Turning bad reviews online into opportunities: Learn from KLM, Barbie, and Amazon

Customer support
Jun 6, 2024
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In the dynamic space of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), handling bad reviews can significantly impact your reputation and customer loyalty. Bad reviews vs good reviews may seem like a stark contrast, but each presents a unique opportunity for growth and improvement. From the travel and leisure sectors to hospitality and banking, understanding the reasons behind negative feedback and responding appropriately is crucial. 

This article will explore strategies tailored for SMBs to turn bad reviews into opportunities, ensuring your business survives and thrives in a competitive market.

Understanding bad reviews

Getting a bad review can feel devastating, mainly if you are a growing business, primarily if you’ve worked hard to generate some good ones. Know that the experience is not uncommon, and you are not alone. Second, it’s worthwhile to dive into what’s happening before it gets worse.

Bad review example

Common reasons for bad reviews

Bad reviews can stem from various issues, each impacting different aspects of your business. Common reasons include poor customer service, product quality concerns, and unmet expectations. For example, customers might leave negative feedback in the travel and leisure industry due to delays or inaccuracies in booking systems. 

In the restaurant sector, slow service or poor food quality can trigger dissatisfaction. For banks, long wait times or confusing processes might be the culprits. Recognising these patterns helps in effectively addressing the root causes.

Another prevalent reason for bad reviews is miscommunication or lack of information. Customers may feel frustrated if they don't receive clear instructions or updates. Technical issues, such as website glitches or mobile app malfunctions, also lead to poor reviews. 

By categorising and understanding these reasons, SMBs can better prepare to address and mitigate the negative feedback, turning these challenges into opportunities for growth.

Bad reviews vs good reviews

When comparing bad reviews vs good reviews, it's essential to understand that both offer valuable insights. Good reviews highlight what your business is doing right, offering a blueprint for maintaining customer satisfaction. They often underscore strengths such as exceptional service, high-quality products, or seamless experiences. These positive comments can serve as testimonials, reinforcing trust and attracting new customers.

Good review example
Good review example

Using this good online review on Tripadvisor, KLM could focus on highlighting their onboard customer care in their advertisement.

On the other hand, while initially disheartening, bad reviews provide crucial feedback on areas needing improvement. They reveal pain points and allow you to address issues that might go unnoticed. 

Bad review example

In this case, KLM may want to lookin into their online check in experience, especially when more than one customer brings this up as an issue in their public review.

Balancing the insights from bad reviews vs good reviews can help SMBs refine their strategies and enhance overall customer experience.

The impact of bad reviews on SMBs

Bad reviews can significantly affect SMBs, impacting everything from customer trust to revenue. For small to medium-sized businesses, each customer interaction holds substantial weight. A single negative review can deter potential customers, especially in industries like hospitality or travel, where online reviews are heavily relied upon. This can lead to a noticeable drop in new clients and bookings.

Moreover, bad reviews can harm your business's online reputation. Search engines and review platforms often highlight recent feedback, meaning negative comments can quickly rise to the top, overshadowing positive experiences. This can be particularly challenging for SMBs that may not have larger competitors' extensive positive review base.

Bad reviews can also increase costs financially. Addressing the underlying issues often requires additional resources, such as staff training, process improvements, or product changes. However, by proactively managing and responding to bad reviews, SMBs can mitigate these impacts and even turn negative feedback into opportunities for growth and improvement.

Strategies to turn bad reviews into opportunities

While bad online reviews hurt, it doesn’t have to be all bad. In fact, with a dedicated strategy, your team could turn negative reviews into positive customer experiences. Let’s see how.

Responding to negative reviews

So how to respond to a bad review? Responding to negative feedback is crucial for turning bad reviews into opportunities. When a customer leaves a bad review, addressing their concerns promptly and professionally is essential. Begin by acknowledging their feedback and expressing genuine regret for their negative experience. This shows that you value their input and are committed to improving.

Next, offer a solution or compensation where appropriate. Whether it’s a refund, a discount on future services, or an invitation to discuss the issue further, providing a tangible resolution can help rebuild trust. For instance, offering a complimentary stay or meal in the hospitality industry can turn a disgruntled customer into a loyal one.

If you’re a Trengo user, you can easily set up a quick reply for customers fitting this situation. Check out our free messaging templates to set up a Quick Reply and streamline this process for you and your team.

It’s also essential to take the conversation offline if needed. Provide contact details where the customer can reach you directly to resolve the issue privately. This shows your dedication to customer satisfaction and prevents further public negativity. Remember, a well-handled response can transform a bad review into a positive customer experience.

Learning and improving from criticism

Learning and improving from criticism is vital to turning bad reviews into opportunities. Bad reviews often highlight areas where your business can make significant improvements. By analysing these reviews, you can identify recurring issues and develop strategies to address them. For example, if multiple customers in the restaurant sector complain about slow service, it’s a clear sign that operational changes are needed.

Use the feedback as a catalyst for training and development. Educate your staff on best practices and ensure they understand the importance of excellent customer service. Implement changes based on constructive criticism, such as updating booking systems in the travel industry or streamlining processes in banking.

Additionally, keep track of improvements and monitor new feedback to see if the changes are effective. This continuous loop of receiving feedback, making improvements, and reassessing helps your business stay agile and responsive to customer needs. Embracing criticism enhances your business and shows customers that their opinions truly matter.

Engaging and rebuilding trust

Engaging and rebuilding trust with customers who have left bad reviews is essential for maintaining a positive reputation. Open a dialogue with the reviewer to show you care about their experience. Personalise your responses to address their specific concerns, which helps to humanise your brand and demonstrate genuine empathy.

Follow up after resolving the issue to ensure the customer is satisfied. This shows you are committed to their satisfaction beyond just addressing the initial complaint. In the hospitality industry, for instance, a follow-up email or phone call after a guest has stayed again can reinforce their renewed trust.

Consider inviting dissatisfied customers to provide further feedback or participate in customer satisfaction surveys. This will not only make them feel valued but also provide additional insights for your business.

Ultimately, consistent and thoughtful engagement can turn a negative experience into a positive one, fostering loyalty and potentially earning back the customer’s trust and future business.

Checklist for responding to bad reviews

TLDR; Here is your checklist to keep on hand when addressing bad reviews regularly and strategically.

Understand the industry context:

  • Analyse common issues and complaints within your industry.
  • Research competitors' responses to bad reviews.
  • Identify industry-specific regulations and standards that might impact responses.

Gather and analyse data:

  • Collect all bad reviews from various platforms (e.g., social media, review sites, customer surveys).
  • Categorise reviews based on common themes or issues.
  • Analyse the frequency and severity of different types of complaints.

Develop a response framework:

  • Create templates for common issues, ensuring they are customisable to address specific concerns.
  • Incorporate industry-specific language and terminology.
  • Ensure responses are aligned with your company’s brand voice and values.

Set response timeframes:

  • Establish clear timelines for responding to different types of reviews.
  • Prioritise urgent or high-impact reviews.
  • Ensure consistency in response times across all platforms.

Empower the support team:

  • Train support staff on industry-specific knowledge and customer service best practices.
  • Provide guidelines for when and how to escalate issues internally.
  • Equip the team with tools and resources to resolve complaints effectively.

Personalise responses:

  • Address customers by name and reference specific details from their reviews.
  • Show empathy and understanding of their situation.
  • Offer industry-relevant solutions or compensations.

Implement follow-up procedures:

  • Set up a system to follow up with customers after resolving their issues.
  • Encourage satisfied customers to update their reviews or leave new positive feedback.
  • Track the outcomes of follow-up interactions.

Monitor and adapt:

  • Continuously monitor review platforms for new feedback.
  • Analyse the effectiveness of your responses and make adjustments as needed.
  • Stay updated on industry trends and customer expectations.

Engage with positive reviews:

  • Thank customers for positive feedback.
  • Highlight industry-specific achievements or features that contributed to their positive experience.
  • Encourage loyal customers to share their experiences on other platforms.

Solicit internal feedback:

  • Regularly review the strategy with your support team.
  • Encourage team members to share insights and suggestions for improvement.
  • Adjust the strategy based on internal feedback and frontline experiences.

Using tech to help manage online reviews

Tech is an essential component of any service strategy in 2024. Here’s how to start using tech to facilitate your online review strategy.

How to use Trengo to combat bad reviews

Trengo is a comprehensive customer engagement platform that centralises all communication channels into one dashboard. This allows you to monitor and respond to reviews from multiple platforms, such as social media, review sites, and email, all in one place. 

Set up automated alerts for new reviews to ensure timely responses. Trengo also offers sentiment analysis tools to help you quickly identify and prioritise negative feedback. Customisable response templates allow your team to address common issues swiftly while maintaining a personal touch. 

Additionally, Trengo's collaborative features enable team members to share insights and strategies for handling complex complaints. By leveraging Trengo, you can streamline your review management process, ensuring that negative reviews are addressed promptly and effectively, ultimately turning bad reviews into opportunities for customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Quick replies

Quick replies are essential for efficiently managing customer reviews and ensuring timely responses. Many customer service platforms, like Trengo, offer quick reply functionalities that allow you to create and store pre-defined responses for common issues. 

These templates can be customised to include personalised elements, making each reply feel unique. Using quick replies, your team can respond promptly to negative reviews, addressing customer concerns before they escalate. This feature not only saves time but also ensures consistency in your communication. 

Deploying quick replies helps maintain a professional and empathetic tone across all interactions, demonstrating your commitment to excellent customer service. Integrating quick replies into your review management strategy can enhance response times, improve customer satisfaction, and efficiently turn bad reviews into opportunities for positive engagement.

Respond to a review with a Flowbot

Flowbot is an advanced automation tool that can significantly assist in managing and responding to bad reviews. By using Flowbot, you can automate initial responses to customer feedback, ensuring no review goes unanswered. 

Set up Flowbot to acknowledge receipt of a review and inform the customer that their concern is being addressed. This immediate interaction helps to reassure the customer that their feedback is valued. Flowbot can also be programmed to categorise reviews based on keywords or sentiment, directing them to the appropriate team members for further action. 

Additionally, it can trigger follow-up messages to ensure that unresolved issues are addressed promptly. By leveraging Flowbot, you can streamline your review management process, reduce response times, and provide a consistent approach to handling negative feedback. This automated yet personalised system helps turn bad reviews into opportunities for demonstrating your commitment to customer satisfaction.


Effective reporting is crucial for understanding and improving your response to bad reviews. Many customer service platforms, including Trengo, offer comprehensive reporting features that track key metrics such as response times, resolution rates, and customer satisfaction scores. 

Regularly reviewing these reports can help you identify trends and areas for improvement. For instance, you can analyse the most frequent complaints and how quickly they are resolved. Detailed reports can also highlight the effectiveness of your responses, showing whether customers update their reviews or express satisfaction after interaction. 

Use this data to refine your strategies, tailor your responses, and allocate resources more efficiently. By leveraging robust reporting tools, you gain valuable insights that enable continuous improvement, helping turn negative feedback into actionable opportunities for enhancing customer satisfaction and service quality.

Real-world examples of responding to bad reviews

Bad reviews of the movie "Barbie"

The movie "Barbie" provides an interesting case study in handling bad reviews. Upon its release, the film received mixed feedback. Some critics, like the New York Times, and audiences felt the storyline was too simplistic, while others believed it failed to capture the essence of the beloved doll. These bad reviews highlighted specific areas where the film could have improved, such as deeper character development and a more engaging plot.

In response, the filmmakers engaged with audiences through social media and press releases, acknowledging the feedback and expressing a commitment to improving future projects. They also encouraged viewers to share their thoughts and suggestions, fostering a sense of community and involvement.

“The intention behind 'Barbie' was never to be anti-men or anti-anything. It's a film about exploring the complexities of identity and societal expectations, particularly from a woman's perspective. We aimed to create a dialogue about these issues in a way that’s inclusive and thought-provoking. Ken's character, for instance, has his own growth and storyline, showing that it's about understanding and empathy for all genders." - Greta Gerwig, Director of "Barbie", The Hollywood Reporter

Additionally, the production team leveraged constructive criticism to refine their marketing strategies, focusing on the film's positive aspects highlighted in good reviews. This balanced approach helped rebuild trust and maintain interest in the Barbie brand, demonstrating how thoughtfully addressing bad reviews can lead to valuable insights and improvements.

Bad review example: Amazon

Despite being a retail giant, Amazon is not immune to bad reviews. Common complaints often include delivery issues, product quality discrepancies, and customer service effectiveness. For instance, customers have reported receiving items late or in damaged condition, leading to frustration and negative feedback.

After purchasing an oil sprayer on Amazon, I left a negative review due to the product's poor performance. Shortly after, I began receiving multiple unsolicited emails from the seller, Auxtun, pressuring me to delete my review in exchange for a full refund and later even offering me double the amount I paid. Despite contacting Amazon twice about this harassment, the issue persisted until the listing was finally removed following media inquiry. The whole experience was extremely unsettling and unprofessional."​ - Ms Scott, Amazon customer, Fox Business

Amazon's approach to handling bad reviews is a testament to its commitment to customer satisfaction. They actively monitor reviews and respond promptly to negative feedback, often offering refunds, replacements, or compensation to resolve issues. This immediate response helps mitigate the bad review's impact and demonstrates their dedication to resolving customer complaints.

Additionally, Amazon uses the feedback to improve its services. It analyses review patterns to identify consistent problems and implements changes, such as enhancing packaging methods or refining its delivery processes.

This proactive stance addresses individual concerns and enhances overall service quality, turning negative experiences into opportunities for improvement and maintaining customer trust.

Examples of review responses from other SMBs

Many SMBs have successfully turned bad reviews into opportunities for growth. Take, for instance, a fictiona lhotel.

Tactic: personal acknowledgement and apology

Guest Review: "The facilities inside the room were horrible. Even the appliances don't work properly. I will never come to this hotel again and will advise everyone not to stay here."

Owner Response: "Hi [Guest's Name], thank you very much for taking the time to provide your feedback. We are very sorry to hear about the issues you faced during your stay. We take such comments very seriously and are working hard to ensure this doesn't happen again. Please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience caused. We hope you will give us another chance to make it up to you in the future."

Tactic: solution with contact 

Guest Review: "The room was not clean, and the staff was unhelpful. Very disappointed."

Owner Response: "Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We apologize for the cleanliness issues and the lack of assistance from our staff. We have raised the issue with our cleaning team and arranged additional training sessions. Please contact us directly at [email/contact information] to discuss this further. We would like to offer you a discounted stay on your next visit to make up for this experience."

Tactic: addressing issue and solving

Guest Review: "The WiFi was very slow, and the breakfast was terrible."

Owner Response: "Dear [Guest's Name], we are sorry to hear that the WiFi and breakfast did not meet your expectations. We have recently upgraded our internet service and have spoken to our kitchen staff to improve the breakfast offerings. Your feedback is invaluable, and we hope to see you again soon so you can experience these improvements."

Addressing bad reviews can be painful. But it is like ripping off a bandaid. Once it’s done, it’s done. If you struggle with crafting your own responses, check out these messaging templates to develop your own Quick Replies to 

Create your industry-specific strategies

Different industries require tailored strategies for addressing bad reviews. In the travel and leisure sector, timely and empathetic responses are crucial. For instance, if a guest complains about a subpar experience at a resort, offering a personalised apology and a discount on a future stay can help mitigate the damage.

In the banking industry, transparency and swift problem resolution are key. Customers value clear communication and prompt solutions, especially when dealing with financial matters. Addressing long wait times by introducing more efficient processes can significantly reduce negative feedback.

Restaurants and hospitality businesses often benefit from direct engagement with dissatisfied customers. Inviting them for a complimentary meal or stay can turn a negative experience into a positive one, encouraging them to update their reviews.

Ensuring that service complaints are handled by experienced technicians and offering follow-up services can help rebuild trust in the automotive sector. Each industry can thrive by adopting strategies that resonate with its customer base and address unique challenges.

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