Having a presence on social media can certainly be beneficial for business. But what should you do if you get some negative reviews or adverse comments appearing on your profile? Here are some tips to guide your response.

Even well run businesses will get the occasional complaint, but it’s how you handle the complaint that can make the difference, especially if it’s played out in public, on social media.

Basic principles in handling complaints:

  • Don’t take the complaint personally even if you’re the business owner. But personalise the response – use their name.
  • “The customer is always right” is still the best starting point for discussions. Even if they aren’t, they believe they are…
  • Acknowledge their position by re-stating their complaint
  • Don’t make excuses for the problem. Explain how to you intend to make it right.
  • Position your response that highlights your strengths / brand positioning / that this is an unusual occurrence.
  • Try and take the discussion offline.

As the complaint has been made online, in the vast majority of cases you should initially respond (promptly) online. It demonstrates to all your customers that you are listening. If you deal with the complaint well, you can actually enhance your reputation. However, don’t get into lengthy responses or repeated replies, with the problem acknowledged you can suggest asking them to either phone you when convenient or email you a suitable time for you to ring them and discuss further / sort out the details. Don’t reveal any of their details on line (thus the request for email).

Of course sometimes you will get a difficult customer who wants to rant and rave. Unfortunately there is not much that can be done. If you have demonstrated a desire to solve the problem, other visitors will generally accept you have been reasonable and see the difficult customer, as just that. Obviously, if you have a troll – someone commenting on your site without a genuine grievance – that needs to be dealt with differently.


When managing a business Facebook page, the settings should be set up to prevent visitors posting to your site.

Visitors to your Facebook page can make comments on a post. If these are of a complaint nature, they should be responded to. If they are persistent or you believe they are from a troll, they can be hidden (click on the three dots to the side of the comment for options). Hiding the comment, still allows you to continue the conversation, it is just that the comment and replies are now only visible to the person and their friends, it will not be visible on your Facebook page. The person has no idea their comment has been hidden.

If someone has given you a bad review on Facebook (eg. 1 star) it’s a lot more difficult to fix. Firstly, you don’t have to have the review functionality enabled on your Facebook page and you can turn it off anytime. Go to settings and edit the page info. However, having positive reviews does influence Edgerank, the Facebook ranking algorithm (so it can be worth having it enabled) and it can certainly help with customer conversions – obviously a high star rating is a good thing! But what can you do about the poor ratings…

You can report the review if it is contrary to Facebook policy or is actually nothing to do with the page. However, even if Facebook agrees with you, it will still take some time for the review to be removed. So other than turning off reviews, the only option is to deal with the review / complaint professionally (with at least the first responses visible online). If your customer is happy with your response and remedy, they can change their review and star rating. Alternatively, try and get more 4 and 5 star reviews, so the poor review(s) appear as an anomaly.


Google can be a little more receptive in helping remove an unjustified review. Again, click on the 3 small dots to the right of the review and “Flag as inappropriate”. You can then submit the violation report. However, you can also actually talk to someone at Google (Wow! An actual real person!). Go to your Google My Business account and click on “support” on the left hand side, click on “Need more help”, then click on “Customer reviews and photos” to get the contact options. There is still no guarantee they will remove it, so the alternatives are the same as per Facebook.

Phil Ridley, Director Bug Doctor Media

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