an exceptionally good or bad experience, I want to let the business know. And yes, I do use social media.

Why is a negative review good for your business?

First and foremost, you have the opportunity to improve. In every business, there’s numerous ways that we can improve, which can ultimately make us more successful, more efficient and more profitable.

If you have an issue that is turning away customers, silence is deadly. You may have 5 star reviews but faltering sales. Finding out what is wrong is often half the battle.

If you have consumer—angry or otherwise—that is willing to share their experience and give you the opportunity to address an issue or problem in your business, it’s valuable.

We’ve all had vendors we’ve stopped using. Was a service issue? Pricing? Timing? Or something else? It’s not often that we tell a former vendor why we’ve moved on.

To grow your business, you have to be willing to learn, change and correct problems.

An interesting thing is that an upset customer can become your biggest fan… if you handle the problem appropriately. If your team listens and gets to the heart of the matter, your business will be able to correct a minor problem before it grows into a major dilemma.

But whatever you do, don’t ignore a customer’s bad review. Take this free market research, which is better than a survey or focus group.

Listen. Find out what is really going on. If someone on your team acted inappropriately or miscommunicated, apologize.

Offer something to the customer to make it right. It doesn’t always have to be a refund or monetary. Since this person cared enough to let you know about their experience, they’ll appreciate a gesture of appreciation and concern. It’s likely that your “disgruntled” customer will accept your peace offering and regain some goodwill toward your company.

Does your online reputation really matter?

Yes. The web is easy to access and human nature loves a little controversy. Prospects are looking for proof that live up to your promises. Potential customers will Google you, sometimes even while you are on the phone.

If I’m researching a company to buy from or do business with, I always search online for negative comments. I want to see if the company responded or if there’s an obvious pattern. If it is an isolated incident or irrational sounding, I write it off. So will your customers.

However, when a business only has perfect ratings, I get a little suspicious. Did the business pay someone to write these reviews?

When you respond to negative reviews, be authentic in your responses. Do a little soul searching. Could something be communicated better in your sales processes? Is there something that needs some attention and improving?

And if the review makes you mad, take a break and have someone else who is less emotionally connected deal with it.

We’re all imperfect people. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I can’t wait to give that business a terrible review.” Investigate to find out why your customer was so disappointed.

When a bad review happens, it’s an opportunity. It may not feel good, but neither do taxes. Let’s deal with it and be grateful for the honesty.

Photo Credit: Jonas Bengtsson


Sonia is the marketing strategist & word geek for NeuConcept.