Fight or Flight

A pair of boxing gloves next to the words, "Fight or Flight: Handling Negative Reviews"

Isn’t it awesome when people take to the internets to air their grievances? As a business, reviews can make or break you and it’s incredibly scary/frustrating/angering to be held accountable for the really nasty ones. 

Unfortunately, that’s life in Google land. It isn’t always fair, and you don’t get to make the rules, you just have to abide by them

It’s our job to counsel you on how to respond to the really shitty stuff people say about you, so write this down or bookmark this blog. 

Only Say “Sorry” When You Messed Up

This one goes out to all the serial apologizers out there—only say “sorry” if it’s something your company actually did wrong. If a reviewer didn’t like the product, if they ordered the wrong size, or if they’re just in a bad mood, there’s no need to apologize. But if your product broke the second they got it or if your team shipped it to the wrong place, then it’s time to follow these steps:

  • Own your mistake
  • Say what you did wrong
  • Say how you’re going to fix it
  • Then actually do the thing you just said you’d do

Laugh at Yourself

Companies love to take themselves super seriously, but c’mon, that’s so boring. You can own up to a mistake or an issue without sounding like you’re sending someone a card about their great aunt Linda dying.

Everything you put into the world as your brand should match your tone. If you’re a fun, playful company, use that to your benefit. Craft a clever reply. You’d be surprised how far a little self-deprecating humor can go. 


Sure, making a bunch of stock responses for common complaints is fine, but if you find yourself getting the same replies over and over again, maybe something else is going on. Your customers are the ones who know your services and products best. If you keep hearing that your portions are small or your team is rude or your website doesn’t work…well, it’s time to make a change.

Bad reviews can be some of the most honest feedback you’ll get on your organization. And no, we aren’t talking about those keyboard warriors who are just raging to rage. If your customers keep complaining about something, fix it.

Don’t Stoop to Their Level

You don’t have to be nice, but you have to be accommodating. More often than not, the customer has some insights you need to seriously consider. Other times, they can be just plain mean. But nothing looks worse than a business on the defensive. Remember, these reviews and responses are available for all the world to read. Hopefully other reviewers recognize a meanie when they read one.

If they call you a bunch of morons, address them calmly. Identify their issue, formulate a response, and maintain your composure. However you choose to respond is forever stamped onto your brand personality. 

Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t defend your business or employees–in fact, you should. You just don’t want to find yourself in the middle of an argument with the internet eagerly watching. Ask them to email you directly, take it off line. More often than not, the dust will settle when the conversation becomes private.

They’re not going to pull their punches. But you will.

Have A Process in Place

If you do get an awful review that needs immediate attention, and you’re not the business owner managing your reviews – having a process in place will get the right information to the right person and prevent scrambling. Have a general guideline on which kinds of reviews should be elevated to management, and which reviews might just warrant a response. Do you have a large team or company that handles different aspects of your customer’s experience? Make sure every team has a point person (like a supervisor, or team lead) who can help with accountability and get to the root of the issue.

Take Action

As mentioned, if the complaints you are getting are consistently about one aspect of your business. Own it, fix it, and grow from it. Don’t just sweep those issues under the rug because you’re frustrated with the feedback or too prideful to admit you might be wrong. Karen might say “the customer is always right” and we may not always agree with it – but unfortunately, sometimes, customers are right. Get over it.

You have no choice but to respond to negative reviews and positive reviews and all the reviews. 

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