How to Handle a Bad Online Review

Vince DiCecco is a dynamic and sought-after seminar speaker and author, with particular interest in business management/development and marketing subjects. With over 20 years experience in sales, marketing and training, he is presently an independent consultant to businesses looking to sharpen their competitive edge. Vince addresses a wide range of topics focused on nurturing customer loyalty while improving profitability. He may be reached via email at

In this day and age, we see more and more people venting their disappointments about the places and stores they go to online. Diplomacy should be the keyword. You should always opt to take the high road if it’s in a public forum like social media. You definitely don’t want to get into an argument or public fight online.

Usually when a complaint comes in, there are two sides to that story and unfortunately, people who read those reviews sometimes make buying decisions based on those bad reviews. They only see one side of the story and may not take into consideration the reasons why certain things were done the way they were. Not to make excuses, but there could be mitigating circumstances that caused a bad buying experience. Rather than just throwing your fingers on the keyboard in frustration, the first thing to do is write out a response to a bad review on paper. Let that response sit for some time, whether it’s half a day or whatever, and then revisit it again to see if it’s written with the tone that you intend to convey. When you don’t get defensive, the other person may be more careful about how they voice their complaint. 

When dealing with difficult customers, take a breath and buy yourself some time rather than respond in anger or frustration. Another good tip is to hear the person out completely. Imagine that the person complaining is like a balloon that is overfilled with air and is ready to pop. You want to allow them to vent and get fully deflated. Ask them open-ended questions in order to get the person to fully vent where their frustration is. It really comes down to good listening skills. 

Once you can pinpoint the feeling, whether it’s anger or disappointment, then you can respond in an empathetic way. Showing empathy to someone is not just saying sorry, but also citing the specific thing that caused the emotion. That usually diffuses the situation somewhat to where it’s manageable but doesn’t escalate into an argument. 

—Vince DiCecco, Your Personal Business Trainer