How to handle negative reviews and comments


I just read a post on the subject of dealing with negative comments on sites like Yelp and social media. The author says, in a nutshell, that if the statement is factually untrue, and you can prove it, you can ask the site to remove it. If it is an opinion, the author says to, “add a comment to the post explaining your rational [sic] in a non-hostile way and how you plan on addressing the situation.”

I disagree. I would not respond to negative reviews in a public forum. Doing so only invites more negative comments, from the original poster or from others who side with him or see the need to defend him.

An opinion is an opinion. If they didn’t like something, they didn’t like it. Right or wrong, it’s their opinion. Any efforts to defend or explain yourself will only make you look bad. As much as it might hurt, it’s almost always best to ignore these comments, at least publicly.

If you can identify the client who made the post, reach out to them privately. See if you can resolve the issue. Apologize, make amends, offer satisfaction. Do what you can to win back the client, or at least make them see that their public comment was too harsh and retract or amend it.

The author recommends encouraging visitors to the site or thread to contact you privately by email, so you can respond to questions or comments. I’m not sure that’s a good idea. You want people to communicate with you, of course, and that includes negative comments. But if you “make an appearance” on the forum or in the thread to extend this invitation, you leave readers wondering why you didn’t respond to the negative comment(s).

The better way to handle this is before it occurs. Make sure your clients and others who engage with you and your staff are openly and repeatedly encouraged to contact you if they have any questions or concerns. Let them know that if they are unhappy about anything, you want to hear about it. Set up mechanisms that make it easy for people to contact you, even anonymously. And remind them to do so. When people know they can blow off steam directly to you, they may be a little less likely to do it publicly.

One thing the author of this post and I agree on, if you do have negative comments, ask some of your happy clients to post positive comments. If you have enough positive comments, you can effectively bury the negative ones. People are smart. If you have twenty positive comments and one that is critical, most people will put things in context.

I know many attorneys resist getting involved with social media and review sites like Yelp because they don’t want to invite negative comments. But these will occur, if they occur, regardless of your involvement. The better course of action is to be proactive. Set up accounts and invite your clients to share their views. I suspect most will be positive. If an unhappy individual comes along, perhaps even the losing party in an acrimonious case, there will be no need for you to defend yourself, your other clients will do it for you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to handle negative reviews. What do you do, or plan to do, about negative comments?

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  1. Well, that’s one way to handle a negative review. An approach that’s worked well for me over the years is to send the Corleone brothers over to say hello 🙂