4 Tips to Turn Negative Online Reviews into Positive

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Did you know that 97% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses and three in four people who use their smartphones to search for something nearby end up visiting a local business within a day? At this point if you’re not on Yelp, Google Business, FourSquare, etc. you essentially don’t exist.

As a business owner you probably have a persistent worry that a few disgruntled customers could trash your Yelp ratings; and while it’s true that negative reviews will impact your online business reputation, there are ways of handling your online reviews that can turn what you may see as a necessary evil into the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal.


Don’t beat yourself up about a negative review - you cannot please everyone, nor should you want to! That being said, use negative feedback as a tool to identify legitimate blind spots and improve upon them.

Before the days of online reviews, if a customer was dissatisfied you might never have heard about it (however they were very likely reviewing your business via word of mouth). Once you understand the best ways to handle negative reviews, you’ll start to see the opportunity to hear about those negative experiences a customer has with your businesses as a gift rather than a curse.


Your business is your baby - so when someone says your baby is ugly (or in this case, your business sucks), it’s natural instinct to want to fight back! But you MUST resist the urge.

Studies show that engaging with dissatisfied customers in online review forums can actually lead to repeat business, and up to 70% of complaining customers will give the business another shot if their concerns are resolved.

A prompt and caring response to a negative review can improve a bad situation by publicly displaying your acts of good faith for all to see. This is your opportunity to address their concerns and attempt to “make it right” by inviting them back for a freebie and fresh experience, for example.

Not responding to a negative review could be seen by others as a potential admission of guilt, so respond early and often - just make sure to have a colleague read over your responses before posting to ensure you are not unknowingly fighting fire with fire.


Chances are if people tend to complain about the same things, there is truth in what is being said. Scan your reviews for common concerns or issues and determine the root cause. Yelp reviews can be very helpful for this since the site will actually highlight the words that are mentioned by multiple customers.

A study by Canstar Research found that the most common complaints in the food industry for example, are cleanliness first and the food itself, second.

Determining these commonalities will allow you to formulate a corrective action plan that should resolve a large number of negative comments, rather than spending your energy focusing on complaints one by one.


Now that you’ve determined a corrective plan based on your common negative reviews, it’s time to put your plan into action.

Were the negative reviews commonly citing long wait times? If you’re a salon or spa try adding some additional support staff or decrease the number of of appointments per hour. You could even begin by offering incentives to those who make an appointment at a less popular time.

Common negative reviews about cleanliness or smell means that it’s time to re-evaluate your cleaning program. Maybe that means outsourcing your in-house cleaning or changing cleaning companies - whatever that may be, ensure that customers will notice the difference.

The worst thing you can do is respond to negative reviews with empty promises or ignore customers cues that something is really wrong - use your reviews as a tool to improve!


The next time you see a negative review about your business, use it as an opportunity rather than letting it affect you personally.

As Denis Waitley, writer of The Winner’s Edge, put it, “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker.”

As long as you are listening, your customers reviews will tell you exactly what they want from your business - use these lessons to improve and you will have the roadmap to success.