how to deal with bad online review

When Your Customer Reads a Bad Online Review

The Situation

Jenny is a sales rep for a company that supplies uniforms to the health care industry. Ruth is the supply coordinator for a hospital. She’s been renting nursing scrubs for her workforce from Jenny’s firm for about six months.

Recently, Ruth was visiting an online customer review site of businesses and noticed a couple of negative reviews for Jenny’s company. Reviewers mentioned running short on uniforms because of late deliveries, as well as several billing problems.

bad online review

She decided to ask Jenny about the negative reports:

Jenny: Oh Ruth, please don’t pay attention to those reviews. They weren’t my customers, and I heard there were misunderstandings. Tempest in a teapot! It’s all been taken care of.
Ruth: Well, one reviewer seemed to feel there is an ongoing delivery problem. I just want to be sure —
Jenny: Of course you do. But you know those reviews stay posted forever. Check the date. The concerns have been addressed. You haven’t experienced any problems with our deliveries, right?
Ruth: Well, no . . . but we’ve only been renting from you for six months.
Jenny: Believe me, you will not have these kinds of problems.

Resolution, or Smoothing Over?

Ruth nods, and Jenny feels she has done her job. Her response was honest. She hopes she has put to rest what she considers an unfair aspect of online reviews — a few complaints can make it appear that a company has big problems.

However, while sincere, Jenny’s response may not be convincing. That could be because she did not pursue Q4 involvement of her customer. Jenny could have helped Ruth feel a lot more confident that the negative reviews do not indicate problems for her. How should she have handled this?

Probably every company gets some negative reviews online. Of course, if your firm has a large number of them, you may have to re-evaluate your place in an organization with a poor reputation.


Let’s assume your firm receives a few negative reviews from time to time. A Q4, transparent style of selling would actually be well suited for dealing with them. The Q4 response: Own the negative reviews!


Jenny takes a kind of Q3 avoidance approach. She scoffs at the idea that they’re important and tries to dismiss them quickly. But Ruth brought them up for a reason, so Jenny should take them seriously. Even if your perception is that some reviews are unfair, don’t run away from discussing them. It could look like you’re hiding something.


Treat a bad review the same way you’d treat a customer objection. When Ruth says a review mentioned late deliveries, Jenny should address this with the APAC method of managing customer concerns:


  • After Acknowledging (owning) the reviews, Jenny should Probe to find out more. Instead, she tries to avoid (rather than confront) the problem by understanding it and her customer’s feelings. How do the reviews make her feel? What does she want to know about them? What would alleviate Ruth’s concern? If you are confronted by negative reviews, part of probing is to gauge your customer’s frame of mind.
  • Then, Answer the concern by providing a satisfactory resolution. That can mean more investigation on your part, to get to the bottom of the accusations in the review. Even if that isn’t needed, you must show that you are on the case — not running away from it. Jenny wants to drop the topic fast, when she should be showing Ruth that she has an answer — or will get one.
  • Confirm that the customer has the confidence he/she had before the negative reviews came to light. Jenny shouldn’t move on until Ruth feels the concern has been put to rest. This can be as simple as one last question: “Do you feel that I’ve satisfactorily addressed the criticism made in the review?”