How to Deal with Negative Social Media Reviews


How to Deal with Negative Social Media Reviews

By Elaine Cascio, Vice President  |  November 11, 2014

I suppose it was only a matter of time before we heard allegations of defamation and lawsuits brought against reviewers from sites like Yelp (News - Alert), Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, and others.

A Virginia contractor sued a homeowner for defamation and $750,000 in damages. While the jury agreed with the contractor, they also found that his accusations made him guilty as well. The jury decided that two wrongs don’t make a right and neither party deserved damages.

In another case in Virginia, a mother was sued for allegedly damaging a daycare's reputation by leaving a negative review.

And in Utah, a couple found themselves in the hands of a collection agency after a negative review prompted the company to demand $3,500 in compensation. The company claimed that the terms of service, to which the wife agreed, included a “non-disparagement clause.”

What’s at stake here? In a look at how reputation is earned in the digital age, Harvard professor Michael Luca equated a one-star increase in Yelp rating to 5 to 9 percent increase in a company’s revenue. Does a one-star decrease result in a similar drop in revenue or more?

What if you get a seriously negative review? Instead of hiring a lawyer, take a deep breath and evaluate how it can actually help your business.

Discuss the issue with colleagues to determine if it is a legitimate problem. Research the root cause and figure out how to fix it. For example, a complaint about slow delivery may lead you to reassess your suppliers and their shipping speed. A complaint about a rude customer service rep may be a result of excessively rigid policies and processes.

While you’re doing your examination, let the reviewer know – write a response that you’re sorry about the experience and that you are looking into it. When you arrive at the solution, post it – so you’re not only letting the reviewer know that you’ve fixed the issue, you’re making it public.

Should you compensate the customer? That depends. For the reviewer who complained about shipping speed because she didn’t receive a gift in time for her six year old’s birthday, a token for the six year old and a discount on a future purchase will likely turn her into a satisfied, if not loyal, customer. But people are simply complaining about slow delivery, showing them that you’ve improved shipping speed should be enough, unless they are a top-tier customer.

What if the review is totally false? Penning a balanced and well thought out response will help your credibility. Also consider asking the reviewer to remove the post. In some cases, however, where reviews are nonsensical or abusive, not responding at all is the best policy.

Keep in mind that Yelp and other online review sites are not the only way to build your online reputation. Take advantage of social media and use all the resources available to you to build a reputation through engaging content. Once you create a community on Twitter (News - Alert), Facebook,

Instagram, or Tumblr, your customers are more likely to understand your side of the story or ignore negative reviews.

As the social world expands, no one can hide from reviewers. We all know the sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs when we read a negative review. Keep in mind that reviews help our businesses improve management policies and processes and lead us to be more customer centric – and isn’t that what we all want?

Elaine Cascio is vice president at consulting firm Vanguard Communications Corp. (

Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp. (, a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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