You’ve busted your butt building the salon of your dreams. You’ve searched for a space, endured a build-out, hired the right people, built the best website, aligned with the perfect product line, spent nights and weekends (Ha! What are weekends?) worrying about customer service and benchmarks and pricing and culture… and then BAM! Someone leaves you a 1-star review.

It’s a gut punch, for sure. But it’s not the end of the world. There is a way to turn a 1-star review into a new client driver:

Respond Quickly.

Most review sites have a notification feature that will alert you when a client leaves a review. Be sure these notifications are turned on, and respond to any negative review as quickly as you can – ideally within 48 hours. You don’t want the bad review just sitting there for other readers to stumble across. AND you don’t want to let it sit for so long that your response is outdated or stirs up trouble months down the road. The most important review sites to monitor are Yelp, Google and Facebook (and Demandforce, if you use their service).

Respond Graciously.

Take a deep breath. It’s easy to get fired up from behind a keyboard, but think about how you’d handle this in-person in the salon. Be the bigger person. Thank the reviewer for their feedback, and keep your response as short and sweet as possible. I worked with one salon owner in California who said she got four (FOUR!) new guests who cited their reason for coming in was because of how kindly she responded to a negative reviewer. Remember her. Channel her.

How to Handle a 1-Star Review
How to Handle a 1-Star Review

Acknowledge Truth.

We all have off days – your team included. There may be truth in the negative review; own it. Give your “Why” without being defensive, and mention that this isn’t your normal way of doing business. “We normally do better, and we’re sorry you didn’t experience that standard.”

You can also use this opportunity to sneak in information on your service model and put a little spin on things. Some examples:

  • Was the salon too loud/crowded? Yes, your visit was during our busiest season/day of the week/time of day. We’d be happy to help you find an appointment time that better fits the environment you’re looking for.
  • Did you forget a customer service ritual that’s essential to your culture? Customer service is so most important to our team. All guests should receive a (fill in the blank here – glass of sparkling water, hand massage, complimentary bang trim) and we’re so sorry that you didn’t.
  • Was their service ticket much higher than expected? Our team is trained to do a full consultation with pricing at the start of service – I’m sorry this wasn’t the case for you.
How to Handle a 1-Star Review
How to Handle a 1-Star Review

Take It Offline.

Many review platforms have a way to respond to reviewers in private as well as publicly. I recommend doing both. Research their name/service in your software and reach out personally, or leave your name and contact information in the public response so that other readers can see that you’re taking charge of the situation and working to make it right. This personal connection also helps people cool off – a conversation with a human is usually more civil than a laptop rant.

NEVER offer a gift certificate or complimentary service on a public platform. This will only invite more negative reviewers looking for a handout.

How to Handle a 1-Star Review
How to Handle a 1-Star Review

Refocus Your Energy.

Your star rating isn’t one review – it’s the average. As long as you’re at 4 stars or above, people will come your way. And between you and me, I’m a little suspicious of businesses with all 5-star reviews, anyway. Let that 1-star be your badge of authenticity.

Consumers are savvy and can weed out the wackos – they aren’t focusing on that single bad review and neither should you. Immerse yourself in compliments and leave the past in the past.

Take 30 minutes to read and respond with a “Thank you” to some of the amazing 4 and 5-star reviews you’ve received. Ask your favorite guests to leave you a review after their next service. Share your most amazing reviews with your team at the next huddle, or with your clients via your social media pages. Positive energy will spread and like will attract like.

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