By Amanda Crangle

No one likes to see or hear people say negative things about them, their employees, or their business. It’s emotional, it’s stressful—and it’s going to happen.

Regardless of all the good you do, all the people you help, and all the right decisions you make when the wrong ones would be easier, some people will remember only a single negative event or interaction with you. When negative feedback comes in, is there a process that can help turn it into something positive? In this article, I’ll share a process we’ve used over the years to help our clients successfully handle negative reviews.

There’s a caveat: It requires work, humility, and introspection.

Addressing the Grievance
Imagine you have a local water-treatment dealership that’s been in business for a while. You have an established customer base and a decent process for gathering reviews. One day, you wake up bright and early, ready to tackle the day, when your phone pings with a notification from Google. Expecting another five-star review, you swipe open your phone with excitement, and your heart sinks when you see a negative response.

Your first reaction might be to figure out how to remove the review; however, there are very few instances when that will work. Here’s where the process starts.

Step 1: Do some homework.
Who is the person who left the review? You might see their name and immediately give an eye roll, thinking, “Of course, it’s them.” Or you might honestly have no clue who they are.

Either way, try to find out about their interaction with your company. How long have they been a customer? What triggered the decline in their experience with your team? Who was involved? Where did the incident take place? How can it be remedied?

Step 2: Take the conversation offline.
We’ve seen or been a part of an argument or debate on social media. Whether arguing a political point or whether high-pH water has health benefits, people can easily allow conversations to get out of hand when they are protected behind their computer screens.

For this reason, it is imperative that you do everything in your power to reach out by phone to the person who left the neg­ative review. Emailing and texting do not count.

There are three possibilities:

  • You have the person’s contact information and can get in touch. In this case, be sure to listen without the urge to re­spond. Truly listen to what is said, make notes, and ask clarifying questions. When the customer has finished speaking completely, then it’s your turn—act with empa­thy, acknowledging that they have had a bad experience. Even if you disagree, it doesn’t matter at this point. All that matters is that the customer feels heard and understood. If you have a chance to make it right, act on that.
  • You have contact information; however, your calls are going unanswered. If you have called multiple times and left messages with no success, move on to step 3.
  • You do not have the customer’s contact information. If no contact information exists for this person, move on to the next step.

The critical factor here is meekness; however, don’t get this mixed up with weakness. Weakness is a lack of strength or courage. Meekness, however, is a conscious choice. It is pa­tience and self-control with a healthy dose of kindness. Act in this fashion, and the long-term benefits will be worth the ef­fort to subdue your reactionary self.

Step 3. Reply online. The written response to the negative review should include several things:

  1. Thank the customer: Thank you for making the time to write about your experience.
  2. Respond based on whether you were able to get in touch with the customer and your interaction after they left the review.
    a. It was great speaking with you today and hearing more about your service call. I’m glad you were happy with the follow-up.
    b. We have tried multiple times to reach you and left a few messages, as it’s essential to ensure we hear your story and work to make it right for you.
    c. We are unable to find you in our customer database. Could you be listed under a different name? Please reach out to us so we can hear your thoughts and work to make things right for you.
  3. Highlight any positive aspect, such as, “We love our soft water, but their service sucks,” which can be addressed like this: First off, thank you for your endorsement of our water systems. The fact that you are enjoying your soft water is very important to us.
  4. Personally acknowledge the customer’s concerns. Again, don’t argue or say they are wrong; this can often escalate the problem: Your situation is familiar to me, and I’d per­sonally like to apologize for the miscommunication. As you pointed out, our communication from the service person to the service manager to me could have been better.
  5. If possible, provide a reason why the customer received service that was less than they deserve or have come to expect: We have over 20 employees and thousands of cus­tomers, and we help multiple people per day improve their water, so every once in a while we do make a mistake.
  6. End on a positive note, and provide names and details of people the customer can contact directly if there’s any other way you can be of service: We will notify you of any scheduled maintenance in the future, so the only thing you need to think about is enjoying your water. If there’s any­thing else we can do to help you, please contact Jane, our service manager, or me, the general manager.
  7. Sign off personally so the customer knows someone impor­tant in the business has personally reviewed and addressed the issue: Kind regards, Joe Waterman.

Lastly, if a review meets Google’s prohibited or restricted content criteria, you can request the removal of the review. To view these criteria and learn the steps to request removal, visit

People understand that businesses are made up of people, and people make mistakes. Seeing a negative experience handled professionally, ethically, and quickly will only help to build credibility and confidence in your team.

Be sure you’ve got a good system in place to get a steady flow of great reviews from your customers to outweigh any negative ones.

You’ll soon find that something you’ve seen as not so great can be used for growth—both in character and in business.

About the author
Amanda Crangle and the team at Lamplight Digital Media help residential and commercial water-treatment companies profitably grow their dealerships using digital marketing. They have worked with over 100 water-treatment dealerships spanning North America, managed millions of dollars in ad spend, and performed over 1,000 scientific website split tests. Crangle intimately knows the water industry, having worked in a dealership as a sales rep and as a general manager.


Comments are closed.