5-step guide to handling bad customer reviews


While customer reviews speak volumes for social proof, all it takes is one single negative review to make you feel absolutely horrible – despite the dozens, or even hundreds, of glowing reviews you already have.

Negative reviews can also impact how you feel about yourself and your business, explained founder of Event Law, Kathryn Adams, as a guest at our May 2022 Easy Weddings webinar The Good, Bad and Legally Ugly of Reviews.

Recapping our April 2022 webinar Let’s Talk Reviews, Kathryn reminded us that reviews play an essential role in the wedding industry to provide social legitimacy when the customer base is a one-time-only transaction.

Reviews – good or bad – act as a preview for future couples considering purchasing your product or engaging your service. While some bad reviews may be true, others may simply be malicious. Regardless, how you respond to a negative review will paint a picture for other couples as to what they could expect from their customer experience with you. That’s why it’s so important that you deal with these reviews maturely.

We recap Kathryn’s 5-step guide to handling bad customer reviews, below.

handling bad reviews

1. Take note of red flags and plan ahead

“More often than not, you know a bad review is on its way. When you copped a bad review, you probably know who it is, you know they are a pain in the arse on the day, and you probably already had red flags about them,” Kathryn said.

“So when that review arrives, more often than not, you know this is coming and you can avert the bad review in most cases. You can go back to the relationship to start with; you have open communication, you’d be reasonable.”

By opening up communication with the reviewer and addressing any missteps early on, you have the potential to not only reduce the chance of a bad review – but turn the prospects of a bad review into a good one. Rather than dwell on what may have gone wrong, you want the customer to go away from the experience remembering how you handled any hiccups.

2. Don’t be pressured into giving refunds

If possible, try to resolve the dispute but don’t give in to blackmail.

The impacts of COVID-19 caused chaos for most industries, with problems often beyond the wedding supplier’s control. As a result, a single booking could have a detrimental impact on small businesses, so many were forced to stand firm on their no-refund policy.

“I was talking to some suppliers where a refund of $1,000 was make-or-break whether they were going to get food on the table. So it was actually getting really serious,” Kathryn said.

If you have exhausted all lines of communication and were unable to reach a resolution, take a lesson from Elsa of Frozen and “let it go”, she suggested.

3. Step away from the computer or phone

If you can’t simply “let it go”, what might follow is a bad review coming in. But whatever you do, don’t send a reply straight away, Kathryn warned.

“A bad review is not the end of your business. It might feel that way, especially if there are some untruths in there,” she said.

Business owners can go from a run of 52 great reviews, then all it takes is one negative review to start them catastrophising.

“When that review arrives, put down the damn phone. Shut that laptop,” Kathryn advised.

Nothing good comes from rash reactions. You’re not going to do yourself any favours by firing back an emotional response in the heat of the moment.

Instead, just breathe. Go for a walk. Practice some self-care. Get yourself into a position where you’ve got a clear head.

“I don’t know anybody that lost a dramatic amount of business by leaving a bad review on there for a day,” Kathryn added.

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4. Don’t feed the drama

The drama of a saga response “stands out light a lighthouse on a cliff,” Kathryn warned. The worst thing you can do is feed the drama by responding to the review with a saga outlining your version of the events.

Her solution is to either contact the reviewer privately, or write a public response with the mindset as if you’re communicating with future customers. You can stop the drama in its tracks with a response along the lines of:

“Thank you for your message. I’d like to talk about this with you further. Can you please contact me so we can chat this through.”

Most likely the reviewer will be so angry that they will want the last say and they are unlikely to call you to iron things out. By cutting off the conversation, you’re also not feeding the drama for those reading on.

If it’s a fake review, the best thing you can do is respond with something like:

“I’m sorry, I don’t have you on my client books. Can you please identify yourself or write to me so that I can have this addressed.”

A response like the one above is a sign to others reading that the negative review is likely not a genuine one.

5. Fill your page with good reviews

If a bad review comes in, the best thing you can do is to request reviews from clients who have not yet reviewed you. Kathryn recommended contacting 20 clients who you know you have provided an exceptional service, to get in and leave you a positive review.

“You’ll be surprised how quickly that one-star review disappears down off the page and you’ve also gained yourself another 19 good reviews.”

Want to watch the full webinar replay and see what other insights and tips our event law expert had to share? You can watch it here, or click below.

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