7 Steps to Handling Bad Reviews with Style & Grace

When we first got our start 10 years ago one of the many things on our priority list was compiling pictures and testimonials for the website.

I didn’t even know what a stock photo was so we did a zero budget photo shoot in my mom’s living room moving all the furniture away from one wall to create a backdrop. Fortunately, my best friend from high school could fit into all my old homecoming and prom dresses my mom had made me. Voila! We created our very first portfolio.

The testimonials came from the dozens of family and friends that my mom had done work for over the years.  It was so easy. We asked, we received, and we posted to the website (even editing a few run-ons and grammar issues with permission).

Now, it’s an entirely different playing field in regard to testimonials or reviews as they are more commonly called today.  Even the best purveyors of client appreciation and great quality services are not immune from the occasional bad review.

We were devastated the first time it happened to us in 2013 (I believe). Over the years we’ve come to adopt a process for responding. Sometimes the customer has compassion and kindly removes the review without us even asking.


  1. Assess the situation and/or speak to staff members.
  1. Pull the invoice to see all the specifications of client order.
  1. Contact the client on the phone immediately.
  1. Show empathy first and foremost.
  1. Apologize for the inconvenience.
  1. Ask how the wrong can be “righted” in their book.
  1. Finally, keep calm and shake it off.


Online reviews are a double-edged sword.  We do about $40,000 a year in business where customers specifically state on their invoice they found us on Yelp.  This may pale in comparison to other types of businesses but for our business you just can’t ignore where nearly 10% of the revenue originates.  Plus, the lifetime value of each of those customers is far greater than their initial purchases.

We have learned the only way to handle bad reviews is to drown them out with good reviews.  It’s not easy, but over time the effort pays off.