Review Management 101

This past week, two of our clients received negative reviews on their Google listings. The first is an on-again/off-again client whose website we designed, whereas with the second, we’re actively helping them generate a positive digital reputation.

Although this was a little bit of a surprise, on the other hand, I somewhat expected this. The reason for that has nothing to do with the clients themselves. They’re both very good at what they do (which makes our job easier).

In fact, it actually comes down to the simple realization that statistically you just can’t please everyone. With the first client, I know that he had worked his tail off to help this customer have a positive experience, despite the fact that his customer was hard to reach. Meanwhile, the second client is dealing with something far more severe: Pure defamation.

Why go into such explicit detail over a couple bad reviews?

Because reviews are ultimately the lifeblood for small and medium-sized businesses. A couple bad reviews on any of the major platforms, such as Facebook, Google, or Yelp, could lead to countless missed opportunities in the marketplace.

Regardless of whether you’re dealing with a frustrating client, defamation, or simple miscommunication, there is a definitive “right way” and a “wrong way” to response management.

Let it Out

Before doing anything, feel free to vent. Just don’t do it on social media, to other clients, or in any public setting.

Understand that it’s perfectly reasonable to be upset, especially if you’re convinced that the customer is in the wrong, but your approach needs to be calm and poised.

Never let them see you bleed.

Thank Them

“Thank them for what? Ruining my business?”

Although it may feel like it in the moment, this is most likely not the end of your world.

Generally speaking, it’s hard for most people to put themselves out there, whether it’s getting on stage or leaving a publicly displayed review.

Once you acknowledge that this isn’t the end of your business, the following step should be to thank the reviewer for sharing their thoughts with your business and the greater community as a whole. This is the first action towards gaining back the reviewer’s respect as well as displaying to the world that you want to continually improve first and foremost.


“But he didn’t listen to me?!”

“He’s a jerk!”

“She’s crazy!”

As a client of mine, know that you can tell me any and all of these things. I will listen. I will comfort you. Then we’ll talk game plan.

However, if the next words you type aren’t some iteration of “I’m sorry”, you’re never going to connect with the reviewer. Keep in mind that everyone is the hero of their own story. If a reviewer believes that you’re the antagonist in theirs, the conversation is instantly over.

Instead, you need to start with a classic sales goal: Show the prospect you’re on the same side. Empathize. Let the reviewer know that you hear what they’re saying.

Reiterate Their Understanding of What Happened

A common saying is that “the truth lies somewhere in the middle”. Here’s where you start to find that middle ground.

In your own words, summarize everything that they laid out in their complaints against your business. This will help the reviewer know that you clearly understand and care about everything that they’ve said.

In addition, this provides a good opportunity to soften their language. As an example, a lawyer suing someone over a car accident might use the phrase “car crash” instead of “fender bender” because “car crash” has a more severe connotation. Similarly, if you can use lighter synonyms when paraphrasing, it might help others see this as an incident that was merely blown out of proportion.

Tell Your Side

Here’s the part where you get to share your version of the story. Again, keep in mind that most readers are going to assume the truth lies in the middle and that the complaint(s) were at least somewhat legitimate.

When tackling this portion, you still have to tread lightly in your approach. Although it may be tempting to slam the reviewer and tell them why they’re wrong, that will only undo all of the good will that you’ve spent time building up to this point.

As an alternative, help them to see the actions that they couldn’t have known about fully (even if you told them). For instance, with our first client, he had been available for a period of 24 straight hours and had worked with other vendors to ensure a positive experience. And, with the second, she had tried to reach her client a number of times to find a solution prior to the review.

It’s doubtful that either of their customers fully understood the extent to which they had worked to all-but-guarantee a positive experience, so sharing this not only informs the reviewer, it also enlightens the community who may read the review.

Get Them Back

Closing out your response, you need to offer to resolve the situation. In some circumstances this comes down to a financial refund, whereas it can be complimentary services for others. Presumably, you know your customer best, or at least have a policy in place for these unfortunate mishaps.

To end your review on a light note, offer to fix the issue and make them feel welcome to return as a customer. Be sure to share both a reliable phone number and an email address where the customer can reach you on their terms.


Replying to bad reviews often raises a question of pride, but a good response is well worth it’s weight in gold as it not only helps you to reconnect with a lost customer, it also lets others know that A) you care, B) you’re professional, and C) you add value.

And if you do manage to get the reviewer back on the phone, a similarly soft, empathetic touch can go a long way in restoring a wounded relationship.

To learn more about digital reputation management or to have Rizzo Young Marketing manage your social presence, please send us a message.