5 ways to use online reputation management for handling negative reviews

After you have established your business online, the next step is to maintain a reputable image in the

After you have established your business online, the next step is to maintain a reputable image in the digital arena. Online reputation management is the process of monitoring, analysing, and responding to the feedback that you receive online. This feedback can be on your website, social media profiles, and other Web 2.0 platforms. In this digital age, a brand is not solely defined by how good their marketing and advertising is. Instead, the customers’ feedback and reviews are also taken into consideration. This is the reason that online reputation management is an essential element for a brand’s success today. In this article, we take a look at the most effective way, in which you can make use of online reputation management for handling negative reviews.

What is Online Reputation Management?

Before we move on to discussing how to utilize online reputation management, let us first understand what the process is about and how it works. The digital era has made customers more aware and interactive, by giving them the ability to leave their feedback online. Nowadays, customers can either make you or break you as an online brand with what they say. Customer likes, shares, and positive feedback promotes and markets your brand. On the other hand, negative reviews from these very customers can leave a lasting negative impact on your brand.

To succeed online, the key is to make use of online reputation management to look for, respond to, and minimize the number of negative reviews about your brand. Online reputation management is a difficult task. The biggest challenges lie in finding out what and when the customers are saying something about your brand online. A successful brand is one that is able to resolve negative reviews about themselves in the quickest possible time and in the most effective manner possible.

The next thing that we need to know is how online reputation management works. Without the right tools, online reputation management can be immensely difficult and even impossible at times. This is particularly true if your online business expands across various social media channels online. Social media monitoring tools, such as Mentionlytics, come in handy in such situations. Through the use of social media listening, you can monitor and keep up to date with what customers are saying about you online. Moreover, you can even filter out and analyse negative reviews to minimize the reputation damage to your brand.

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Online Reputation Management for Handling Negative Reviews

We discussed how social media monitoring can be used to facilitate online reputation management in the section above. After you have set up a strategy for finding what customers are saying about you online, the next step is to handle negative reviews through a reputation management approach.

Online reputation management is not about deleting negative reviews from your social media profiles and channels. Instead, it is a 24/7 process, in which you must minimize and eradicate negative reviews while keeping the customers satisfied at the same time. The process involves responding as quickly as possible, being polite to the customers, and taking things to a personal level. Remember, not all negative reviews are bad for you. Most of the criticism will help you understand your brand’s performance and your target audience better.

Here are 5 of the most effective ways, in which you can utilize online reputation management for handling negative reviews.

#1 Be considerate, constructive, and polite

Negative reviews can be frustrating and are generally not good for business. However, this does not mean that you have to reply aggressively or rudely to the customers. Such an approach can further damage your online reputation. When you are responding back to customers, who have left a negative review, always be considerate and polite. Whether you are replying publicly or privately, you should be professional. No matter how bad the issue is, you should never resort to personal comments.

We understand that a negative opinion can stimulate emotions that can lead to a stern response. However, this is exactly what you need to avoid. Customer relationship management is all about collecting your thoughts and replying in the most decent manner that is possible. Respond by saying something such as: “Thank you for the feedback, we would love to discuss this issue with you further and make it up to you for the bad experience.” This is how to start off with handling a negative review.

If the customer has a firm stance and can merit his comments, then there are no excuses from your end. You need to take a few proactive steps to resolve the issue and improve their experience with your brand. When possible, you can give out discounts, coupons, or complimentary gifts as a means of apologizing to the customer.

No matter how bad a review might be, there is always a professional and constructive manner to handle it. To find the right way to respond, we recommend that you follow these steps.

Conduct research on the issue

One philosophy that works in customer relationship management is that the customer is always right. Though this is a good philosophy, it is not always right to lash out at your staff, especially if they did not do anything wrong. When you receive a negative review, the first thing that you need to do is to conduct research on it.

Whenever possible, gather information about the circumstances, in which the incident occurred, speak to the staff and get their side of the story, and contact the customer directly to learn more about their experience. This will help you understand exactly what action needs to be taken to resolve the problem.

Understand the viewpoint of the customer

There will be times when you will not agree with what a customer has to say. This is perfectly okay as long as you are considerate towards the customer’s viewpoint and emotions. It is important that you try to understand how the customer was feeling when they wrote the review. For instance, if your online website went down just as a customer purchased an item and the purchase was not confirmed then the customer will be crossed even if it was not entirely your fault. Understand the customer’s emotions and not just the facts if you want to successfully handle a negative review.

Appreciate the feedback

As we mentioned earlier, always start off by saying thank you to the customer. You need to acknowledge that their feedback is valuable and it is what drives an online business. If you want to successfully handle a negative review, then it is imperative that you let the customers know that you appreciate their concerns. Let them know that you are willing to take the steps needed to resolve their problems and would love to keep serving them in the future. Regardless of what the outcome of the negative review might be, saying thank you will leave an overall courteous impression on not only the reviewer but your potential customers as well.

#2 Respond publicly and quickly

After you have understood the issue surrounding the negative review, the next thing you need to do is to respond. Begin the online reputation management process by first responding publicly and as quickly as you can. When you are responding publicly, here are a few important things that you should keep in mind.

Recognize that there is a problem

The rule of thumb when it comes to handling bad reviews is that never to argue with the customer. You have to make them feel like you are on their side. Give validity to their experience. Do not tell them that they are wrong or why they are wrong. You have to regain their lost trust, not further alienate them.

Apologize to the customer

A crucial element of any successful business is providing great customer experience. When the best customer experience is not delivered that is where a business starts to go down. A good customer experience is crucial to your success as a business. When that isn’t delivered, it’s a problem. Accepting responsibility is the first step in turning a negative reviewer into a brand advocate.

Make an offer to improve their experience

Always be grateful for receiving any sort of feedback whether good or bad. In cases of bad reviews be sure to show that their concerns have been acknowledged. It is also a good approach to tell the customers what you are going to do about it.

If their feedback is relatively general, try to gather more information, by asking them more questions about it. If the conversation is taking place in a public forum then try to take it private. A call or even a private message can help you take the conversation off public forums. In case the problem was regarding a lack of information, first show gratitude to the person that highlighted it. Either supply the relevant information in the discussion and if need be, provide a link where more information on the topic is available. As a general rule, describing publicly that the problem has been taken care of is critical, in order to gain the trust of future customers.

Take it offline if necessary

Engaging in a debate online with a customer never looks good. The best way to tackle the situation is to take the conversation away from a public forum and towards a more private one to one interaction as soon as you can. Defending your brand on a public forum can easily go terribly wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing.

One such example is an incident that happened with American food chain Applebee’s about a year ago. An employee posted the picture of a customer receipt that contained negative remarks on popular social media site Reddit. When the post went viral and the company discovered it, they fired the employee on grounds of violating customer privacy.

Later, on Facebook, the company posted and defended their actions by stating that they wished such situations did not happen. They further stated that they had apologized to the guests and that display action was taken against the employee. In no time the post managed to get a significant amount of comments most of which criticized the food chain for their response to the situation. Applebee’s responded by deleting comments, blocking users and giving a generic reply to everyone else. This is definitely a classic case study on how not to receive negative feedback.

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#3 Respond Privately

Responding to a public comment with a private message gives your customer the idea that you really value their concerns. This is important because it shows the customers that you are not just trying to suppress them.

Small goodwill gestures along with an apology also help your customers have a positive image of your brand. You can offer to refund their money and give freebies or future discounts to maintain a good relationship.

Businesses that put their customers over everything else always try to take one step ahead of what is needed to fix the problem. Adopting this attitude may help you turn an angry customer into a satisfied one.

Several businesses respond to negative reviews privately in the first place. If you use a review site, you can easily send a private message through your business dashboard. Compose a short message for the reviewer by keeping the following points in mind:

  • Introduce yourself at the beginning
  • Show them gratitude for using your business
  • Thank them for their review
  • Show your deepest regrets that their experience was not satisfactory
  • Summarize what you understand their concern to be

If you think your business was not at fault, then it is also possible to write a message without admitting any mistake. Next, if needed, ask for more details regarding the concern, or propose a solution to resolve it. In some situations, all you may need to do is to improvise your procedure.

For example, ‘we will make sure to e-mail our customers the next time we’re closed for maintenance’. At other times, you may need to offer some sort of discount for compensation. For example, ‘we would like to offer you a free meal next time you visit us’.

According to most marketing experts, the best idea is to invite the customer back to your business. But, you may need to be extra careful while giving such an invitation if the customer has expressed serious concerns.

#4 Encourage Positive Reviews

The best way to balance negative reviews is to encourage customers who had good experiences to share their positive reviews. This might require some effort because customers with bad experiences are more likely to take the time to post a feedback than the ones who had a positive experience.

Therefore, local businesses are always advised to be extra efficient in encouraging happy customers to publicly review the products and services on online review websites. Positive feedbacks will help in subsiding the bad ones. Therefore, there are lesser chances of new customers to consider the latter.

A common approach of local businesses to approach this is to send an e-mail to their customer after an order of product or service, asking them to share their experience. Some businesses also include links to their online review pages on their social media pages or websites.

If you have done a good job in serving your customer, they are more likely to be willing to make the effort of posting a review. However, you may need to urge them a bit, so they have the initiative to do so. It is acceptable if the response rate is not very high, assuming that your business has a much bigger group of satisfied customers.

As mentioned earlier, encouraging happy customers to leave reviews will help you reduce the impact of the negative ones. However, it is not a good idea to influence them by asking for positive reviews only. Instead, in your place of business, place table toppers, signs, or stickers of the review sites you want to promote. Your website could contain badges that link to the review sites. Another idea is to add a small comment in your receipts or invoices, asking the customer to review your service or product. These subtle ways of encouraging will provoke the customer to respond.

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#5 Prevent Negative Reviews

As you become more ‘present’ over the Internet, you’ll see there are more things that you must keep track of. While this is something positive, it is important to avoid potential problems through proper management and monitoring. Some ways to ensure that are: accepting your negatives, being reachable and accessible to your customers, using efficient social media tools, responding to queries, accepting criticism and improving your product/service, and building credibility.

Be approachable

Your brand’s reputation is most affected when the customers aren’t able to properly communicate their problems and queries or do not get proper feedback. In such cases, an angry customer will use easier channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and other complaint websites. In order to avoid this, make sure your off and on-site contact information is correct. Your response time should ideally be less than a day, but if that is not possible for your business, make sure you give your users a time frame for when you will get to them. Moreover, there should be multiple platforms where a user can approach you. Some might not want to talk over the telephone, others may not want to send an email – make sure you provide both options.

Invest in good customer service:

If you cannot afford a call centre, or an expensive contact management system, you should include a portal for customer service on your website. Get Satisfaction and Suggestion Box are some helpful tools for this purpose.

Admit your mistakes and own the negatives

One way to own your negatives is to buy the negative domain. This will help you when a customer is frustrated and is looking for a place to express their anger. While they would be looking for an alternative to your brand, you must make one last attempt to win them over. If you rank for your negatives, your business will get a chance to convince a customer to stand with your brand and give your product/service another try. Purchasing negative domains will also prevent others from creating a hate site.

Moreover, you must include a customer service or ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ area on your website. This part of your website will include questions that include text similar to what the customer is looking for. For example, “What product to use instead of product A?” In your answer, you can redirect the customer to some of your other products or services, or to the website of a friendly partner.

Build online credibility

Do your social media pages and website contain customer testimonials and reviews? If not, you must start trying to collect them. Make sure you add all the positive ones on your site. Additionally, track your positive mentions on social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter, then include those in your website. The customers must easily be able to add a product review.

In a nutshell, encourage users to post reviews and testimonials about your business when they find you and, in the process, you will automatically build credibility to prospective users.

Successful Examples

Now that you understand exactly how to make use of online reputation management for handling negative reviews, we look at examples of how successful brands have utilized this approach. In this section, we take a look at two examples by JetBlue and Constant Contact on how they effectively handle negative reviews.


JetBlue Airway’s is known for its excellent customer service on the social media, particularly Twitter. Whether it is a delayed flight or a negative review, their customer service team is ready to handle all customer concerns. Here is an example from 2015 when a customer complained about his backseat television not working during the flight. JetBlue Airways responded to him and resolved the issue immediately, all through the use of Twitter!

JetBlue-Airways-on-Twitter-online reputation management

Constant Contact

Constant Contact’s customer support is another example of successful online reputation management. In the example below, the concerns raised by a customer were immediately addressed by their Twitter help account and this turned the frustrated customer into a satisfied one.

To Sum Up

No matter how successful your business is, there is no certain way of avoiding or preventing negative reviews. There is always something, even if it is the smallest of things, that can upset the customer or just simply leave behind a bad impression to them. The key is to make use of your reputation management strategy to work around these negative reviews and make the most out of them.

In this blog post, we have highlighted five of the most effective methods, in which you can make use of an online reputation management system for handling negative reviews about your brand. These include being constructive, responding quickly openly and privately, encouraging positivity, and preventing negative reviews.


George Mastorakis

About George Mastorakis

George is a co-founder of Mentionlytics supervising Financial Planning and Analysis and our Cloud Architecture. He is an Associate Professor on Emerging Technologies and Marketing Innovation. His interests include Cloud Computing, Web Applications and Internet of Things.