‘Don’t live here!’ How to handle negative online reviews

by Amanda Cupp on May 18th, 2015

There are so many things to love about the Internet and its bounty of information. And then there are negative reviews.

No matter how hard you work at making residents happy, occasionally someone will post a bad review of your community on social media like Facebook or Twitter, on review sites like Yelp, or on online forums. Whether it’s the first you’ve ever received or you’ve become accustomed to online criticism, finding a negative review about your community still stings.

Unfortunately, the chance of getting negative online reviews removed is close to zero. But having a process in place for reacting to negative reviews can help you keep your emotions in check and minimize any long-term damage to your community’s reputation.

Take a deep breath
Before you react, take a minute to breathe. You’re human, and a negative review is bound to make you angry or upset. That’s to be expected, but it’s necessary to control your emotions and measure your response. Sleep on it if you need to, but don’t dash off an angry response.

Look at the big picture
If you get one negative review in a sea of 1,000 great ones, what does it matter? It may not warrant a response at all, especially if the criticism is unfounded or minor. If the criticism is valid and could scare away prospective residents, consider damage control measures such as ads and press releases sent to local media. Engage a public relations professional to help if needed.


If a negative review mentions a specific incident or member of your staff, take time to get the whole story before you respond. Sit down with any staff members who might have information and create a written report before posting a response online.

Consult with professionals
Depending on the situation described in the negative review, you may want to consult with a lawyer, an accountant, or other professionals. If potential liability issues may arise, consider consulting with your insurance agent as well to fully understand your coverage.

No matter how great your community is, it’s inevitable that someone will post a negative review at some point. Before that happens, write some stock responses that you can use as a basis for a reply should the need arise.


In some cases, reaching out personally is the right course of action. If the review was posted by a current or former resident who you know personally, contact them yourself — by phone or email — and try to rectify the situation. If the individual is satisfied with the response, ask for an updated review.

Fight if necessary
If a review is false, unwarranted, or you believe it was posted by a competitor, take steps to have it removed. Dealing with Facebook, Yelp, or other sites won’t be easy, but it’s worth a fight to have false and damaging information expunged.

Post a courteous response
Once you’ve gotten your emotions in check, investigated the situation, and consulted with pros if necessary, post a courteous response based on your stock replies. There’s no need to get too specific online. You can simply say you’re sorry the individual wasn’t satisfied, that you’re committed to a great customer experience, and that you’d appreciate the opportunity to speak with them further.

Follow up
Get a date on your calendar to follow up, whether that’s by contacting the individual personally or posting another reply online. If you didn’t receive a response to your initial posting, it only makes you look better to post again, politely offering again to address the concerns.

Learn from the situation
What are the takeaways? If the negative review was based on a legitimately poor experience or a flawed process, view it as an opportunity to improve. Determine ways to address the problem, review new procedures with staff, and follow up to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again.

Turning a negative into a positive
On occasion, you’re going to get a bad review. When it happens, it likely will make you angry. Taking some time to gather yourself and following an established process will allow you to respond in the most comprehensive, professional way you can. Who knows—you might even turn lemons into lemonade.

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