Getting your first bad online review can feel like a knife between your ribs. Good reviews boost your ego and suggest you’re moving in the right direction, but bad reviews often leave even the most seasoned entrepreneur or writer wondering if maybe they aren’t worthy of being in business after all.

Not to mention that these bad reviews really can cost you direct sales if they get any kind of exposure. If a bad reaction online goes viral, well, that can even ruin a business.

Bad Reviews
Source: flickr.com/photos/sepblog

How can you deal with these less-than-flattering customer reviews in a way that minimizes their damage?

Step 1: Accept It

First, accept it for what it is and don’t get emotional. In fact, you should already have acknowledge the fact that bad feedback will happen before you ever release your product, service, book, or whatever it is you’re promoting.
Pleasing everybody on the Internet is simply an impossible task, so you can’t let these things demoralize you and affect future business success.

Also, read the review from a neutral standpoint. Are the concerns in any way legitimate? Does the customer have a credible point? Can you sympathize?

Step 2: Address It

Next, see if you can get in touch with the dissatisfied customer and address their concerns. If possible, offer to solve their problem for them.

Public Apology
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Or offer some form of retribution as a way to make up for the bad experience – sometimes your attention and a return of their money is enough. Ask if there’s anything you can do to improve their experience and change their mind about your company.

If you do this right, you may not even have to ask them to edit their review; they’ll often do it on their own.

Step 3: Neutralize It

If the customer refuses to change their stance, there are other actions you can take to neutralize the negativity. One is to respond publicly, possibly even on the review site.

This is an action to be taken very carefully in the modern age – stories of defensive responses going wrong can be found all over the internet. If it goes viral, you can make the problem much worse. Your reaction should not come across as threatening, unsympathetic, or overly-defensive. Be as humble as possible.

Bite the Hand
Source: flickr.com/photos/old_sarge

If worded right, however, you can explain what happened in your response or even mention your efforts to make up for the situation. You might also mention how your company is taking pains to limit this type of thing in the future.
Another way to neutralize a review is to simply drown it in good reviews. Don’t pay people to fake them – instead, solicit genuine reviews from happy customers. People are more likely to go out of their way to broadcast a negative experience, so you have to be proactive about getting the other side to speak on your behalf.

Step 4: Leverage It

Don’t forget the value that can be taken from a poor review. They often hold a wealth of information you can use to improve your product, service, or promotions. Turn lemons into lemonade, as they say, and create more satisfaction for future customers.

Step 5: Ignore It

Finally, a time will come when you need to move past the bad review and let it go.

As mentioned above in step one, these things will eventually happen – every business has its critics. If you’ve done what you can to rectify the situation, addressed and neutralized as much as possible, and taken your lessons away from the experience, your work is done.

While you’re at it, keep in mind that if it’s obvious to you the person is a troll, it’s probably obvious to others as well.

Let it get lost in the noise of the Internet while you go back to improving your business.

How do you juggle negative online feedback? Have you ever managed to turn a situation like this into a positive? Tell us about it below.