Respond to Negative Reviews: Advice from a cleaning business owner

March 12, 2022 in Marketing, Mindset

Last Updated on August 21, 2023 by The ZenMaid Team

This means responding to customer feedback and proactively seeking out positive reviews to counteract any negative ones. By investing in your online reputation, you can protect your business and attract new customers. A strong reputation lays a strong foundation for your maid service’s overall success. 

Don’t let a few negative reviews bring you down — there are ways to recover! It’s natural to feel defensive when faced with negative feedback, but it’s important to remember that complaints and bad reviews can actually be opportunities to improve your business and make things better for your customers. 

Whether it’s a customer complaint or a bad review online, it’s important to have a strategy in place for handling these grievances. Maria Dorian, former cleaning business owner and founder of Task Away Virtual Assistants, suggests shifting your perspective on complaints and negative customer reviews and viewing them as opportunities rather than threats. 

In this article, we’ll share Maria’s tips for handling customer complaints and negative feedback with ease and show you exactly how to respond to negative reviews. By adopting Maria’s mindset and implementing effective strategies for dealing with negative reviews, you can improve your business and build a strong online reputation.

So, let’s take it from the top, starting with the oh-so-dreaded angry customer: 

How to respond to an angry customer

Have you ever had a bad day and called your significant other or friend and just complained, cried, and let it all out? And after, you felt much better, right? That’s what you want your angry clients to do.

Let them yell and scream to release their negative emotions. If they sent you an email, get them on the phone.  Remember, they’re not yelling and screaming at you. They’re looking for somebody to resolve their issue. And once they’ve voiced all of their concerns and anger, they’ll be more receptive to hearing about your solutions.

It’s okay to wait to reply to customer complaints

Just because a client wants to engage with you immediately doesn’t mean you have to. If they post a nasty message or drop a mean comment, you can wait until the next day to respond. Or, if they catch you at a bad time, you can ask, “Can I give you a call back when I can give you my full attention?”

Waiting to respond can also give you time to gather more information from your cleaners and office staff so you’ll be prepared with answers and solutions and enter the conversation with more confidence. 

How to get information that will help solve your customer’s problem

When your client seems ready to discuss solutions, ask them questions that will help you clarify their complaints. If you can, interrupt them gently to ask questions that will clarify the situation, such as:

  • So when you walked in, did the entryway floor look dirty? 
  • Was this problem only in certain rooms? 
  • Did you notice spots on the mirrors in every bathroom?
  • Do you see this every time we clean for you?

Keep the conversation positive to get them to lower their defences. Some supportive things you can say include:

  • I really want to make sure I’m understanding everything correctly. 
  • I see that you paid a premium for the service, and it was our job to deliver the service to you – and we failed you.
  • It sounds like we significantly dropped the ball here. Here’s what we’re going to do to fix it.  

Why you shouldn’t give customers their money back

You usually have two options when handling a client who’s unhappy with a cleaning. You can either refund their money or return to their home and address the issues they complained about. 

Refunding a client’s money may be the quickest solution, but it doesn’t fix the problems or make your client less angry. They still might leave a negative review. 

In situations where you don’t want to return to a home, giving the client their money back makes sense. But in most cases, it’s better to send another team to fix the problem – especially if they can do it quickly. 

Sending a team that addresses all the issues they have with the cleaning will change their perception of the value of your service. It gives them a chance to experience the professional cleaning that they expected when they hired you. 

How to handle a re-clean for best results

An opportunity to do a re-clean for an angry client is your chance to shine. Wow your clients by sending your best cleaning team. 

To show your client that you’re determined to make this a perfect cleaning, send a quality field manager to check the home after the second cleaning. If you don’t have a manager who can do this, send another cleaning team. It’s usually worth the expense.

Also, you can always do the final check yourself. This gives you a chance to walk your client through their home and point out all of the things your team did. As you do, continue to empathize with them by saying things like, “I’m really sorry that you went through that, but I’m so glad that we got that fixed for you.”

End your visit with your strategy for preventing problems in the future. 

Don’t forget to end by thanking them for letting you know about the issue and letting you fix it. 

Keep detailed notes about customer complaints

After you’ve addressed a client’s complaint, document all of the details in the client’s file for future reference. Be very specific about what the client complained about and how your team addressed those complaints.

Discuss with your cleaning teams what could have been done better or differently on the first visit, and include this information in the client’s file. 

If the client books another cleaning, reference your notes and give your cleaning team precise instructions. 

How to de-escalate an angry or unhappy customer with the right words

If angry customers often leave you at a loss for words, here are some phrases to have ready that will help defuse the situation:

  • “Okay, so it’s obvious something didn’t go right. Can we just scratch today and start all over? Can we do that first thing on Monday morning?” 
  • “I’ve got some good news, and I’ve got some bad news. So the good news is everything is fixable. We can make your house look brand new. The bad news is that you’re going to keep looking at all of these things until we come back on Monday. So can you do me a favor and stop looking at all these things until then?”
  • “We’re going to get this right. I’m going to call you before the cleaning is complete on Monday to make sure everything went as expected.”
  • “I will personally give you my guarantee that I will do everything in my power to prevent that from ever happening to anybody else in the future.”
  • “I’m so embarrassed we dropped the ball like this.”
  • “Thank you for bringing this to my attention and not just firing our company. You did me a huge favor.”
  • “We usually don’t offer refunds, but here’s what we can do…”
  • “I’ve never dealt with a situation like this so what I’m about to say might not come out eloquently, so please forgive me if I stumble.”
  • “There are some amazing cleaning companies out there. And if we can’t make this right for you, then they deserve your business.”

Phrases to avoid when dealing with unhappy customers and negative reviews

Just as there are phrases that can help to calm tense situations with customers, there are phrases that can make angry clients angrier because they lack empathy.  Avoid saying things like the following:

  • “Our policy is …”
  • “Calm down.”
  • “I should have charged you more, but instead, I only charged you X.”
  • “We were there all day.”
  • “My cleaning tech said they didn’t do that.”

Don’t blame the problems on the customer. Don’t say:

  • “You didn’t give us enough time.”
  • “You know, your house was really dirty.”
  • “Your house was dirtier than you told us it would be.”
  • “You have a lot of knick-knacks that are hard to clean.”

Strategies for preventing customer complaints

Accepting that customer complaints are inevitable doesn’t mean you should stop trying to prevent them. The following strategies will help minimize complaints:

Establish a friendly relationship right away. When the customer calls for a quote, try to build a connection and trust. That way, if something goes wrong or they have an issue, they’ll call you to talk it out rather than going straight to Yelp with a negative review. 

Let clients know that you’ll send them a survey after their cleaning. This tells your clients they’ll have an opportunity to voice any concerns and that you care about their opinion. If they don’t complete the survey in a reasonable amount of time, call them to follow up about their cleaning.

Have a good system for quality checks. This will help you spot and fix problems before customers bring them up, or even know about them. Quality checks will also help you evaluate your team’s work. Quality checks are great to do when the client is home so they see that you’re serious about doing a great job. 

Make necessary changes quickly. If there are repeat or serious problems, review your policies and procedures to see if any changes need to be made. If there are, implement them as soon as possible. 

Always follow up on a bad review in a timely manner. Bad reviews are intimidating, but they can also provide valuable insight into areas of your business that may need improvement. Customers who leave a bad review are giving you an opportunity to fix something that went wrong in your process. When a potential customer reads a bad review, they are not only evaluating the specific issue mentioned in the review but also how you responded to the issue. This can help them gauge whether they can trust your business to handle any potential problems that may arise. 

In this next section, we’re covering how to handle bad reviews.

Asking for reviews for your cleaning services

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Asking for reviews feels awkward. It can also seem intimidating if you’re not sure how someone will respond. But if you take away anything from this next section, we hope it’s this: Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews.

Asking for customer reviews is an important part of managing your online reputation and attracting new business. Reviews provide valuable insights into the customer experience and can help you identify areas of your business that may need improvement. They also serve as social proof for potential customers, who are more likely to trust a business with a positive online reputation. 

Research shows that consumers who read customer reviews have a 133% higher conversion rate and are more likely to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews. While it’s always great to receive positive reviews, it’s important to remember that bad reviews are part of running a business.

It’s natural to feel hesitant about asking for reviews, especially if you’re not sure how your customers will respond. However, it’s important to remember that most customers are happy to leave a review if they had a good experience. In fact, a survey by BrightLocal found that 70% of consumers are willing to leave a review for a business if asked. This means that by simply asking for a review, you have a good chance of receiving one.

So don’t be afraid to ask for reviews! Whether you send a follow-up email or text message after a service is completed, or include a review request on your invoices or receipts, there are many ways to make it easy for customers to leave a review.

Head over to this article to read more about streamlining your review process! (Just remember to be polite and respectful in your request, and avoid any incentives or rewards for leaving a review, as this can be seen as unethical and may violate the terms of service for some review platforms.)

There are several platforms where customers can leave reviews for your business, like Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angi, and Next Door. We’re using Yelp as an example, but the tips we’ll discuss apply to most major review platforms.

It’s worth noting that even if you haven’t created a Yelp profile for your business, someone can still leave an online review for your company on the platform. If Yelp confirms the existence of your business (even without your input), you’re participating in the Yelp game whether you like it or not.

If you get a negative review on Yelp, there’s a chance it may be filtered by the platform if it doesn’t meet their guidelines for relevancy and validity. This means it won’t count against your ratings and will be placed in a separate “not recommended” section.

Some signs that a review may be filtered include the user having a brand new Yelp account, no profile picture, or overly dramatic language. You can also flag a review for violating Yelp’s content guidelines if it mentions a competitor, as this could be considered a conflict of interest.

How Online Reviews Impact SEO

Did you know that negative phrases in reviews can actually harm your chances of ranking high in search engines? Moz, an SEO and data management software, found that negative online language is one ranking factor that Google considers when determining where to place you in the search engines.

Online reviews are so important that Google can highlight your reviews across other sources. So, it’s pulling all of the other positive and negative reviews in other platforms into your Google home page. In short, companies with regularly updated, positive reviews have a better chance of ranking higher above competitors. 

Of course, your first step to ranking with Google is creating a Google My Business profile page. If you aren’t sure how to do that, head over to this article next: How to Optimize Your Google My Business Listing and Attract New Cleaning Customers

5 Ways to Prevent Negative Online Reviews

Online reviews can be both a blessing and a curse for cleaning businesses. On one hand, a great review can help attract new customers and showcase the excellent work you do. On the other hand, a bad review can be damaging to your reputation and discourage potential customers from choosing your business.

This is why it’s so important to handle negative reviews carefully and take steps to prevent them from happening in the first place. These are Maria Dorian’s tried and true hacks for preventing bad reviews. 

Be proactive in addressing customer issues and making sure they are resolved to the best of your ability. This includes not only taking care of the problem at hand but also showing empathy and understanding to the customer. When something goes wrong, it’s natural to feel stressed and frustrated, but it’s important to remember that the way you handle the situation can have long-term consequences.

For example, if you are faced with a customer unhappy with the cleaning service they received, you might be tempted to defend your actions or refuse to offer a refund. However, this could lead to a negative review and potentially harm your business.

Instead, it might be better to listen to the customer’s concerns and do what you can to make things right, even if it means losing money on the job. This approach can help prevent negative reviews and show potential customers that you value their satisfaction.

Have systems and processes in place to ensure a high-quality cleaning service. This includes everything from training your employees to properly follow your company’s policies to regularly reviewing and updating those policies to reflect the needs of your business and customers. By being proactive in managing your business and making smart decisions, you can minimize the chances of a bad customer review and increase the likelihood of happy customers.

Embrace the opportunities for improvement. It’s important to remember that negative reviews can provide valuable feedback and help you identify areas of your business that may need improvement. By carefully reviewing and considering these reviews, you can make changes that will help you provide better service and keep your customers satisfied. More satisfied customers in the future usually mean fewer bad reviews down the line. 

Set up automation to ask for reviews. An automated system for requesting reviews can also help you catch any issues or concerns before they turn into negative reviews. For example, if a customer is unhappy with the service they received but hasn’t yet left a review, a follow-up message can give them the opportunity to voice their concerns and allow you to address the issue before it becomes a bigger problem. By actively seeking feedback from your customers, you can not only improve your online reputation but also identify areas of your business that may need improvement.

Balance out the bad reviews with good ones. One way to help balance out negative reviews and showcase your customers’ positive experiences is to have an automated system for asking for reviews. This can be as simple as sending a follow-up email or text message after a service has been completed, asking the customer to leave a review on your preferred review platform.

Read this article next to learn more: How to Get Positive Reviews for your Maid Service on Yelp.

What if the customer is wrong?

Sometimes customer complaints don’t have merit and your team didn’t do anything wrong. In those cases, you move into reputation management.

Acknowledge the customer’s feelings and explain the situation in detail so that they can understand why a particular circumstance occurred or could not be resolved. Offer them an alternative solution if possible, and let them know that their feedback is appreciated and taken seriously. 

Moving forward and moving on

As a cleaning business owner, managing your online reputation is crucial in today’s digital age. Negative reviews can impact your business’s success, but they can also provide valuable feedback to help you improve your cleaning services. 

Responding to negative feedback with professionalism and a willingness to address the issue can help turn a negative experience into a positive one for both the customer and your business. 

But do yourself a favor, don’t dwell on one negative review. Even a few! They are bound to happen. Follow the tips in this article, learn from the experience and move on.

By actively seeking out positive reviews and promoting customer satisfaction, you can build a strong reputation that will attract new cleaning clients and grow your maid service.

Remember, the key to success is not just avoiding negative reviews, but how you respond and use them to improve your business.

For more tips on how to handle customer complaints like a pro, watch Maria’s full talk below.

About the presenter

Maria Dorian is the owner of Task Away Virtual Assistants, a company that provides virtual assistant services to maid service owners. Before founding Task Away, Maria owned a maid service for 14 years.

Learn more:

For more resources on how to grow and perfect your cleaning business, check out the replays from the 2021 Maid Summit, hosted by ZenMaid. The summit featured more than 60 presentations from other maid service owners who shared tools and strategies to help you achieve the highest levels of success in your business. 

If you found this article helpful for your maid service, you may also like:

Discover how much time you could be saving in your maid service. Get started with ZenMaid for free today.


Amar is the founder and CEO of ZenMaid Software, Inc. He started and ran Fast Friendly Spotless, a maid service in Orange County, CA. With the help of customized software to automate work he successfully operated the service in under 30 minutes per day. He created ZenMaid scheduling software to help other maid service owners do the same.

All posts

Popular Posts

Subscribe & Follow

What are you looking for?

About Us

About Us


ZenMaid exists to make maid services like yours successful. We started by creating the simplest scheduling software for your maid service. Now we contribute to the industry with events like the Maid Summit, communities of #zenmaiders like the ZenMaid Mastermind on Facebook, and amazing free content like you'll find on this very page. Learn More