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Meghan Ely Photo by Aaron Watson Photography

Smart Ways to Respond to Bad Reviews

A bad online review isn't fatal--if you handle it right. Meghan Ely has some smart ideas.

Getting a bad review from a client is something that we all fear, but it’s time to realize that the longer you are in business, this is inevitable. This is especially true in today’s world, which mixes technology, social media, and a savvy client base. Customers rely heavily on other reviews and, statistically speaking, are more likely to share bad experiences publicly before trying to resolve them.

So what’s a business owner to do when that dreaded bad review appears? Here are some of my best tips for how to handle it.

Plan Ahead
Believe it or not, in many cases, a bad review can be avoided by simply following up with each and every client after their event to ask how their experience was. It doesn’t matter how big or small it was or even if you think you know what the answer is--someone needs to reach out to everyone and get feedback before they have a chance to post anything. Personally, I would always approach a client at the end of the night and ask outright how their event went. This gives them an immediate opportunity to say something, if they feel so inclined.  

Remain Calm
Your first inclination might be to respond immediately so anyone looking at your reviews doesn’t get an immediate bad impression. However, more than likely, the general online public is not going to be looking at your account and your reviews at the same time.

You have time, so use it to think about what you want to say and how to say it. Also, be sure to take a closer look to ensure that any bad news isn’t a fake review--it happens. If it is, don’t respond. Instead, get in touch with the review site to lodge a complaint, and be prepared to provide proof that it is fabricated.  

Remove the Emotion
As event professionals working in the hospitality industry, we are natural people-pleasers, so getting a bad review is understandably going to be a blow. However, it is important to remember that you can’t deal with these matters based on emotion, but instead need to stick to the facts.

Before you start writing your response, gather all of the necessary information, from your own recollection, your notes, talking to appropriate staff members, and contacting other trusted vendors that were involved to make sure you have a full understanding of the situation.

Crafting Your Response
Treat your response like any other communication going out to the public. Be prepared for multiple drafts and editing from yourself and other trusted staff members.

While every bad review will require a custom response, generally, you will want to confirm their feelings about what happened, briefly explain the situation, what was done to rectify it, and most importantly, encourage them to reach out to you to discuss further to get the conversation offline.

Once you feel confident that you have a final draft, walk away from it before sending and give yourself a few hours before you review it again. If you still feel good about it, go ahead and send it out. If the client responds, be sure that you are getting the conversation offline.

At this point, it may also be a good idea to get in touch with previous clients you know had a positive experience with your company and encourage them to write reviews as well, so that you are getting a diverse grouping of clients on your page.

At the end of the day, one bad review isn’t going to break you or your business. Take it as a learning experience and use it as a time to reevaluate how you handled the situation and what can be done in the future to avoid the same thing happening. 

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 


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