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Case Study of Businesses Responding to Bad Online Reviews

A survey conducted in 2010 by American Express brought to light that more than 40 percent of consumers make use of online reviews as a way to assess the quality of customer service provided by a potential provider of products and services.

Since then, the percentage of consumers consulting review websites to help them form an opinion about a business has experienced incredibly fast-paced growth. In tandem with the growth of popularity of sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Foursquare,, and others, we have also seen a great deal of advancement in the way businesses track and respond to online reviews.

Businesses with systematic online reputation management efforts are constantly on the lookout for ways to respond to negative reviews that provide appropriate resolution to the customer in question, while affirming the commitment of the responder to deliver an ever-improving customer experience. These businesses keep the following principles in mind when dealing with a bad online review:

Fully Accepting Responsibility When Appropriate

Bad stuff happens even to the best of us. Even with the best, most disciplined customer-centric policies and procedures, sometimes you or your team will drop the ball, and by the time you realize it, it will be too late to pick it back up again. When this happens, and you first find out upon reading a highly negative review, it is important that your response is careful, empathetic, apologetic and sincere. Do not minimize the issue or issues and, most importantly, fully accept responsibility.

If the negative review is a blemish in an otherwise outstanding online reputation, make sure you clearly refer to the review as an “uncommon instance,” not reflective of the standards and expectations of your venue.  Below we are including a real example from a four-star hotel with an excellent online business reputation addressing a shortcoming in basic services:

Mr. Mark V,

Thank you for this information. I take complete responsibility for the unacceptable condition of your guest room facilities. I understand how frustrating it can be to not have the basics in proper working order while traveling. The fact that I failed to contact you in a timely fashion compounds the frustration. I sincerely apologize, Sir. I believe that in this instance your rating of our hotel is appropriate, though I can assure you that this is an isolated occurrence, not reflective of the standards set forth by our principles and values of hospitality. I appreciate very much your time and thank you for choosing the Magnificent Resort & Spa. 

Jon Responder, General Manager

Case Study of Businesses Responding to Bad Online Reviews

Responding Rapidly But Not In Haste

Being on top of your reviews in real-time is essential to ensuring every potential future customer gets the full picture and is able to make the decision to utilize your venue, product, or service based on all the facts associated with one or many negative reviews. Many online marketing managers have implemented a Rapid Response Strategy to ensure every online escalation is tackled quickly and accurately.

Responding to reviews with a sense of urgency serves your business by giving you a chance to rectify and remediate through compensation and/or refunds.

Additionally, in some circumstances, you are able to extend a future invitation that will let the disappointed customer give you another chance to delight. A quick response, however, is not a license for a careless or hasty answer. Before you crank out a response, make sure you check all the facts and perform due diligence. Hasty responses are often charged with emotion. Do not allow it to be that way. Be quick but remain professional, keeping in mind that you write to a broader audience. Here is an excellent example of a response to a negative review for a dining venue, which maximizes the rapid response approach:

Dear Ms. K Jones, 

This morning on arrival to the restaurant your review regarding your dinner experience last night was brought to my attention. I want to express my most sincere apologies for the delays in getting your food to the table. A fifty-minute wait is completely unacceptable. On reviewing your ticket in our system I was able to confirm that in fact it took a little under one hour for us to bring your order to the table. Our goal is to deliver superior dining experiences, with food on the table less than 25 minutes from the time we take the order. Presently we are meeting this goal 95% of the time. I would love it if you would give us the opportunity to serve you again and make amends. Our records show that you made your reservation using OpenTable. I will be contacting you directly to help you arrange future reservations, our treat to you. Again, my most sincere apologies and I do hope you give us another chance. 


Mark Brule

Manager of Veloz Restaurant

Speaking to a Broader Audience

When responding to a negative review, it is essential that you maintain a balance between addressing the issue at a personal level and tweaking your response to provide reassurances to future customers. Every response should serve as a platform to highlight the value offered by your venue to future customers. In the case of negative reviews, speaking to the broader audience becomes even more important, since negative reviews carry far more weight and credibility than positive reviews.

Negative reviews are a valuable asset to your business. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to improve your processes, refine your approach, build relationships with current customers, and build trust in the eyes of future customers that rely on your online reputation and engagements to decide whether or not to utilize your services.

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.