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3 Ways to Handle a Negative Review


In 1977, the Ramones played at London’s Rainbow Theater on New Years Eve. It’s considered to be the greatest performance of their entire career, and would later show up on It’s Alive, which is considered to be one of the 100 best live albums ever produced. Yet if you go to the video of that performance on YouTube right now, 42 really grumpy people don’t like it.

The point is, no matter how many people think you’re awesome, there is going to be a percentage of people who will want to give you a negative review. The best way to handle it is to be prepared for it.

What happened to cause the review is almost beside the point. How you respond to it is your opportunity to turn it into a positive experience, for you, for your customer, and for anyone who reads that review later:

  • Respond: Woody Allen’s secret to success applies to responding to a negative review. “80 percent of success is just showing up.” Most angry customers assume that their complaints are falling into a vacuum. A prompt response that asks some specific questions about the situation is so rare that it has the power to immediately defuse a tense situation.
  • Be Authentic: Think about all the times you’ve gotten an insincere apology. It’s almost worse than the incident that started the negative review in the first place. Being authentic means having empathy for the customer who wrote the review; understanding how their experience fit into an already stressful time either purchasing a new car, or having some major service performed.
  • Be Tactful: Negative reviews and responses are not only opportunities for you to resolve a particular situation. They’re like a display case for potential customers to understand how they can expect to be treated by your dealership. You can disagree with the sentiments in the review, but being tactful and conciliatory in your response helps people understand more about the personal approach you take to handling negative feedback.

No matter what you put out for public consumption, the moment it hits the street, it’s open for criticism. Learning to absorb that feedback without taking it personally is the key to successful relationships with future customers.