Published on 11/28/2017

Handling Negative Customer Reviews

By Shaila Bringhurst

Have you heard the saying that it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it?1  While online, you only need one negative review to trigger customer doubts, no matter if the review is true or not.

When it comes to dealing with degrading comments on your website, fight your natural instinct to either write a scathing response or immediately remove the comment. How you respond to such a situation will reflect much more on your business than the customer's review ever will. If you immediately jump on the customer over the internet, onlookers won't be impressed.

The first thing to do is to call the customer and kindly address his/her concerns. Michael McCollough and Sundar Bharadwaj—marketing professors—explain if you can resolve concerns with a disgruntled customer, he will be more loyal to you than before.2 Don't allow yourself to become irritated or defensive over the phone. There are two types of people in the world: those who react and those who respond. People who "react" are slaves to the demeanor of others as their mood is entirely connected to how they are being treated. However, people who "respond" are in control of every situation; they don't let a few negative moments sour all twenty-four hours of a day. Let your response be independent of your environment.

When speaking to the customer, don't feel pressured to fix things that are irreparable. Listen to the customer and say things like, "I can see how that would be frustrating."  If they pause, ask them, "What would you like me to do?"  You'll be amazed at how quickly this question can dissipate anger. It pulls the customer's focus back to the present. 

Most people, especially after speaking with an owner or manager, will alter their negative reviews or remove them entirely. However, if you can't reach the tenant (or if the tenant is unreasonable), you are welcome to respond to the review online. Don't make excuses or try to address the concern over the web. Instead, assert your regret that the customer feels the way he does, and offer to make things right if he will contact you.  See below for an example of an appropriate response:

John Smith could easily have been locked out of his unit because he was late paying rent. Rather than argue about it online, however, Jamie responds in a professional manner. Anyone looking at this feed assumes John Smith is overreacting. Also, it shows Jamie is a caring owner who will do what it takes to make things right with her customer.