Imagine you discover a client with a past-due balance has posted a negative review of your business on a popular social media platform. They tagged your Pillar To Post franchise’s business page and people are commenting and sharing the post. How would you respond? How should you respond?

Many people’s first instinct is to defend themselves against online mischaracterizations. But handling negative reviews online isn’t so simple. As a business owner, responding to negative public feedback in the wrong way could expose your business to considerable risks, including:

  • Further damage to your reputation
  • Increased negative publicity
  • Possible ethics, regulatory or legal issues
  • Risk of a professional liability claim
  • Potential loss of business
  • Risk to business viability

You may have the urge to respond immediately to set the record straight. But it’s far better for your franchise to take a deep breath and consider all your options.

Approaches to Avoid when Handling Negative Reviews

There are many ways to handle a negative review, but certain approaches are riskier than others. If your franchise is faced with a negative review, it’s best to avoid the following:

1. Avoid Initiating Direct Contact

If the negative review comes from a former client, you will likely have their phone number or email at your fingertips. At first, this may seem like a good idea, but emotions on both sides will run high. As a business owner, you may feel embarrassed or angry, while your former client may be too emotional to listen to reason. This makes it hard to have a productive conversation.

2. Avoid Drafting a Hasty Response

You may want to make a quick public refutation of the negative reviewer’s claims but resist the urge. A hasty, casual response may violate professional ethics rules, industry regulations or privacy laws. An off-the-cuff reply may also make it harder to defend against a claim.

3. Avoid Requesting a Take-down

Requesting to have the review removed by the website also carries risk. Even if a negative review is removed, a summary or screenshot could circulate and spread the negative information. Attempting to remove information posted on the internet can often draw more attention to it.

Factors to Consider Before You Respond to a Negative Reviews

It’s difficult to control if or when a negative review will be posted about your business. However, you can control how you respond. Manage the risk by keeping these three factors in mind:

1. Objectivity

Take a deep breath and analyze the reviewer’s post objectively. Most people are savvy internet users who don’t pay much attention to reviews with spelling or grammar mistakes, or that are irrational or implausible.

2. Attention

Remember that your own response may draw as much or more attention than the original review. Stay calm and draft a prepared response, understanding that your other clients and future potential customers may see it.

3. Professionalism

If you decide a response is warranted, make sure your answer is accurate, truthful and doesn’t break any rules, regulations or terms of service.


The risk of experiencing a negative review is high. Social media is the medium of choice for many consumer complaints. But you can help manage the risk to your franchise by avoiding common pitfalls and responding appropriately. Even when faced with the sting of negative feedback, it’s often possible to turn the situation around by taking the high road and acting with respect and civility.