how to deal with negative online reviews for preschool

What to Do About Negative Online Reviews for Your Child Care Business

As a business owner, you may feel like you exist in two worlds: the real world and the online world.

In the real world, you have developed a loving community of parents, children, and staff. Parents are thrilled by your quality of care, are friendly with the teachers looking after their children, and the children can’t wait to come into your center each morning.

In the online world, you have a handful of online reviews, the majority of which are from a few disgruntled parents who turned to this platform to voice their frustrations.

Pretend for a moment that you are an outsider who knows nothing about your child care center and are looking for somewhere to enroll your child. You may be searching around for a preschool, or perhaps a friend mentioned this business as an option.

No matter how sleek the website or how many followers on social media, one of the first things you will do is look at reviews from past customers. If most of what you are seeing is negative, this will become your perception of how the majority of people feel about this business.

Bad reviews hurt businesses because they cause potential customers to think negatively or dismiss the business as an option before they even give it a chance.

Although you can’t remove negative reviews or stop someone from writing one, there are many steps you can take to mitigate their impact!

Solve Problems Right Away

Many negative reviews come after an issue has become increasingly worse over time or gone unaddressed for too long. If you notice something is not quite right, don’t ignore it: address it head-on and take steps to improve it as soon as possible. This may remove the one thing that would have caused a parent to write a negative review, or at the very least they may appreciate your efforts to improve your services.

Regularly Check Your Online Reviews

You’d be surprised how many businesses don’t even know what websites they are being reviewed on. If you haven’t already, search for “[your business name] reviews” online and see what websites come up. Popular sites for reading reviews include:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Yelp

Wherever possible, claim yourself as the owner of the business if you haven’t already, and sign up for notifications for every time you receive a review. This will keep you informed with what is being said about you and get you into the habit of being proactive with your reviews.

Respond to Every Review

A review is only one side of a conversation. Regardless of whether a review is a misunderstanding, slightly true or a complete lie, it becomes the truth when it is unaddressed.

As an example, first take a look at this review that was left for a child care business:

negative review

Pretty bad, right? Who would ever want to enroll their child somewhere that would unexpectedly kick them out to make room for another student? This would likely be a deal-breaker for many prospective customers.

Now, let’s look at the review in its entirety, with the response from the business owner:

negative review with response

What a difference this response makes! With this additional information, we can see that the parents had actually been informed of this policy and been given an option to continue enrollment in another class. We also get the impression that the business owner truly cares about the children and did everything they could do allow Olivia to stay for as long as possible.

Although this does not get rid of the negative review, it allows people to see the full story and draw their own conclusions. People can tell the difference between a rational and irrational review, but this requires a response in order to get a complete perspective.

But don’t just reply to negative reviews; be sure to reply to the positive ones as well. This shows how much you are invested in your community and provides an opportunity for potential customers to get to know you a bit better.

Always Ask for Reviews

The best way to combat negative reviews is by making them small in comparison to the many other positive reviews your business has.

Unfortunately, most people do not think about writing a review until they have had a negative experience. People are much less likely to randomly be inspired to write a positive review — especially parents with young children, who are extremely busy and have very little free time to spend on review-writing.

This means that you’ll need to be proactive with collecting positive reviews. Make it a point to regularly ask parents to leave a review for your business. You will be the best judge of when it is most appropriate to ask, but here are some examples you can try:

  • Send an email once per semester about why reviews are important and encouraging customers to write one.
  • Regularly mention reviews in your newsletter.
  • Include a link in your email signature for people to read or write a review.
  • Ask for a review when a child graduates.

The key here is to keep reviews top-of-mind, but never to make parents feel pressured into leaving a review; this could backfire and lead to a not-so-great review.

Never Write Fake Reviews

It may be tempting, but be warned: do not try to game the system. If parents suspect that positive reviews are fake or written by employees, this will look very badly on your business. Furthermore, this may end up getting you in trouble with the reviews website you are using.

By properly addressing negative reviews and regularly encouraging your happy customers to leave a review, you will be on your way to showcasing the great community you have developed in the real world online. Whether you have 2 or 200 online reviews, it’s never too early or late to make reviews a priority for your business.

Have any tips we missed in this article? Let us know in the comments!

Michael Keshen

Michael writes for HiMama's early childhood education blog and ECE Weekly newsletter. When not developing content for early childhood professionals, he can usually be found out and about with his wife and daughter exploring all that Toronto has to offer, or playing music with his karaoke band.


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