Strategies for Addressing Negative Customer Reviews Online

A flooring store owner from Minnesota recounted his encounter with a displeased customer who, after having his unreasonable demands rejected, proceeded to leave a negative review on Google. This situation resonates with many business owners dedicated to offering stellar service. Years of building a reputable local presence can be tarnished by a single disparaging online review.

Sometimes, negative reviews are not even legitimate and may be instigated by competitors or deceitful individuals. Instead of lamenting over these critiques, proactive measures can be taken to manage negative feedback effectively and shield your online reputation, which can ultimately provide a competitive advantage.

Addressing the Issue Directly

Receiving a negative review can naturally trigger defensiveness. Yet, it’s vital to assess whether the criticism holds any merit. Business coaching and consulting firm Lee Resources International notes that for every customer complaint received, 26 remain unspoken. Therefore, a customer who points out a flaw is highlighting a potentially larger issue that could be costing you customers and affecting your bottom line. The optimal response involves acknowledging the problem and taking steps to resolve it without delay.

Learning from the Best: Disney’s Approach

The Walt Disney Company, a titan in customer service, is celebrated for its effective handling of guest concerns. It employs the HEARD acronym — Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Resolve, and Diagnose — to train its staff, a strategy applicable both in person and online:

  • Hear: Give the customer your full attention and allow them to share their story without interruptions.
  • Empathize: Show genuine care and understanding for their concerns, enhancing the trust between you and the customer.
  • Apologize: Deliver a heartfelt apology, crucial for mending the customer’s experience, regardless of fault.
  • Resolve: Act promptly to rectify the issue. Ask the customer how you can make amends.
  • Diagnose: Without assigning blame, investigate the root cause of the problem, whether it be a lapse in your system or human error, and ensure it is corrected to prevent future issues.

Publicly Responding to Reviews

Ignoring negative feedback might seem tempting, especially if you prefer to focus on the positive. However, addressing negative reviews publicly can significantly bolster your business’s image. It’s important to refrain from blaming the reviewer or making excuses. Instead, demonstrate empathy, issue apologies, and list the corrective steps you have taken.

Mitigating the Impact of Negative Reviews

It’s generally difficult and sometimes futile to remove negative reviews from major platforms like Google. Rather than focusing on elimination, a more effective strategy is to outnumber the negative reviews with positive feedback. This not only diminishes the effects of negative remarks but also significantly strengthens your online reputation.

By employing these strategies, businesses can transform negative online customer feedback into opportunities for growth and showcase their commitment to customer satisfaction. This proactive approach not only improves business practices but also reinforces a reputation for caring and responsive customer service.


Jim Augustus Armstrong is founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with marketing services and coaching to help them attract quality customers, close more sales, get higher margins and work the hours they choose. To obtain a free copy of Jim’s flooring industry report, Stop Leaving Millions on the Table, visit

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