A Communications Strategy for Managing Bad Company Reviews

Jul 6, 2023Strategy

Take a look at your company’s online reviews—the reviews from customers and those left by employees. What do you see? How do they make you feel?

Online reviews offer a window into a company’s internal culture and customer experience, so it’s important to pay attention to them, respond promptly, and accept each review as an opportunity to learn and improve.


Company Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Untrue

Goodwin Consulting clients frequently ask us how they should handle negative company reviews. But before tackling bad reviews, you need to familiarize yourself with the review process as a whole.

Every review site has its own rules and guidelines. Some platforms are specifically for customers (e.g., Google, Better Business Bureau), while others are designed to gather anonymous feedback from current and former employees (e.g., Glassdoor, Indeed).

All the top review sites permit companies to respond to their reviews. Make it a priority to respond quickly—ideally within 24 hours!


Not every bad review is terrible news

As an owner or executive, you’ll naturally pay close attention to any and all negative feedback. Keep in mind, however, that most customers and prospective employees aren’t put off by a small percentage of dissatisfied reviewers.

No one expects a company’s reviews to be 100% positive. If the majority of your company’s reviews are good, a few less-than-stellar reviews aren’t going to tank your business. 


Offer alternatives to posting publicly

Commonly, people post negative reviews online because they want to be heard. Maybe they initially tried to resolve their concerns directly with your company but felt ignored or dismissed due to your team’s lackluster communications strategy (or, in the case of an unhappy employee, weak HR processes.)

Before social media became the publicity powerhouse it is today, Goodwin provided PR consulting to a company that managed commuter trains in Massachusetts.

Passengers had complaints and felt they weren’t being heard, so we convinced the company’s GM to begin hosting regular “Meet the Manager” events where passengers could share their experiences and feel heard.

By giving these individuals a voice, the company dramatically lessened the likelihood that a passenger would take their complaint public—say, to The Boston Globe


Listen, learn, and act

Whatever the case, your first step in the event of a negative review should be to promptly apologize for the individual’s bad experience. Whether or not you agree with the complaint, validating the reviewer’s feelings is a powerful step toward diminishing their dissatisfaction.

If you recognize a complaint as legitimate, own the mistake and outline the steps your team is taking to prevent similar issues in the future. Then actually take those steps.

Use negative feedback to improve your company culture, employee communications, customer service, product and service offerings, and anything else generating bad reviews. 


When it’s not you; it’s them 

If you’re confident that the complaint is NOT valid, your biggest challenge will be to avoid getting defensive. Even a well-presented, rational defense of your company can exacerbate an individual’s hurt or anger, prompting them to double down on their claims.

Instead, thank the reviewer for sharing their experience, tell them you’re sorry that your company could not meet their needs, and invite them to contact you by phone for a personal conversation. If your communications strategy is rooted in concern and compassion, you may find a resolution that will turn their negative perception into a positive experience!


Defamation is a different beast

Though rare, some people do leave reviews that are outright lies or riddled with vulgar language, and those reviews should be addressed directly with the review site. Every major review platform has a dispute process for requesting the removal of an untrue or inappropriate review.

One Goodwin client terminated the employment of an individual who misrepresented their qualifications and destroyed a $30,000 piece of equipment. This former employee reacted by repeatedly, persistently disparaging the company on social media with untruths and abusive commentary.

If you’re facing a similar situation and can’t get help from the review platform, companies like Reputation 911 specialize in helping companies address online defamation.


Positive reviews are your best defense 

While review sites are notorious for negative reviews, they’re also a repository for positive reviews! And good reviews are truly your number one defense against any and all negative commentary. Positive reviews push bad reviews off the front page, diluting their impact and keeping your overall reputation rating high.

If your company culture and customer experience are strong, encourage your employees and customers to leave reviews online. Happy teams and buyers are typically glad to go that extra mile and share their honest assessments with prospective employees and customers.


Real reviews only!

Occasionally, clients will ask us if they can create their own rave reviews.

The answer is always NO.

Your company’s reviews must be authentic. Period, end of story.


Let Goodwin Guide Your Communications Strategy 

We love helping Goodwin clients develop a proactive communications strategy for responding to reviews. Our team can craft easy-to-implement instructions with outlines for navigating each platform and handling numerous scenarios.

To help generate positive reviews, we can even assist by interviewing interested employees, writing their reviews for them, then passing the content back to them to approve and post online.

Our goal is to help you simplify and streamline the process of gathering great reviews.

Find out how to get started