Turning Negative Reviews Into Positive Marketing

Online reviews impact customers’ choices – how are you handling them?

‘Tis the season of shopping frenzy, family travel, get togethers and food overload. It’s not just Santa who is making a list – it’s your customers, too. They are looking for recommendations, checking reviews before purchasing, and sharing their own feedback with the world. 

According to Brigthlocal survey, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020. 96% of those also read businesses’ responses to the reviews. And 91% of 18-34 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Whether it’s on Yelp, Google, Facebook, Amazon, BBB or Tripadvisor, your customers are definitely looking and making up their minds based on what they read. 

If you’re not utilizing the business review websites, or ignoring the reviews left by your customers, then you’re not providing the kind of customer service that grows your brand’s reputation. A great online reputation is one of the most powerful marketing assets.

Your brand isn’t what you say it is — it’s what Google says it is.

Chris Anderson

Head of TED

Rules of Engagement

Now that you know that answering the reviews is important for your business, let’s talk about the best approach. Whether the feedback you get is positive or negative, some simple terms apply to all – respond in a timely fashion, be brief, and always remain courteous. This, of course, is much easier done when the reviews are glowing. 

Receiving one-star reviews is never fun. They likely make you feel attacked, hurt, defensive and angry. Coincidentally, those are exactly the emotions to avoid when responding to an unhappy customer. So what can you do to convert a negative experience into a positive outcome?

First, remember that we are all human. A bad review about the business you’re dedicating every waking hour to is going to sting. But if you understand that there is a method to the madness, you can come out on top – like the five-star professional you are!

10 Tips on Responding to Negative Reviews

1. Respond quickly

Answering as soon as possible not only shows that you care about your customers, it also helps to keep the potential damage minimal. The sooner you address the issue, the faster you eliminate the threat of others making the wrong assumptions about your business.  

2. Personalize your response

Don’t just copy and paste a generic response to every post. “We apologize for your inconvenience” doesn’t solve the problem for the customer. Instead, use the person’s name, address their specific complaint, and propose a solution.

3. Be gracious and sincere in your apology

Authentic apology can go a long way. As difficult as it may feel sometimes, always take the high road. This is not the time to get defensive, petty or sly, or try to prove anyone wrong. Show empathy and acknowledge your customer’s experience.

4. Resolve the issue

Keep your response as brief as possible, and offer a solution. Your customer is reaching out to you because their expectations weren’t met. Oftentimes, the problem can be solved to everyone’s satisfaction.

5. Share your plans

Let the customer know that you are taking their feedback seriously, and that their suggestions are being considered. Share with them what changes you will make and how you will implement them.

6. Take it offline

Steer the customer toward having a conversation offline. Don’t get caught up in an escalating back-and-forth in a public forum. Ask them to call or email so that you can get more information and remedy the problem. Afterwards, ask them to either adjust their review, or remove it completely.

7. Offer an extra

Consider going the extra mile and offer the customer a little something – whether it’s a discount, a free service, a gift card or another creative way of saying “we value you and want to make it right to you.”

8. Highlight your business values

Provide context for other people who read the reviews, and take an opportunity to share your company’s values and work ethic. One mistake or shortcoming does not define your business – make it clear.

9. Request fake or misleading reviews to be removed

It happens. Whether it’s a disgruntled employee, a troll, or an honest mistake of someone leaving a review for the wrong business. Ask for these to be removed.

10. Outsource the task

Outsource the task of monitoring and responding to reviews to someone who is not personally and emotionally invested, but who’s professional and well versed in customer service – like Rock Harbor Marketing team!

Don’t forget that all the feedback you receive is an opportunity to learn about your customer’s experience, improve services, and showcase your impeccable customer service skills. In fact, it is a free market research tool that can help you understand your target audience better. And remember – some customers simply can’t be pleased. When one of those comes your way, just take a deep breath and remind yourself that someone once reviewed the Bryce Canyon National Park as “too orange” and “too spiky.”


Keywords: negative reviews, positive marketing, outreach, digital marketing

About The Author

Andrea Chmelik

Andrea Chmelik

Social Media Strategist & Content Creator

Andrea is a social media strategist and a content writer for RHM who believes in the power of positive messaging. Her press releases, email campaigns, and digital media strategy lead to increased visibility, higher engagement, and improved brand recognition.

Andrea is an avid Writer. Speaker. Activist. Content creator. Women’s March SLO co-founder. Wine enthusiast. Pickle elitist. Cat lover. Optimist.

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