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Curbing Customer Complaints: The Impact of Negative Reviews on a Business

By Giorgia Giove
April 22, 2019


The summer travel season is fast approaching, and with heightened temperatures come increased foot traffic for many facilities. During these busier months, poorly maintained restrooms can result in dissatisfied customers who have the potential to deter other patrons from visiting a business. It’s critical not to underestimate the impact of negative reviews on a business, and to understand restroom best practices and how to properly manage any negative feedback.


The Power of Negative Reviews


No matter what type of business, visitors expect that a hygienic restroom will be available. Poor restroom conditions can disappoint patrons, and even worse, it can keep them from visiting a business again. According to a 2016 Harris Poll, 93% of U.S. adults would not return to a retailer if they experienced an issue related to the facility. Dirty restrooms would deter 66% of U.S. adults from returning as well.


The impact of a dirty restroom now goes far beyond just the visitors who experienced a lapse in cleanliness. It’s extremely easy for upset guests to share their negative feedback on social media profiles or review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Increasingly, people are reading these reviews to determine whether they will visit a business. For instance, more than 60% of hotel guests read reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, AAA and elsewhere before booking rooms. This means that one negative experience can potentially impact thousands of people, thereby hurting brand image, reducing foot traffic and sinking profits.


Reviews play a significant role in a facility’s reputation and profitability. According to a 2018 survey, the vast majority of Americans say that negative online reviews about restrooms would deter them from visiting a hotel (91%) or a restaurant (89%). The survey also found that three in four Americans (75%) cite dirty restrooms as the top issue listed in an online hotel review that would discourage them from visiting, and 72% of Americans feel this way about dirty restrooms mentioned in restaurant reviews.


Bathroom Best Practices


To keep restrooms at their best and prevent negative reviews, adhere to a daily cleaning schedule. A consistent routine and checklist will ensure continuous cleanliness and hold employees accountable for carrying out daily tasks, such as mopping floors and restocking toilet paper. Sign off each time tasks are completed and conduct checks at the end of each day.


Thorough training is also key to maintaining cleanliness. Managers should clearly articulate expectations so that all staff members clean the facility to the same high standard. Training should highlight correct behaviors and which products should be used for each area, as well as which tools are reserved for restroom cleaning to avoid cross-contamination in other areas of the facility.



Another easy way to meet customer expectations is to ensure important supplies like toilet paper, paper towels and soap are well-stocked. Managers should thoughtfully select products like biodegradable paper towels and toilet paper that will help reduce clogs and costly repairs. With paper towels also comes the opportunity for them to end up littered on the floor, so be sure to provide a large trash receptacle that is regularly emptied.



Recapturing Your Reputation


Taking charge of the digital reputation of a company doesn’t have to be daunting. Implementing the following best practices can protect a business’ image and stay on top of online customer feedback:


  • Monitor relevant review sites. Check in regularly on the major review sites for the industry. Yelp, Facebook, Google and Foursquare are some of the biggest outlets and are a good place to start in assessing a brand’s online reputation.
  • Quickly resolve issues outlined in complaints. Whether they are brought to a manager’s attention in person at a customer service desk, via email or online through social media or review sites, it’s important to correct restroom issues as soon as they are known.
  • Thank the customer for their feedback. Respond to the customer in a timely and kind fashion. Writing a reply to an online complaint acknowledges the customer’s less-than-stellar experience and shows that an organization is committed to addressing the issue to avoid future lapses in cleanliness. This will improve the perception of potential customers who are reading the negative review.
  • Observe patterns. Observe whether patrons discuss negative experiences in a consistent way. For example, are there more complaints around opening or closing? Do guests seem to have different outlooks on the lunch rush or the dinner rush? Such patterns may reveal where service or cleaning frequency could be improved.


Negative reviews can have a dramatic impact on the success of a business. To ensure customer loyalty and entice new guests, it’s crucial for owners and managers to properly maintain restrooms, carefully select products that promote cleanliness and diligently review customer feedback.


Giorgia Giove is the Marketing Manager for the Away from Home business at Sofidel, a world leader in the manufacturing of paper for hygienic and domestic use, which includes its Papernet brand. For more information, visit