Internet Reputation Services image of a negative review with three options of dealing with it

A Discussion About Striking Back at Toxic Reviews

If you have been in business for more than a minute, you have no doubt received a negative review. Whether that review was warranted or not is a different topic. Suffice it to say, there are people out there that want to have their opinion heard. Some of the reviews come from people that are afraid to talk to someone about issues they have during their visit. Some are just miserable people that like to see others be miserable as well. And even another group of people that are paid to write negative reviews for a company’s competitor. No matter what reason there is for negative reviews, we have to come to terms that they exist.

In some cases, negative reviews can be just the thing to get yourself or your employees to try that little extra to make the customer happy. I have seen many companies have a negative review help to turn the entire operation around. They were not doing the best things for their clients, and it showed. After the review, they turned the negative into a positive. In most cases of negative reviews, this can be done. However, there is another case that can do harmful things to your company.

In this instance, I am talking about toxic reviews. These reviews are sometimes left by people your competitor paid. In other cases, they are made by people with nothing better to do than pick apart your business. In either case, they offer very little feedback. The review is littered with generic putdowns and mostly unhelpful. At least if you had something to work with, you have a chance to make things better. It seems like the aim of these toxic reviews is to put you out of business. Since the reviews are primarily anonymous, there is very little, if anything, you can do about it.

On the other hand, you may find out enough information about the person to be able to strike back at this negative review. The question then becomes if you want to do that or not. Below, I will discuss things to consider before striking back and ways that you can keep it together if you decide against retaliation.

Topics of Consideration

When getting a negative review, it is almost impossible not to take it personally. I would be lying if I told you it got any more comfortable. In fact, it is the number one reason that the majority of people quit social media platforms altogether. Even though we are not talking about social media, the same mentality applies in the case of online reviews. Before you decided to fight fire with fire, I would like you to consider the following.

  • Visibility – When a company decides to sue someone over anything, they automatically get a lot of attention from the media. This can be good, or it can be not very good. While more people will know your company name, it may not be for the right reasons. Instead of them searching for your company as a place to go, they will be inundated with information about the lawsuit. All these hits above your company can push your results down a search engine results page (SERP). Remember, the internet has a long memory.
  • Reputation – Remember, you can’t take back what you have already done on the internet. Once you decide to lash out at a customer or take them to court, you can’t make that go away. By replying negatively to a negative review may feel good; you have just broadcast to every customer and potential customer that you do not react well to criticism. You will inherit the reputation of a company that cannot handle a negative review.
  • Improvement – Just because you get a bad review does not mean there is not a small grain of truth in it. Try to read between the lines of these reviews and spin the negative into a positive. It is important to remember that each and every criticism is essential. Positive reviews let you know what you are doing good and should keep doing. Negative reviews tell you the things you are not doing as well and can be improved upon.


If it were up to me, I would advise you heavily against retaliating to a bad review. Instead, I would suggest you take a look at the list below and find another way to deal with it.

  • Counting – After you read the review and start to respond, give yourself a chance to reflect on the review. To do this, all you need to do is count from one to ten and back down to one slowly. However, your response will be a direct reflection of your company. You owe it to yourself to take a few seconds to formulate an articulate response.
  • Respond – The worst thing you can do is ignore the review altogether. While it may not be your intention, your customers will take this as a sign that you don’t care about your customers. You can’t be expected to respond to each review in a few minutes. In general, I would say that you need to answer in no more than 48 hours.
  • Personalize – When responding to any review, be it positive or negative, make sure you personalize it to the customer in question. Believe it or not, your customers can tell when they are getting cookie-cutter responses from a business. Another thing to avoid is by just having them contact your customer care email. This makes it look like you have something to hide. You can include that in your response since most review sites only allow the original review and a single reply from the company. Just don’t make it the only answer.


Business today is much more complicated than it was in the past. Everyone has access to review sites, and they are not afraid to share their thoughts with others. While in the past, word of mouth could keep a negative experience limited to a few dozen people, the internet has allowed more people to see how people all over the country view your brand. I wish you the best reviews and all the patience in the world to respond positively to each and every one of them.