Don’t Panic, The 7 Steps You Need To Respond To A Poor Review

It happens. In fact, it happens to people who deserve it and those who don’t. In our search for the coveted review, there will invariably be times when we get someone who woke up on the wrong side of the bed, who happened to have a bad day and decided you should too, or worse, you actually deserve the wake-up call because your service wasn’t as good as you promised.

In any case, there are seven steps you need to take when you have an angry customer and maybe, just maybe you can turn your bad day into an opportunity.

Step 1: Reply

Whether it’s a review on Facebook or Google, you must reply to each one. The good ones are easy, thank them, tout your service, and invite them to do more business. For the bad, however, you have to acknowledge that whether right or wrong, the customer feels wronged. Don’t apologize for what happened, but show empathy for their position.

  • I’m sorry that you feel this way.
  • I understand your frustration.

Step 2: Get the conversation offline

The only way you will salvage the conversation and the client is to speak to them privately. Some people feel emboldened when they are suddenly given a pulpit to spew their verbal diarrhea from. By getting the conversation offline, you can get to the root of the problem without airing your dirty laundry for everyone to see. Email is okay, telephone is better. You take the bluster out of many people when you speak to them directly.

Step 3: Get to the root of the problem.

Ask questions. Often the problem isn’t the apparent issue, but something different altogether. By asking questions, you accomplish three things.

  1. You deflect the anger away from you and towards something you may or may not have done.
  2. You show more empathy by engaging with the client. They feel like part of the solution.
  3. You find out what the real problem is. You may not have been aware of something you were doing was not appreciated by all parties.

Step 4: Repair the problem

Once you understand the issue, ask permission to repair the problem. Correcting the wrong will go a long way to making someone feel better. When you get to this point, you may have to give a deep discount in the process or if the wrong is real, you may have to offer your service for free. An unhappy customer will tell ten times the people that a happy one will.

It’s natural for humans to remember two things about an event, the first and the last. That’s how speed readers can read so fast. They read the first sentence of a paragraph and the last. You’ve already started with a bad impression, you want to leave them with a decent taste in their mouth. It is important to note here that though it may be easier to repair if it’s a perceived wrong and not a real one, you still have to fix it. It may not be your fault, but it’s still your responsibility.

Step 5: Repair your reputation

This comes in two parts. You are either fixing your reputation after taking advantage of an opportunity or you are going into reputation management. In the first case, you ask the client to reconsider their review and adjust to the new level of service. It’s ok if they just make an addendum. You want two things, a change in the number of stars and an update to say you did the right thing. Sometimes they may replace the review altogether, but at least get an update.

The second option to repair your reputation is a little harder. Unfortunately the only way to drown out someone who is shouting is to shout louder. One poor review is worth 1/5th of a star. That means for every 1 star review you get, you need at least 4 perfect scores to get a 4 star average. You need double the reviews to reduce that to a 4.5. You get the picture now. One poor review has a deeper effect on your average than a good one.

The same theory applies to your wall. If someone has written something on your wall that you don’t want people to see, then you need to give them something else to look at.

Of course, it’s important to note that these reviews and comments need to be genuine and real. They can’t come from family members or fake people. Your clients aren’t stupid and will see right through that scheme.

Step 6: Review

Don’t let that client disappear. Their memory will always return to the dichotomy of the good and bad. If you touch base with them periodically to give them the personal service then they will eventually rewrite their memory to only include the good service you offer, not the poor service.

Step 7: Automate your system

Whether you are responsible for your social media or you have someone else doing it for you, give them immediate and full authority to work quickly. This means canned responses and a dynamic response system. When you can address a problem quickly, you can save it from escalating.

Bonus Step 8: Get your act in gear

If it was a real review about a real thing you’ve done wrong then correct the behaviour or the work so it doesn’t happen again. If you aren’t responding to clients fast enough, then respond faster. If you aren’t polite enough, be more polite. Review your service promise and make sure what you’re giving is worth the price you’re charging.


Consumers want a response from a company within an hour on social media. When we give them an opportunity to speak up, we have to listen. Unfortunately you have to take the bad with the good, even if it’s an unfounded review. What’s important is that you neither take it personally, nor can you panic. Have a system ready to respond so you can have empathy, but without emotions.