Handling Bad Reviews of Your Massage Business

It finally happened to me, people. Someone put my business on Yelp! I’ve been lucky to avoid it this long, I guess.

My fear? Probably a lot like yours: Totally ridiculous negative reviews.

But really, Yelp! and similar services can be great for growing a business, and handling a lousy review doesn’t need to keep you up at night. Also, negative reviews can happen in a whole bunch of places (Facebook, Trip Advisor, Angie’s List, etc.) so it’s best to be prepared to handle occasional icky reviews.

If it happens to you, here are some steps to follow:


Really. Yes, it’s important to respond in a timely manner. But it’s more important to get the response right. So take a breath, know that you can and will handle this well, and maybe call a friend to vent your angry feelings out loud.

Think from the client’s perspective

What happened (or didn’t happen) that created a negative experience for the client? Think about how you would feel if you were in their shoes. And really, we’ve all been in their shoes. We’ve all had experiences of bad customer service, or just big miscommunications.

It’s possible the client is just having a bad day. Or they had unrealistic expectations for the experience. Or they’re just a jerk.

Draft a response

As you write up your reply, consider that you want any potential readers to finish and think, “Wow. That’s a thoughtful and caring business owner!” And you want the reviewer to feel heard and happy about the resolution.

Be apologetic (when appropriate) and quick to suggest how you can remedy the situation.

Things to avoid

  • Being defensive
  • Making excuses
  • Over-explaining all the reasons something went wrong
  • Violating the client’s privacy

Some sample phrases

I’m so sorry that was your experience with my business…
I never want a client to feel…
I’m sorry you felt it necessary to take your complaint online, please contact me and we will resolve this.

It is possible to hold your ground and be kind and respectful at the same time. It’s just harder. That’s why I advocate for taking some time to respond and getting a trusted friend or colleague to read your draft. You don’t have to offer refunds or discounts or anything, if you don’t feel it’s appropriate. But you do get points just for responding well.

The bright side

Bad reviews aren’t all bad. They demonstrate that your reviews aren’t all rigged or solicited. And how you respond will show readers the kind of business owner you are. (Kind, thoughtful, compassionate, etc.)

Feedback is important and can help you make much needed changes in your business. If a client complains that your booking service was hard to navigate and he didn’t get a reminder email, that’s a clue that you need to simplify the process.

Really wacky, terrible reviewers show themselves to be really wacky and terrible, and it doesn’t necessarily reflect on you. People who use review sites to help choose a provider are used to seeing the occasional wacky terrible review.

So if a client leaves bad review, complaining that you wouldn’t honor a 12 year old gift certificate that expired 7 years ago, or is just super long with extreme ranting and raving, it’s obvious to everyone reading that this person is leaving bogus review. Respond in an appropriate way, and it’ll only make you look better.

Side note: in writing this piece, I looked around for some terrible reviews, so I could come up with sample responses. But I couldn’t find bad reviews for smaller massage businesses! I found plenty for very large establishments and franchises, but that was it. So that's good news for us little indy practitioners! 

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