How to Handle Negative Reviews of Your Online Business


Bad news travels faster than good news.

Our brains are hardwired to protect us from harm. Think back to cavemen days when it was especially important to be attuned to threats like saber-toothed tigers. They would have been more likely to survive threats and, ultimately, have better odds of passing along their genes if aptly prepared to process, plan for and overcome these life-threatening beasts. After all, survival requires careful attention to threats but less urgent with regard to positive ones.

The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice potential threats and, hopefully, respond to it. According to a study done by John Cacioppo, Ph.D., at the University of Chicago, the brain reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems negative, and this is marked by a greater surge in electrical activity.

An article in “Psychology Today," describes how Cacioppo, in his study, showed images typically known to arouse positive feelings, those likely to stir up negative feelings, and those known to cause neutral feelings, which ultimately confirmed the brain's “negativity bias." Then he recorded electrical activity in the brain's cerebral cortex that reflects the magnitude of information processing taking place. Not surprisingly, bad news and events leave a stronger impact than good ones.

The pulverizing power of perception

Fast forward to modern times and not much has changed. Today's saber-toothed tiger takes the form of a bad boss, an abusive partner or threats to one's livelihood, in this case-negative customer reviews. Online interaction, for some businesses, is given scant attention. But for other businesses it's akin to enduring a root canal, producing an all-consuming wave of dread.

If you, or your business, has received negative online reviews, you're likely to feel angry, upset, powerless, and even confused. After all, no one sets out to underwhelm. But there are not many options to defend yourself against such attacks. However, there are steps to be taken to protect your reputation. Here are a few:

1. Always respond to reviews, good or bad.

There are myriad review sites (Yelp, Facebook, Groupon, Glassdoor, Google, Indeed, Comparably, and many more) that offer opportunities for customers and job-seekers the podium to, both, bash and praise your business. When you receive a negative review, and it's inevitable, remember that it is not the end of the world. In fact, it can be a positive experience, because you have the opportunity to respond promptly and politely. In doing so, you'll show that you care about the opinions and concerns of said naysayers. Others will not only read the negative complaints; they will also look to see how you respond, so make it sincere, professional and positive.

2. Ask current employees and potential job candidates to leave reviews.

Remember that bad news travels faster than good, so be as proactive as possible. Disgruntled employees and customers are far more likely to leave reviews, and by actively requesting company-wide reviews there's the opportunity to increase the ratio of positive to negative reviews.

Negative Uber reviews have been aplenty in recent months

3. Take the issue offline.

It may prove challenging, especially if the bad review seems unfair or harsh, but try to avoid engaging in discussions of details. Respond in a non-defensive manner that demonstrates you are listening, and get the conversation offline as quickly as possible. For example, you might say, “Thank you for taking the time to provide valuable feedback. I would love the chance to talk about your experience in greater detail; please reach me directly at..." Whenever possible, deal directly with “public" complaints as opposed to a customer service representative.

4. Ask to have negative reviews removed.

If a review is negative or you suspect that it's been left by a troll, you do have another option.

Though you can't delete it, you can ask that the comment be reviewed by a member of the publisher's team.Fake reviews do happen (competitors). According to research by a CRM software company, one out of every three consumers who receive a retailer response to their online complaint end up reposting a positive review. Furthermore, 34 percent end up deleting their negative review altogether. According to Google, your best initial course of action is to directly contact the owner of the site where the negative content is published, and ask them to remove it.

Though this rarely works, it occasionally does. Google explains that after you or the site's webmaster has removed or edited the page, the removal of negative comments can be expedited by using Google's URL removal tool.

5. Negative customer reviews can help your business to thrive.

Customers who are experiencing difficulty or disappointment, with your product or service-and tell you about it-are doing you a favor. A survey found that for every customer who complains about an issue, 26 remain silent. Simply, and effectively, solving the challenge of one complaint might just improve your product for many others.

Reputation management in the age of social media

The digital era has transformed the business/customer relationship dramatically, for better and for worse. Power has shifted from businesses toward consumers with regards to trumpeting a company's message. While companies could carefully hone their message, in years past, with traditional advertising tools (print, billboards, radio,etc.), social media has almost completely transferred that power to consumers-hence the ongoing struggle of brand management.

The sheer number of players involved, exacerbated by unrelenting speed, has created what seems like a perfect storm of anxiety and stress for business owners. In case you haven't done so already, familiarize yourself with the social tools to monitor keywords: TweetBinder and SocialMention, are just two good options.

One unenthused Ruby Tuesday diner shares his frustration

These tools will enable you to search various social networks for keywords and hashtags related to your business. Take it a step further and set up “alerts" (ex: Google Alerts) so that you know whenever your brand is mentioned.

Remember, awareness is the first step to brand management and ultimate business success. Now more than ever it is crucial to respond, when needed, to negative comments. Sometimes, just being aware of what's being said, about your business, will help to inform and guide your customer service engagements.

There's a timeless Warren Buffett quote that aptly describes what's at stake: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." You owe it to yourself to protect your reputation.

5 min read

3 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress Each Evening (Instead of Reaching for Another Cocktail)

When we envision a person who is suffering from substance use disorder (SUD)—defined by having a history of past misuse, experiencing increasing mental health symptoms, or having a family history of addiction—we often picture someone waking up and instantly grabbing their first drink. However, in my experience working with those battling SUD for nearly a decade, I've learned that everyone's relationship with alcohol looks different and having a few too many drinks at night can be just as dangerous.

The time of day, amount, or type of alcohol one drinks doesn't define if they suffer from SUD or not—it's the compulsion to drink. By focusing on healthy stress relievers and implementing them into your daily routine, you aren't just avoiding another glass at night, you are curbing any inclination for SUD that you may have.

While you may feel the desire to reach for another drink after dinner and putting the kids to bed to relieve some of the stress you incurred that day, there are other things that you can do that are much more beneficial to your mental health and wellbeing.

Risks of Reaching for Another Drink

Reaching for another cocktail or glass of wine can feel like a great way to relieve the stress of the day at the time, but over time it can actually lead to the opposite. Excessive drinking is known to lead to increased anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders such as increased risk of family problems, altered judgment, and worsened sleep quality. These can all lead to increased stress and create a continuous cycle I have seen in many of my patients, which often prove difficult to break.

Increased alcohol consumption can directly impact an individual's mood and temperament, too. In my patients, I've seen a connection between increased alcohol consumption and irritability, fatigue, and loss of interest in activities that previously brought that person joy—activities that people should always put time into, especially right now during the pandemic.

While drinking in moderation doesn't have serious implications for some, others are already at increased risk for SUD. One drink per day is considered moderate for women, while eight drinks or more in a single week is categorized as heavy drinking. It's important to monitor your intake—whether you are at increased risk for SUD or not. It is all too easy for one glass to become another, and then another. And if you keep reaching for just one more drink, you can start to build a tolerance, as it requires more and more alcohol to achieve the desired effect. This can result in dangerous, addictive habits that will alter your life, and the lives of those who care for you.

Three Healthy Ways to Relieve Evening Stress

Stress relief from alcohol is short-lived, but choosing healthier, alternative stress relievers can provide long-lasting benefits for both your mental and physical wellbeing. At Wellbridge, our team not only focuses on treating addiction but also on teaching healthy habits to support ongoing sobriety. And many of these learnings can be implemented to avoid addiction by handling stress better as well!

Below are three healthy stress relief ideas you can implement into your routine:

  1. Mindfulness exercises can be a powerful and mentally stimulating stress reliever. Throughout our therapeutic program at Wellbridge, we provide different opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. For example, breathing exercises, such as box breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, mindful walking, and progressive muscle relaxation. If you're looking for entry, guided meditation, check out this YouTube channel where experts post mindfulness exercises each week.
  2. Human connection is invaluable. Whether it is your spouse, your children, a friend, or even a therapist, connecting with someone else can be a great way to relieve stress. The additional perspective that another person provides can also help us feel that the anxieties and stressors we are experiencing are more manageable. If you are feeling increased stress from loneliness or isolation, reach out and schedule a Zoom coffee hour with a friend, or call a loved one to check-in and chat.
  3. Physical activity is an excellent stress reliever as well, for so many reasons. Not only can it help us get our mind off of stress, it enables our bodies to release endorphins and provides long-lasting physical health benefits. Physical activity doesn't need to be a full-blown workout if you don't feel up to it, or simply don't have extended periods of time to dedicate to a longer exercise regimen. Even a short walk or some stretching can go a long way towards improving your mood. I enjoy following guided, online yoga practices for both mindfulness practice and physical activity.

Despite my years working in this space, I am no stranger to giving in to stress. However, I've learned that by allotting myself a little time each morning and evening for activities that set a positive tone in my life—like meditation, journaling, and exercise—I've been able to better manage my stress and feel more prepared for heightened periods of stress. Do I manage to set aside personal time every morning and evening? Definitely not—life happens! But by doing our best to take regular time out for ourselves, we're all certain to be in a better place emotionally and mentally.

Putting Your Mental Health & Wellbeing First

It's important to also recognize that it isn't just stress that causes us to reach for another drink at night. With the added pressures and responsibilities of women in today's world, having another glass of our favorite drink at the end of the day can often seem like a quicker and easier option than other healthier ways to relieve stress.

However, it's essential to put your mental health and wellbeing front and center in your priority list—something that many women struggle with. But just like the oxygen masks on an airplane, you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself first. By focusing on implementing small, healthy habits and making them a seamless part of your daily routine, you ensure that you can show up in all aspects of your life and for all the people in your life.

If you are struggling with increased stress, be specific and honest with your support system about your need to preserve your mental wellbeing. Prioritizing your needs will help you be there for other people you care about in your life.

I always refer back to a quote from a Dar Williams song—a song about therapy no less! "Oh, how I loved everybody else when I finally got to talk so much about myself." Talk about your needs with others and find time to develop healthy coping habits. And if you feel as though you've already created an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, discuss that relationship with a medical advisor to learn if advanced treatment is the right option for you.