Imagine this scenario: You own a small ice cream shop in the middle of a downtown district. You’ve been in business for about a year and things are going well, until one day you notice a negative online review of your store. Immediately your heart sinks, your palms start to sweat and your heartbeat soars. You are livid and want to respond in the most negative way possible.

“This is a normal way to feel,” says Jason McDonald, director of JM Internet Group, a social media and SEO consulting company in Fremont, Calif. “You put your heart and soul into your business; when someone says something negative about your business, it can feel as bad as someone telling you that you have an ugly baby. It is very personal.”

Before reaching for your keyboard, take note of McDonald’s tips on how to respond to a negative online review.

Take the emotion out of responding to a negative review

It doesn’t pay to show a public display of anger when you receive negative press online, because, as McDonald points out, your comments are on display for the world to see.

“Remember that you aren’t only talking to the person who gave you the bad review, you are talking to the dozens of other people who are reading your response,” he says. “You always want to take the high ground.”

Can’t calm down? Take some time. You don’t need to respond right away. Talk to a friend about how you are feeling, go for a walk or engage in another work task to take your mind off of the review. Go back and respond when you feel calm and collected.

Create a proactive review plan

Now that you’ve responded to the negative review, it’s time to try to prevent future bad reviews from happening at all. McDonald recommends small business owners establish a proactive review strategy that includes following up with happy customers a few days (or hours) after their purchase.

“Ask every one of your happy customers to write a positive review of your business online,” he suggests. “Some of them will and those comments will help bolster your status online with potential customers.” 

How to Respond to a Negative Online Review