Reputations: Negative Online Reviews and How to Manage Them

What’s in a name? Your reputation is your legacy and bottom line. Today’s clients choose us way before they meet us. They consult people they trust, then go online to check our reputations. A single negative review can cancel out any positive personal recommendation.

“I’ve worked for years to build my reputation, only to have one unhappy client trash it online in a second.”

What do you do? Two myths and one reality exist about what to do about a negative online review.

Myth 1. Ignore it.  “We are professionals who provide excellent customer service. We don’t need to manage our reputations; we just show them who we are.”

Myth 2. Launch a counter smear and beg for great testimonials from your clients to balance out the bad review.

Reality. Clients pay as much attention to word of mouth recommendations as they do to online reviews from discerning consumers. They are savvy enough to know that a collection of reviews—good and bad—paints a picture of who we are, how we run our offices, and how we handle potential difficulties. Not responding lets the world know you aren’t paying attention.

Reputation Management Strategies
1. Be proactive.

  • Decide on your brand, image, and values and make sure everyone in the office works toward building this same reputation.
  • If your brand is associated with excellent customer service, reliability, and competitive fees, make sure you and your team reinforce these values. This includes how you greet clients on the
    phone and in-person, and how you handle sales discussions, contracts, disputes, and referrals.

2. Check your online image.

  • Google your name, your business name, and your key employees’ names. As much as you are able, remove or update anything that does not support your brand.
  • Look at your business social media platforms. What image are you projecting on your business website, Facebook business page, Yelp! Listing, LinkedIn profile, and social media group discussions?
  • Do your personal social media platforms reflect well on you and support your business image? Check all your social media sites’ content and privacy settings. A picture paints a thousand words—about you. Choose wisely.
  • Save Google searches for your name, company name, and any product names or trademarks and have Google send you these search results daily.

3. Check your online reviews.

  • Many industries have sites that report on customer experiences. Check these regularly. Respond online as you can. Reach out to any negative reviewers as you are able to identify them.
  • Consider using a reputation management company or a resourceful employee to keep an eye on your online reputation on the various sites discussed above.

Strategies for responding to a Negative Review

1. Don’t panic or let yourself get distraught or angry. Reputations can be bolstered by how we handle challenges. Think of a negative review as a potential opportunity.

  • Defensive posturing implies guilt. Hold your head high and walk elegantly forward.
  • Talking about a bad review in the office to colleagues or clients only spreads negativity; it may even add to the impression that the review could be accurate.

2. Resist the urge to:

  • Deny the facts of the negative review or trash or blame the client. These can destroy confidentiality and convey that you don’t accept responsibility.
  • Explain the situation. There’s a fine line between explanations and excuses. If you’re perceived to be on the wrong side of it, explanations will backfire.

3. Be empathetic. Ask yourself why the client perceived what they did, what drove them to rant online, and what you can do about it. Make the most of this as a learning experience. If one client felt dissatisfied, perhaps others share similar concerns.

  • Bad reviews offer an opportunity to learn. Without pointing out the negative review, get feedback from clients as to their experience with your business. What works? What doesn’t? Ask how you can make their experience better.
  • Offer to make it right. Some sites allow for comments. With a respectful, helpful tone, invite bad reviewers to contact you so you can work together to create a positive client experience.

4. If your response to a review is inflammatory or erroneous, some websites will delete your comments. Conflict resolution requires a calm, professional tone.

  • Ask the webmaster of any site you wish to respond on for advice in managing your online reputation.
  • When in doubt, consult your attorney for advice on steps that may be taken to remove a negative review and repair your reputation.
  • Remember why you are in business in the first place.
  • If you don’t love what you do, you have two choices: pivot careers or let yourself fall in love all over again.

What more business? Manage your reputation to build trust and strengthen your brand and bottom line.

Be the best of the best in business. Customer service is a calling. Helping people brings personal satisfaction and boosts your bottom line.


Written for Latin American Association of Insurance Agencies, February 2018

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