February 10, 2020

Education, Marketing, Social Media Marketing

How to Respond to Negative Client Reviews Online

ashley durham photography in savannah georgia
Created by Ali Coşkunfrom the Noun Project

I have been a professional photographer for nearly ten years and in those ten years, I can think of three clients that I’ve had a tough time with; of those three, only one took the time to leave me a negative review.

how to respond to negative client reviews

I’m not gonna try and sugarcoat it – having someone be angry with me is so uncomfortable. The idea of not being well-liked really gets under my skin, because I pride myself on being the type of person who can make the best of situations, make people laugh, and provide excellent customer service. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I’m very sensitive to the emotions of others, which is my Achilles heel as a business owner.

The fact is we can’t be well-liked by every single person we have ever met; it’s just not possible.

It’s even harder for a small-business owner like me when the people who don’t like you take the time to try and ruin your reputation by leaving a negative review on big places like Google. You lose that golden 5-star average and because your business is a reflection of you, it’s easy to take it super personal.

But do NOT panic if you get a negative client review!! I have actually come to appreciate seeing negative reviews of businesses on Google or Yelp. What?! Why? Because I am a firm believer that the way someone reacts to negativity shows much more about their ethics and character than the jaded opinion of a negative Nancy.

How to Respond to Negative Client Reviews

When I got my first negative review from a past client, it honestly wasn’t too surprising. If I was able to leave client reviews, I would have left them a 1-star review, too; they were awful to me both personally and professionally and were honestly one of the reasons I took a step back from weddings in 2019, why I changed some of the verbiage in my contracts, and increased booking retainers from 25% to 50%.

I want future brides and grooms to read about what happened. I want future clients to see what went wrong, and more importantly – I want them to see how I responded to the negativity.

you cant make everyone happy youre not pizza

Y’all … Negative reviews are NOT the end of the world (even though it might feel like it in the moment).

Instead, I want you to think of them as opportunities.

If you’re a boss babe entrepreneur, I want you think about it: if you saw someone leave a negative review, do you look to see how the business responds? If they don’t respond, do you think, “what do they have to hide?” When they responded, do you gain or lose respect for them?

Sometimes I have purposely avoided a business by seeing how terrible their response to the review was; alternatively, sometimes I have purposely supported a business by seeing the positive way they handled a negative review.

So, how do you respond to a negative review? There are 3 really important things I want you to do:

First: you take a step back. Don’t respond right away, because you need time to think and process. Give yourself a solid 12-24 hours to respond, so you can respond rationally and not emotionally.

Second: respond to the client’s concerns specifically. If they bring up a sore point, respond to it directly and with kindness. Validate their feelings and their experience, and explain your side of the experience.

Third: read, re-read, and re-read your response before posting. Take the hurt emotion out, and keep it professional. State facts, not feelings.

But you know what the most important thing you can do if you get a negative review?

Take a good look at what you can do in the future to avoid situations like you found yourself in with your negative client experience. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening again?
  • Are there warning signs should I look for?
  • What can I do in the future if this situation presents itself again?

In the case with my single bad review, I realized after the experience I had with them I needed to change my pre-booking experience for couples. I did this by making sure they now completely understand all of the terms of my contract, what I expect of them as clients, and what they can expect from me in return.

Interested in learning more from me about all things business?

If you want to learn more about managing client expectations and other business education – check out some more of my business education blogs!


© ashley durham photography