Before You Give Negative Business Reviews, Consider This:

Negative Business Reviews Hurt Small Business Owners

When we think about negative business reviews, we think of Gordon Ramsey hurling butt clenching, well-warranted profanities to a business owner who failed to perform at their best. The man has high standards and of course, it’s no surprise that most small businesses fail due to a lack of detail, follow-up, and customer service. In these cases, small business owners should grow up, stop making excuses, and do the job right.

But then, there are those negative reviews that are just plain hurtful, untrue, and – well, mean. These reviews hurt small business owners and they impact families. So, before leaving a negative business review, please read this and think about the reverberating impact of a few critical sentences.

My Stories of Negative Business Reviews

I was visiting a friend’s family owned business having a great time when I noticed that my friend looked down.

He eventually sat across from me, sagged in defeat, and said, “I’m sorry that I haven’t been so talkative today. I woke up and saw a negative review on Yelp and it’s kept me down all day.”

He described the review to me and it was harsh. I felt for him.

He continued and said that he tried to respond politely and respectfully to the reviewer, but then another similarly phrased negative review suspiciously popped up right from another user right after his response. The reviewer made a personal attack about his ethnic background, accusing him (an immigrant) of insulting and hating Americans (of which there was no evidence). My friend was devastated. To him, the negative reviewer held the power over him and the success of his family.

My friend felt helpless. He couldn’t make the negative reviewer happy and he couldn’t change their response. And, with Yelp, it’s impossible to remove negative, disparaging and untruthful reviews.

It was clear to me that he felt personally attacked. He felt discouraged. And, he admitted that this review made him question his decision to leave his home country and the security there to come to America and help his family build their business just a few years ago.

As I sat across my friend whose shoulders were slumped in discouragement, my heart ached a little for him. The tingling pain of rejection and soul crushing feeling of criticism is something I’ve personally known and talked about.

I told him that I had a negative review once from a client who sat across from me who, in session, never said a word about her displeasure. Instead, she made fake friendly small talk while she planned to leave a negative business review online. When I read her review, I was shocked. I had never had a bad review before. I felt betrayed that someone could look me in the eye after I asked her if there was any questions or concerns and lie directly to my face when she said, “All good.” She had no courage or wherewithal to speak candidly about her unhappiness while she had the chance.

However, when I re-read it and compared it to my notes of the appointment, I realized she was lying. She failed to mention some key points of the meeting and the astounding accuracy of my reading of her issue. She didn’t like my methods and the result of the meeting. She didn’t want to hear the truth, so she lied in her review to show her displeasure. The credibility of her review went out the window, because – even though I couldn’t remove her review or even get her to contact me to discuss the issue – I knew that working out a challenging conflict with someone who can’t even be honest was never going to happen.

After going on an emotional roller coaster, I had to ground myself in some fundamental truths: not everyone wants to hear the truth and not everyone tells the truth. And, with hundreds and thousands of happy customers and fans under my belt, one negative opinion doesn’t a career destroy.


What Negative Business Reviews Force Businesses To Examine

I asked my friend two important questions:

Did you make any promises that you failed to deliver?


Are there things you can improve?

When it comes to negative business reviews, sometimes the customer is right. These important questions because criticism makes us evaluates the promises that you make and the areas you can improve. Negative business reviews give us a moment to reflect on how we do business. And, they help us focus on our priorities. We may need to re-prioritize to make improvements that are often free or low-cost to make.

As business owners, we make promises every day. These promises come in many forms: presentation, follow up, delivery, condition, and experience. Failing to deliver leads people to feel disappointed because they trusted us with their time, money, and resources. When we fail to deliver on our promises, we make critical mistakes that can cost us more than money.

Additionally, there are addressing weak points. Sometimes, we get so caught up working in the business that we fail to work on the business. This means that we’re so busy delivering that we’re not improving. And, from time to time, we get overwhelmed with just trying to keep up that getting ahead feels next to impossible. On a positive note, negative business reviews are a reality check on what we can do better. After the end of a speaking presentation or a coaching intensive, I take extra time to ensure that I’ve asked my client or audience member on what I can improve.

By giving your customers a chance to share their feelings and thoughts, you have done two important things: Show your appreciation of your customer by acknowledging their thoughts and needs. And, gave yourself an opportunity to make helpful improvements.


To The Unhappy Customer Thinking About Leaving Negative Business Reviews, Think About This Before Writing One:

negative business reviews

Before you give negative business reviews ask yourself:

Is it truthful?

You should always tell the truth in a review. Not your version of the truth. You should write what actually happened – as in facts. Don’t try to spin a situation into your favor to justify harsh words. Be as accurate as possible in your reporting and allow the reader to judge for themselves. If you have to convince people to believe you, then you probably need to get in touch with how you feel about the situation.


Is it helpful?

Will this review help others who read it? And, will the review help the business owner to see where they failed? If they made promises they didn’t keep and it left you feeling high and dry, then say something. But make sure that you’re doing it to be helpful and not spiteful.

Negative business reviews – when done right – can be a positive game changer. They can help business owners shed light on blind spots and give them the justification they need to make improvements. In these cases, everyone wins.

Check your feelings at the door. Negative business reviews should never be personal, even if they way we feel is deeply personal. Focus on the work and the experience, not on personal details that compromise the accuracy of your review and your integrity. If you’re simply attacking someone, walk away from the computer or phone. You may say something you regret. Remember, children are often affected by their parent’s ability to provide for them. Would you say your review in front of children?

In short: if you don’t have the guts to say something to someone’s face, then don’t say it.

To The Business Owner and Employees Dealing With Negative Business Reviews

Negative business reviews happen to event the best businesses. Sometimes, performance or products slip. And, on occasion, we have bad days and must account for human error. And, other times, customers take their bad days out on you. As an entrepreneur, we put our hearts and souls into our work. We hope that people will come and experience our talents and that their patronage and delight is reward enough for the blood, sweat, and tears we’ve shed in countless hours of man power.

But, negative business reviews can be the best thing that’s even happened to you. Why? Because they force you to take a look at yourself and think about how you run your business. And, they may even force you to acknowledge your feelings, priorities, and motivations. Don’t allow negativity to get you down, but use the feedback as a stepping stone to better performance or a ladder for more perspective.

My friend said he didn’t make any promises that he failed to deliver, but he does have intentions to make improvements where he can and given adequate resources. He knows he can’t please everybody who comes to his business – conflict is a natural part of business. The review confirmed his strategy to continue investing in his business.

I told him that for every negative review he gets, he gets thirty positive ones. And, he had a friend (me) right in front of him encouraging him to continue on even though he felt crushed. Negative business reviews a humbling, but they serve an important purpose: to keep improving in all areas.

Have You Ever Experienced A Negative Business Review?

Are you an entrepreneur or business owner that has experienced negative business reviews? How did you deal with the reverberations? Let us know in the comments. I want to hear from you.

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

Leslie Juvin-Acker

Leslie Juvin-Acker is Chief Happiness Officer of Leslie Inc. Since 2008, she has been coaching executives and business leaders all over the world. She is an expert in emotional intelligence and helps professionals tap into their own imagination to find solutions for personal and professional happiness.

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