Principal Nails Reply to Negative Review

Have you ever visited a restaurant or store, and you had a HORRIBLE experience… and then you left a review on their website or social media page?

Our reviews don’t just go into the black hole of cyberspace where no human will ever read them (though sometimes it does feel that way, especially when we’re upset and we don’t receive a reply).

Customers have every right to be angry about a bad experience, and they have every right to leave a negative review. Most of the time, angry customers just want to be heard and understood. They want to hear “I am sorry.” And if at all possible, they would like for the wrong to be made right.

For example, let’s say you review a taco shop by writing, “It took forever to get my burrito, and when it finally came, the meat was raw, the sour cream was runny, and when I told the clerk about it, she couldn’t care less! Never going back!”

The restaurant could reply in a few different ways:

  1. No reply at all. Not even an acknowledgement.
  2. “Hey, it happens once in awhile. We were really busy that day!”
  3. “I am sorry. I opened this taco shop with the goal of making the best food in town. Clearly, we failed with your meal. Please call me and we’ll arrange a meal for your family, my treat. Please give me the chance to earn your trust once again.”

The third choice might win over the customer — and maybe the taco shop will become her new favorite restaurant in town!

So what happens when the customer is reviewing your SCHOOL / CHURCH and not your restaurant or store? What should you do, if anything?

  • The worst thing you can do is to do nothing. Your student/parent/parishioner/guest is reaching out to you, and you’re looking the other way.
  • The second worst thing you can do is to blow it off / point the blame elsewhere / or blame your guest.
  • The best thing you can do is listen, understand, acknowledge, apologize, and start a path toward teamwork, resolution, and partnership — all within 24 hours.

One principal at a Catholic School in San Diego chose the best path.

The following is a real review that was made public on October 6th, 2016:


The school principal replied within 24 hours:

happyWhat we like about the Principal’s reply to Catherine:

  • Top-level staff replied, making the conversation all the more important.
  • She replied within 24 hours.
  • She acknowledged Catherine’s complaints and “understood.”
  • She shared a solution, including what the school is doing now for current students.
  • She offered a new relationship, and an invitation to visit, to become a partner for growth.

As you can see, a negative review can become very positive when you handle it correctly. Others (current customers and prospects) who see the review will be impressed with how professionally you answered the original statements. They will see that you are human, that you care, and that you want the best for your customers/members/donors. After seeing this, others may WANT to become a customer just to have this level of service!

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