How I Turned One Of My Worst Reviews Into A Raving Fan

When I read a negative review, my day is destroyed.

I lose my focus. I lose my mojo. I lose any motivation to do anything. Simple words posted by an anonymous person behind a random keyboard by someone who had a bad experience at my restaurant take all the wind out of my sails.

I get angry. I want to defend myself. They have no idea what they are talking about and are idiots. I get sad. I wonder if my restaurant REALLY IS that bad and how it’s possible that I’m even open.

I wonder what went wrong. I blame my staff. They must not be following all the training and procedures I have in place. I wonder if they even care about my restaurant. I wonder where the manager on duty was. How could they not see this person having such a terrible experience? They must have been in the back office scrolling on their phone not even paying attention. Where do I find new staff and a new manager? Clearly, they can’t do their jobs. Is my training program not good enough? Have I dropped the ball in training and holding them accountable?

I wonder what time of day it happened, what did they have to eat, maybe they are just angry people. I want to lash out and tell them a thing or two. Don’t they realize how hard it is to own and run a small business? Why wouldn’t they just say something while at the restaurant? We would have fixed it right then and there!

I try to work. Try to do my tasks and get my projects done. I’m not very focused and am completely distracted by all my thoughts. And then. It’s time to go home. I carry these feelings home and my family and friends notice. I’m crabby.

And so, it is. A full day wasted because of 24 words someone wrote and posted online. It probably took them 45 seconds. It took me 24 hours to recover. And what’s even richer? Most don’t even remember posting it and come back to your place next week. One person’s 45-second vent destroyed my entire day.

Yes, this is an actual re-creation of a day in my life from many years ago. And yes, the poster did come back and had forgotten what had been previously posted. After this happened a couple times, I knew I needed a different system.

Does this sound anything like you?

Here are some important things to consider when establishing a system for responding to negative or less-than flattering online reviews.

Respond To Each And Every Online Review
– Both Positive And Negative.

Not only is this REALLY good for your online review algorithm, it also helps repel what I like to call the “dog pile.” Have you ever noticed that positive reviews generally produce more positive reviews? And the opposite of this is also true – negative reviews produce more negative reviews. If you haven’t noticed this, watch for it.

You see, it’s WAY more difficult for a poster to write a 1-star review if the latest post is 5 stars. You see, in most cases, posters will follow the general trends of the previous posts (I’m not saying this is a hard and fast rule, but generally.) If they see mostly 5-star reviews and they are planning to post a 1-star, they will tend to shy away from actually posting and question their planned post. If the last post was a 1-star post, it is easier to follow that with another 1-star post. It’s confirmation bias. “If someone else posted 1 star, then my 1-star must be also true”.

By responding to each and every post, there is an effect on the potential poster that this is actually going to get read and responded to. From my experience, most posters are NOT interested in a dialogue, they want to vent and are not interested in a resolution. Think about it. If they were interested in a dialogue and a solution, they would have told you about the issue while in your place of business and received a resolution on the spot. Instead, they post something negative online and walk away. By seeing your reply to each and every post, this can influence or second guess their post BEFORE they post an all-out negative rant.

Take The Resolution Offline.

If there is a specific issue to be resolved, do NOT do it publicly. Take the resolution offline via email. I never use my personal email address for this. Set up an email address specifically for these types of situations. Maybe “info@” or “help@.”

By dealing with this offline, you can be more generous with your solution and work to understand the issue completely. Offering a refund or free item in the comments can open you up to a floodgate of negative reviews because they see that free items or refunds happen when they post negative reviews.

Another benefit of offline resolutions can also result in raving fan customers. One of my best customers came from successfully resolving a negative review. I listened to their concerns and clarified what the issues were. By doing this, the customer helped me develop a process with a training problem regarding service animals. With this input, we worked together to create a clear process and what to do in similar types of situations. This negative post became the catalyst for a better restaurant and now the customer feels completely engaged in my business.


Take a breath. Do not post anything immediately. It may feel completely satisfying to write an emotional reply and may seem like a good idea to get this done immediately, but PLEASE wait.

Once you have written a reply, give it to someone else to read. And more importantly – LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY. This may be the most difficult part as our energy levels are generally high when someone attacks our business.

Delegate This To Someone Else.

This may be the most critical part. In fact, I KNOW it is the most critical part. The reviews are insights into someone’s experience at your place of business. This is how they felt at that time. Although it may seem like a personal attack, it is not. It’s their evaluation of your business at that moment in time. When these reviews begin to hit us on a personal level, it is time to have someone else handle them.

AND by having someone else handle the monitoring and replies, you’ll avoid losing a day of focused work like what used to happen to me every time a poor review was posted. THIS is perhaps the most valuable reason to delegate this process.

After a couple years of being depressed when seeing negative reviews and losing countless hours of focus work, I hired Michael Thibault and his company Done For You Marketing Systems to take care of all this.

In fact, I don’t even know that last time I looked at any sites to check my reviews because I know it is being handled by professionals. Every review is being answered and I get looped in to approve the replies to negative reviews. It is a beautiful thing, and I can’t remember the last time I got depressed about a negative post.