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4 steps to turn around a bad customer review

17 January 2017 Robert Tolliday
4 steps to turn around a bad customer review

Reviews can make or break a business. True Local general manager Robert Tolliday shares his tips for turning a bad review into a positive experience for both your customers and your business.

Whether negative or positive, reviews enable businesses to reach new audiences, build an online reputation and gain invaluable real time feedback to help improve services or products, and distinguish themselves from competitors.

Review sites give businesses a trusted platform to create two-way communication with consumers. Trust is the greatest asset a brand can build. It can take years to build and just seconds to lose.

Negative online reviews are not always a bad thing, as new research from True Local reveals. The study shows that the majority (66 per cent) of Australians do not trust businesses that have only good reviews. It also found that Australians are prepared to forgive a negative review and acknowledge that businesses and people can have bad days.


Bad reviews are unavoidable, but the insight provided can change a business for the better. Being agile, adaptive and putting the customer first is the only way a business will survive in the long term.

Research conducted in 2016 into consumer behaviour and the use of review sites show that nine in 10 people used a review site in the last year. The majority of those users said they read at least five reviews before making a purchase decision. 

Beyond reading the feedback, many business owners are unsure of the appropriate next steps when responding to negative reviews (visible to both existing and potential customers), and in some cases responses have broken the trust between a business and customers, doing more harm than good and further escalating the problem.

What not to do
The worst thing a business can do is be defensive and suggest that the customer is in some way wrong.

Artfully avoiding an apology also won’t garner any respect from customers.

What you should do
When responding to negative reviews, there are four crucial steps to take:

1. An introduction goes a long way. The person responding on behalf of the business should provide a name and business title to show customers that real people work there. This will make the process more personalised and conversational.

2. Thank the reviewer for providing feedback.

3. Apologise to the customer for the fact that the experience did not meet their expectations. Acknowledge the issue and let the reviewer know the business will attempt to rectify the situation to ensure it doesn’t happen again in future.

4. Take it offline. To stop the issue from escalating in public, provide a direct email address so that the customer can email privately to discuss the matter further.

A negative review online can be unsettling for many businesses. While there’s no doubt that having positive reviews will help to attract new consumers, the most important thing is not to be scared of a bad review. As the world becomes more digitally focused, businesses must adapt and change their attitudes regarding engaging with customers online.

4 steps to turn around a bad customer review
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Robert Tolliday is the general manager of online local business directory True Local.

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