How to Deal with a Negative Online Review

Nowadays online reviews aren’t just helpful, they are expected. We see them everywhere from Amazon when buying a toothbrush to Yelp when we’re browsing for a new restaurant to try. The truth is, online reviews are extremely critical to the growth of pretty much any business or company trying to get business online or offline.

In 2019, it’s estimated that more than 91 percent of consumers turn to online reviews before purchasing a product or calling a professional service like an accounting firm. If you don’t have reviews of your accounting practice visible online, you’re missing out on possible leads.

However, many accountants hesitate when it comes to asking for online reviews. They worry that clients will find it annoying if they are asked to leave reviews or they fear what might happen if someone leaves a negative review. Generally, we find that most clients are really easy to deal with and don’t have any problems leaving a nice review for the work you’ve completed for them. However, eventually, you might have an unhappy client who decides to leave a one-star review. If this happens, what should you do?

Understand the cause of the issue

Start by understanding the specific issue this client has, assuming there is one. The client may be upset about price, an employee, the value of the services, etc.

If there is a solution to the problem they have, you should work to fix it – or take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. This is important to help prevent another bad review but also just for your overall reputation.

If you’re going to respond, take the conversation offline

Typically reviews are left on a platform like Google or Facebook where you, as the business owner, can respond. But, there’s usually not a need air things out publicly. You don’t always know about the personality of the person who has left the review. Sometimes responding publicly can just lead to more backlash.

If you decide you want to respond, try reaching out to the client directly and in a non-public way. Acknowledge the client’s problem (even if you don’t agree with their point of view) and offer a solution (if one is available.) Let them know that you take them seriously. If the client feels wronged, offer an apology.

Let the bad review get buried by positivity

The best thing to do with a bad review is bury it with positive ones. Consumers are used to reading online reviews. I’m sure you yourself browse reviews before adding something to your cart. We are used to seeing products and services with a range of star ratings. And, we’ve gotten quite good at determining which reviews are valid and which aren’t. Some studies actually support that idea that consumers trust businesses with 4 star ratings more than a perfect 5-star rating because they perceive it as more honest.

If you’re buying something on Amazon that has 100 reviews and there are six one-star reviews, it probably won’t stop you from buying the product if the other 94 people left 4 and 5 stars. If you’re browsing hotels and see some negative reviews, you might read them first to determine if these people’s complaints are something you’d worry about yourself.

Prospective clients will do the same with your firm. If they see one bad review and 12 good reviews, they will likely be able to make the conclusion that this was probably an isolated case or a hard-to-please client.

About the Author

Kallie Branciforte is the Content & Digital Marketing Manager at Build Your Firm (, an internet marketing and website development company exclusively for the accounting industry. Kallie’s professional experience is in SEO strategy, content creation, and digital and social media marketing. At Build Your Firm, her role is to assist the team and clients with their digital and content marketing strategy to improve lead generation and website conversion.

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