Don’t hide from customer complaints, negative online reviews or feedback


Most businesses fret about bad reviews online and do their utmost to avoid them.

However, I was reading The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin the other day and saw a picture (p. 97) of one business owner’s response to a negative online review that made me laugh out loud (literally).

Sandwich Shop Advertises Worst Meatball Sandwich Of Yelper's Life

The story originally appeared in The Huffington post in Sandwich Shop Advertises Worst Meatball Sandwich Of Yelper’s Life.

In this case, the business owner responded with humour and a realisation that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

It also strikes me as being a typical New York deli sort of response (the sandwich shop in question is, in fact, Joe Dough’s Sandwich Shop in the East Village in Manhattan, New York).

Now, I’m not advocating that everyone goes out and does something like this.

But, what I think is important here is the fact that the business actually responded to it’s negative online review and how it responded.

Why? Because, many businesses don’t respond to negative reviews or feedback. In fact, many businesses dread getting negative online reviews, do nothing and the negative feedback just sits there.

However, if you want to avoid bad reviews or negative feedback I think you only have one option and that is:

  • Be perfect to all of the people all of the time.

Personally, I don’t think that’s a real option at all. To be perfect and please all of the people all of the time is something to aim for but, in reality, is not something that we are likely to achieve.

Therefore, we have to get used to the idea that negative reviews and feedback are likely to come our way sometime. So, the important thing is not to ignore the negative reviews and feedback but to be ready to deal with them. Often, how we respond to complaints and negative feedback can show the side of our business that does not get seen or talked about much:

How we respond when things go wrong?

Most customers are pragmatic and realise that sometimes things will go wrong. So, going out of your way to show how you respond when things do go wrong, can (assuming that you do it well) have a hugely positive effect on your reputation.

Photo Credit: jaysk via Compfight cc

14 comments On Don’t hide from customer complaints, negative online reviews or feedback

  • Hello Adrian
    I am in total agreement with you. Invite feedback, share it publicly and that sharing will providing you with the magnet that attracts you to fixing that which needs to be fixed. You can invite customers to help with the fixing. And when fixed you can make a big song and dance about it. Ideally, with the customers.


    • Thanks Maz,
      I shared this post with Joe Dough’s and they shared it with their customers….this speaks volumes to their attitude and approach. In fact, they even offered me a meatball sandwich. Posting would have been a problem though 😉


  • Adrian, you story reminded me of one of my favourite quotes (which I’m afraid I am going to share with you):

    Mistakes are inevitable, Dissatisfied customers are not ~ Richard Branson


  • Thanks, Adrian. Great post. I agree… (1) sometimes things go wrong, and (2) you can’t please everyone. But when either of those occur, don’t hide from it. Don’t take it personally if you get a negative review as a result. Address it appropriately (fix and reply). And remember that how you respond is just as important as the fact that you are responding. I worked with a client in the past whose people took the feedback/reviews personally and responded angrily. You can’t do that. It certainly doesn’t help your business and just makes things worse.

    Annette 🙂

    • Hi Annette,
      I would suggest that you have to take feedback and criticism personally as that will drive the level of care you put into your response. But, it’s your response that is the most important thing and anger and fear will not help: you or your customers.


  • Hi Adrian,
    A completely agree with this post and i have to say that i also literally laugh out loud when i saw the second picture^^
    Moreover it is definitly true that it is more usefull and funnier to respond to customers angriness with humor and humility!
    Thank you for this nice peace of advice 🙂

    • Hi Melanie,
      Glad it made you laugh. It made me laugh too. And, you’re absolutely right that it to respond with a smile, a bit of humour and humility in the face of anger is always the best way.

      Thanks for dropping by. All the best,


  • Very true Adrian – modern business is just so complex that things will sometime go wrong, however perfect you try to be. Successfully dealing with issues can actually turn customers into real brand advocates – look at how O2 dealt with Twitter complaints when it had network downtime last year, which arguably strengthened its relationship with customers.

  • That picture is genius. As you say it really shows the personality of the business owner but it’s also a great attraction headline. It’s playing to people’s curiosity and it makes you (or at least me) want to know if it really is “The Worst Meatball Sandwich” and if so why is it?

    It would be interesting to see the Deli’s sales on meatball sandwiches before and after the sign and also compare it to the difference in customer volume before and after. My guess would be that Joe didn’t just get more customers but he would have also sold more meatball sandwiches.

    Thanks for the find Adrian.


    • Cheers, Nate.

      Great question. But, unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what happened next. However, I hope that the deli owner received the benefits that you describe.


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