Forget Sticks and Stones: Words CAN Hurt Your Business!

“Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That’s a great expression, but it’s not so true in the business world. With the speed and popularity of today’s online media and smartphones to instantly deliver and receive that media, words are more powerful than ever! Sometimes it’s hard to know what is fact or fiction.

All it takes these days is one negative review, one negative comment, or even one negative news story to completely ruin a company’s image. Users’ words paint a picture for the reader that cannot be erased easily. (Since I’m full of adages today, think: “A picture’s worth a thousand words”). How do you compete against instant bad publicity? You have to be a go-getter.

You can’t sit around on your thumbs, just waiting for publicity. People expect perfection from the products and services they seek and they will typically not give reviews unless they are unhappy. It’s unfortunate but true! So, in order to get a few positive reviews for your company, you need to go out there and encourage your customers to review their experiences. Maybe offer some sort of incentive for a completed review (whether it’s a good review or a bad one – I’m not suggesting that you bribe clients for glowing reviews) or give away some free logo merchandise with each completed review. You can also create a blog to inform people what’s going on with your business and create the image you’d like to convey to the public.

Take care of every customer, every time.

Take care of every customer, every time.

Of course, the best way to avoid negative reviews is to TREAT EVERYONE THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED in the first place. Be careful with your words when speaking to customers; even if you’re having the worst day ever, you should never take it out on others. No matter what your company sells or specializes in, you’re going to run into snags and face problems along the way. Remember, accidents and mistakes are unavoidable in business but it’s not necessarily a death sentence if you ‘fess up to it and handle the situation diplomatically. Take care of your customers no matter what and you will most likely avoid a lot of negative reviews!

You have to be proactive with your publicity. If you leave it up to chance, then you will most likely be dissatisfied with the results! Go out there and encourage your customers to review your company, start blogging, submit press releases, and develop relationships throughout your industry and across relating industries to help brand your company.

What are YOU doing to boost your customer service? How are you combating negative online reviews?


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. KB

    I am one of those people who is constantly seeking reviews on products or companies when considering a purchase. I find them very helpful. I think it is very important to offer reviews, good or bad, to help other consumers as well. One thing to keep in mind though is that you don’t KNOW the reviewer. Of course most people won’t lie about a good product being good if it’s not, but if someone gets a bad product or bad experience you never get to hear the whole story to know who’s to blame for the result. Take all reviews for what they are worth and most importantly, look at them collectively.

  2. Scooby DOO!

    Its true- you simply have to take care of every customer, every time and, frankly, why wouldn’t you try? But there are times no matter how right you are, that in the customer’s eyes you are dead wrong. Customer service of today is far different than a few years ago when fault was determined solely by the black and white. Today, that is certainly not the case. Today is about meeting expectations which are, in the most difficult cases, completely unfounded. But, as they say, you have to take the bad with the good and as long as you are making the absolute highest percentage of clients happy, you are doing a good job. The unfortunate result of failure to properly handle the customer with the internet these days, is a cost significantly more than the cost of the order.

    So while you can’t make EVERYONE happy, to keep a good reputation in this ever transparent world, make your best effort to do so.

  3. Bret Bonnet

    This is a GREAT topic, and one, as a small business owner, honestly keeps me up at night.

    I’m ALL for empowering the consumer, and I think any feedback, good or bad is a GREAT thing – after all; isn’t satisfying customers’ needs and wants WHY we are in business in the first place? But where I take issue, as Scooby Doo points out, is when:

    “no matter how right you are, in the customer’s eyes you are dead wrong”

    I’ve encountered these types of situations on several occasions over the years, working with a customer that appears unsatisfiable, and as much as it might pain me to do so (I’m a very prideful individual), the best piece of advice I can offer is…

    “ADMIT/SAY YOUR ARE WRONG even though you are RIGHT.”

    Ouch… it hurt me even just to type this. In the short run you might feel like your “giving in”, losing, or letting the customer take advantage of you… but in the long run, more often than not, the time investment involved in arguing your case, maybe even preparing your response to a credit card charge back, or even worse – a negative review online; far out weighs the costs of just taking the steps necessary to make the customer happy.

    Now there are some EXTREME situations where throwing yourself in front of a bus in an effort to make the customer happy is simply not an option, and in these extremely rare situations, the best thing you can do is mind your words, rely on your published/advertised company policies to back up your position (if you don’t have any, you better start now!), and try to always be considerate and professional no matter how out of control the situation becomes. It’s these customers that are most likely to blast your company online.

    So head my advice, sometimes being right is always the BEST thing when it comes to online reputation management.

    Speaking from experience; I’d rather take a stone to the face than a bad review on Yelp, or even worse, a fake review/article paid for by one of your competitors with the intention of giving your business a black eye. I guess that’s why God gave us lawyers though! 🙂

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