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The Only Way to Handle Bad Reviews With Grace

Nobody likes to receive a notification about a bad review, but it’s your response that defines the effect of the negative feedback. Criticism can hurt, even if it’s intended to help — and it’s especially difficult to swallow when it’s sitting on a public forum for the world to see!

But rest assured that you’re not alone. Everyone gets bad reviews throughout their career — that’s just part of doing business! In some cases, they are justified and provide you with direction to grow. In other situations, they’re patently false claims filed by an unhappy individual or “troll.”

How you handle a bad review speaks to your brand’s integrity and your ability to solve a problem, so what you do after receiving public criticism matters most. Save these tips for the next time you’re confronted with a review that leaves you feeling emotional and overwhelmed.

Sit on your response for a moment.
Your first reaction to a bad review may be to give them a piece of your mind, but if you’re riding an emotional wave, that will only end up doing more damage to your brand. You must demonstrate your calm and rational approach to conflict resolution — not a flurry of defensive statements with a few choice words to let them know how you really feel.

Take a pause and step away from the computer to mull over the feedback. Let the initial gut punch fade away and consider the criticism. Is it unfounded, or is there merit to it? Start crafting a thoughtful response in your head, then take it to your computer. If you’re on the hook, accept ownership for the problem and offer a solution to resolve the issue. Keep it brief and request to discuss on a phone call, taking the exchange offline. 

Take action on false reviews.
Genuine bad reviews can sting, but the fake ones seem to feel worse! How could someone tarnish your reputation with no clear reason? Suddenly, the panic sets in as you realize your prospects are seeing this negative comment — even though it’s 100% false!

First things first, write a response that clears the air and confirms that you’ve never associated with the reviewer. (Pro tip: Save this response as a template for future use!) It can be as simple as saying, “I’m sorry, I have no records of your event in our system and have never met with you. I would appreciate it if you could remove this false review.”

Then, once you’ve done damage control, get in touch with the review site. Most allow for disputes, so follow the proper course of action to contest the validity of the review until it’s removed. This can be a time-consuming process, but your brand reputation is worth it!

Build your positive feedback.
A few bad reviews get lost in a sea of positivity, so start generating the good stuff! Ask all of your past and current customers for testimonials and online reviews to drown out the few naysayers with praises for your business.

If you haven’t created a system already, start adding this request into your post-event offboarding process to ensure everyone is asked to contribute. In addition to boosting your online reviews, you’ll also gather some meaningful social proof to add to your website and establish third-party validation!

Negative reviews aren’t fun to deal with, but unfortunately, they’re inevitable in business. So let go of the toxicity associated with criticism, learn from your mistake, and handle all feedback with grace and acceptance. No review is worth the headache, so keep carrying on and leaning into the good!

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Elizabeth Sheils is the co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, the first software platform to bring together wedding planners, couples, and vendors into one system for managing and paying contracts and invoices. Elizabeth is also a lead wedding planner with award-winning firm Bridal Bliss, where she manages the Seattle team. She was recently recognized by Special Events in its Top 25 Event Pros to Watch series.

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