Q48: How Do We Respond to Unfair Online Reviews?

“I think my main ‘issue’ is that we are judged on the Internet with reviews – sometimes fairly and sometimes (it feels) unfairly, irrelevant, off topic, bizarre and totally randomly. We know we can’t please all of the people etc., but how to stick to cancellation Ts & Cs when someone you know WILL write you a bad review because they feel it’s not fair you have charged them even though it was the contract they signed up to.”

I would find this very difficult myself, not being a fan very much of feedback or criticism or misunderstandings and, funnily enough, I am helping some people this morning with something similar, you know… you said, I said, your side, our side etc.

I think in your industry the fault lies with the tyranny of those online booking sites and how inflated a sense of their own importance they have and the damaging aspects of even just one bad review which is really only opinion when it comes right down to it. And with opinions, we all have different ones all of the time. I really feel for you when that happens, as of course it always will in your type of biz.

Is that why an industry expert of our mutual acquaintance encourages owners to build up repeat bookings and direct relationships? Yet even there there’s the potential for things to go wrong. We cannot please all of the people all of the time, as you say, and that’s hard on us sensitive types who want it all to be lovely for everyone 24/7 and in perpetuity.

I suppose we have to build up a business-like response and park it in a box marked 9-5 (my new thing). Behaviour and cultural expectations go both ways, don’t they? This is a sticky one, as stuff between people always has the potential to be.

What it reminds me of is when someone gets sacked or leaves a job. And when a relationship ends. Those of us on the sacked/chucked side feel sad and misunderstood. But I think most onlookers who have a fair grasp of the situation from both sides can see it in the round and take their own balanced view.

So it is with reviews. I think some people reading them will see the truth however the story is told. If all your other reviews are excellent, which I know they are, then anyone you would want to stay with you can take the reviews as a whole and factor that in. One bad review doesn’t make you bad. Most of us know how difficult people can be and often that is very transparent in a review if the reviewer comes across as a weirdo.

I am not much of a one for reading or writing reviews. I just see your place and want to stay there and I forget often to consider what other people thought. But I know you feel bad when it drags your overall rating down for a while and how much work goes into that climbing slowly back up due to the weighting of bad reviews.

I don’t have an answer for this one. It just goes with the territory and in time you will become just more accepting of their rough with your smooth.

When I sold my accountancy business it was because their rough had started to rob me of my smooth.

And there have been times in my coaching business when I have attracted difficult and/or disruptive clients, but not right now I notice and I can only think that’s because of me, the vibe I put out, the comfort I have in my own self and, as you say, knowing I cannot help everyone either and nor should I try. So, weirdly, those people have stopped showing up in my reality.

I work with clients enough to know that into each of their lives from time to time a little rain must fall. Or a mahoosive great thunderstorm. Since you are a diligent member of SBBM you have also seen these rain showers and even torrents occasionally. But they pass. They pass. And with their passing so do our feelings of sadness, leaving us just a little bit more steely and businesslike. I know this to be true because we have more recently discussed another one of these, and you’d already composed the perfect reply and found your equilibrium before we even talked. And you did it fast.

For as long as you are reasonably happy to continue to run the business that you have, this is going to be a small and diminishing part of it. People are weird, some guests even weirder. But the more you can park this in the box marked 9-5 and perhaps even tap on the feelings so that they feel less and less unfair to you if they even feature at all, then how you feel about this aspect of your biz will change in a way which will feel better and better to you. And given that we can’t change the others, that’s all I care about.


  • Do you use the review sections of websites before you buy? Historically I have always forgotten to do that myself.
  • But, now that we know how important it is to other small business owners just like us, will we remember to leave more good reviews, the sort we’d want to receive for our businesses? Appreciative, cheerleading and real? Useful for our peers, useful for their customers.
  • Look how it could perk up a business who’d been on the receiving end of an awful and unfair online review, and what a difference we could make to that one. We can be the difference we want to see in the world.

Your Biz Your Way

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