How to Respond to Negative Reviews

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Naturally, every business owner wants to know how to respond to negative reviews. You’ll learn how to respond in this article. But first, find out how negative reviews can impact your business. 

Most businesses don’t prioritize responses to customer reviews. Like Harvey Specter from the popular American drama series Suits once said, “One client doesn’t make a firm.” But if you plan to grow your business, then every customer matters.  

Even more important are customers’ friends and family. A satisfied customer will tell at least three friends, while an unhappy customer will tell at least 15 people. It is important to know how to respond to negative reviews and what impact they have

Negative Reviews and Their Impact on Your Business

Negative reviews have always been a problem for business owners. With the rise of social media platforms, it’s easier than ever to spread one bad review across many outlets. That can make the impact of a single bad review catastrophic for an entire company. 

For some, the idea of a single review destroying a company might seem like pure exaggeration. But the statistics don’t lie. One bad word can make 94% of consumers avoid your company without even giving your business a chance.

Online reviews are instrumental tools in driving consumer behavior, with 93% of consumers relying on them to make purchasing decisions. It doesn’t matter how many good reviews come in; one bad one is enough to harm your overall reputation, making it extremely important to know how to respond to bad reviews. 

Why Should You Reply to Negative Feedback?

It’s always tough to read a bad review. You can still turn things around if you know how to respond to negative reviews. Most customers who post negative reviews don’t do it because they enjoy it. Most of them are disappointed and need an outlet where their concerns will be heard and addressed. 

When you first read a customer’s criticism, try not to take offense or get defensive. Instead, see it as an opportunity to make them happy – if not happier than before. Over half of all customers that submit negative feedback and reviews expect a response within days.  

But guess what? As much as 63% of companies never say anything back, losing  not only potential customers, but also existing ones. However, by responding to negative reviews with something positive, at least 40% of buyers are likely to do business with that brand again.

Useful Takeaways

So, given a choice between responding and silence, you should always lean toward openness and empathetic replies. Not only because this keeps the conversation about your brand going, but also for the following reasons: 

  • Giving prompt responses to any review, whether good or bad, is just the polite thing to do. Failure to do so is an obvious red flag. 
  • Prospects are always after the best service. If you don’t reply to their feedback, you might make them reconsider their decision to purchase from you. 
  • Responding to customer complaints is a way of earning back customer trust. If you do it with class and honesty, your customers will be more willing to use or recommend your services in the future. 
  • The level of seriousness you attach to reviews also shows your customers your commitment to improvement.
  • As any top SEO agency will tell you, your Google reviews impact your search engine ranking.

In other words, your best option is to use negative feedback to your advantage. Know how to respond to negative reviews and you can do just that. 

7 Steps to Dealing With Negative Customer Reviews

A person with a sad paper bag over their head thinking common phrases from bad reviews.
A person with a sad paper bag over their head thinking common phrases from bad reviews.

Exactly how can you deal with negative customer reviews? Let’s look at the general framework you can use to address negative feedback whenever a disgruntled customer leaves a few words online.

1. Make a Plan for How You Will Respond

It’s vital to have an action plan in place for negative reviews before launching your products. Such reviews will always be upsetting, but you don’t need to panic. The key elements to consider if faced with a negative review include: 

When it comes to customer service, timeliness is crucial. You should know how to respond to negative reviews within a minimum of 24 hours. Failure to respond may escalate the situation, resulting in the customer badmouthing your company, both online and offline. Hence, you need to have an answer ready for different scenarios and reply ASAP.

As a small business owner, you can manage these issues on your own. However, once your company begins to expand, you will have to find that “special” somebody to take charge of replying to customer reviews. 

You must make sure you respond appropriately and effectively, even if you have different sites targeting separate audiences. Therefore, you need an established review policy to ensure consistency across all channels. Your review policy should outline the tone, choice of word (appropriate and inappropriate words/phrases), escalation paths, and timeliness.

The members of your team in charge of responding to feedback should be aware of this plan so everyone is on the same page and acts accordingly.

2. Develop Response Templates

If you don’t know how to immediately respond to negative reviews, writing a response is much easier with templates to follow. These templates should contain all the elements such as issue acknowledgment, an apology, and an explanation for what happened. You should also offer help or compensation when necessary.  

However, customers know that many companies use reply templates, so it’s essential to personalize your responses (but still maintain your brand identity). The goal is two-fold:

  • To understand your customers point of view
  • To sound as human and relatable as possible

With this in mind, you want to make their day a little better. It’s vital for you and your team to remain present and committed to finding out where things went wrong. Then you need to follow up on promises made.  

When responding to the customers, always use their name and be transparent about who’s making the reply to the disgruntled customer. This way, there’s no confusion between company representatives during interactions. 

You should also have email templates for responding to negative feedback via email. Some customers prefer to send their complaints that way.

3. Acknowledge the Problem

Although your business will not always be at fault, it still needs to acknowledge customers’ concerns. The recommended way to begin your reply then is this:

“We appreciate you taking the time to contact us about this issue.”

The sentence above might seem simple, but it’s a compelling one. It sets your customers at ease, letting them know their voice is heard. Customers will assume you’re working on resolving the issue because you took the time to acknowledge it. You need to do just that and take the necessary steps to fix it. 

A screenshot of a Wendy's Twitter conversation where they respond to a negative customer review.
Source: @wendys Twitter account
A screenshot of a Wendy's Twitter conversation where they respond to a negative customer review.
Source: @wendys Twitter account

A classic example is from the Wendy’s Twitter account (@wendys). Wendy’s is famous for its customer service. Just look at how it went beyond its usual pleasantries to help a Twitter user who expressed dissatisfaction with one of their locations. In this situation, Wendy’s stepped up by offering direct communication with the angry consumer. Not only that. Wendy’s acknowledged there was indeed a problem.

Subsequently, the company also resolved the issue.

4. Express Regret to the Customer

Even if you feel there is nothing to apologize for, it’s crucial that the customer feels heard. An apology shows you care and are concerned. It may help de-escalate a situation before customers develop negative feelings about your business. 

You may have something to apologize for. Your customer felt compelled to write a review, so in a way, they were already inconvenienced. They used their precious time to write a complaint about you. 

State in clear terms how much you regret the customer had to go through whatever they went through. When thinking about how to respond to bad reviews, keep in mind sentences like “We’re sincerely sorry for the inconvenience”. It is short and straightforward and gives the reassurance that something will change.

Pro Tip: Choose “sorry” over “apologize”. “We’re sorry” sounds more like you’re really asking for forgiveness, while empathizing with the customer at the same time.

5. Explain the Situation

Sometimes, an apology is not enough to make a situation better. In addition to providing an apology, you may also need more information that explains why your customer’s experience was less than satisfactory.  

There are no set rules on when to explain. If you feel it’s necessary for the sake of giving them some closure or understanding about what happened, and the event affecting them, do it in a way that doesn’t throw anyone else under the bus.

6. Provide an Incentive to the Reviewer

Your customer’s bad experience is a potential opportunity. They are likely to forget about the product or service they wanted if something goes wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it.  

Instead of despairing, offer an incentive such as a free replacement, discounts, or coupons, among others. You can also offer store credit that expires if the customer doesn’t come back again. 

You might be surprised at how these can make them feel better. When you make these offers, you also show empathy for their wasted time and the inconvenience it caused. Such small gestures are one of the best ways to respond to bad reviews.   

These gestures might seem small, but they go a long way in shaping customers’ opinions. Remember those 15 people your customer might have told their negative experience to? They’ll also hear about the amazing way you handled the situation. It’s a win-win for everyone.

7. Take the Conversation Offline

If the customer becomes satisfied with your initial response to negative feedback, then good for you! If that’s not what happens, don’t prolong the negative review thread.


 You wouldn’t want your existing customers and prospects to see the thread and shy away from your business. Remember, nearly nine out of ten people read reviews before making a purchase. 

Instead, take the conversation offline. You have more time and space for discussions when you talk with customers directly, either through email or phone calls.  

Or another good way is to attach a consulting proposal, which increases efficiency and encourages open dialogue with clients. Companies will be able to provide their customers better care by increasing access points for customer service. 

Once a customer contacts you offline, you can’t afford any delays. Do NOT offer to talk if it’s inconvenient or unreasonable for either party. Your gesture will just come across as an empty one.  

When you finally talk offline, take a second to look at things from the customer’s perspective and give a solution.

Negative Review Response Examples

Reviews can be of different kinds and sorts, from positive to negative. While both require some attention to earn brownie points in customer care, it’s the negative ones that need extra care and precautions. 

Look at some negative review response examples and see how you can deal with them in the online space.

1. No-Text Reviews

A lot of users tend to leave star-rating only, without providing any additional information on what went wrong with the product or service. When it comes to negative review response examples, this is a tricky one. While the feedback doesn’t include a text, businesses should still respond with an already-made template for such occasions. 

Hi [name],

We’re sorry to hear your experience was less than 5 stars. If you’re open to further discussing it, please contact us at [phone number/email].

2. Reviews With Little Information

Reviews like this can be frustrating. Not only is it a bad star rating, but the non-existing context in the feedback also leaves businesses wondering what exactly was the issue. The best response example for this type of feedback should be designed to get more information from the customer.

Hi [name],

We’re sorry the experience didn’t match your expectations. Please provide more information to help us improve our service or product. Reach us at [phone/email].

3. Reviews From Angry Customers

Hi [name],

We’re sorry you weren’t pleased with our service/product. We highly value our customer experience, so thank you for letting us know. We will do our best to prevent this from happening again.

4. Reviews That Need a Solution

At times, customers leave reviews about problems that can be easily fixed. In these cases, it’s all about resolving things quickly. Offer a solution or a chance to discuss it offline. If businesses deal with issues fast, it’s more likely the customer will return and change the review to a positive one.

Hi [name],

We’re sorry about your bad experience. Our customers are important to us and we would like to resolve this issue immediately. Please contact us at [phone/email] and we will promptly address the situation.

5. Spam Reviews

Every once in a while, every company – big or small – will receive fake spam reviews. Sometimes it’s a bot, sometimes it’s someone from the competition. Whatever the case, these reviews are quite easy to spot, flag, and remove. 

While you’re waiting for officials to take care of this spam, it’s important to reassure people it’s a fake review and your business is not responsible for the issue at hand.

Provide a background check when possible and ensure other users that this specific case is either not true, twisted, or the user refuses any further communication, solution,  and explanation. 

Hi [name],

-Unfortunately, we don’t see any record of you dealing with our company/product/ service.

-We see you’ve done this and this, which is not in accordance with your statement. Please contact us to resolve the issue.

-Unfortunately, this user didn’t respond to any messages, calls, or attempts to resolve the issue at hand.

Wrapping Up

You might be tempted to ignore negative reviews, especially those that sting badly.  For your business’s best interest, you should take them seriously. 

Instead of ignoring negative feedback, come up with a plan of action. The key is to empathize with the customer. Acknowledge the customer’s issue and apologize for any inconvenience. Explain what went wrong and how you’ll fix it going forward. Don’t forget to offer incentives, if applicable. 

Remember, your customers are the reason your business even exists. If you listen to them and take care of them, they’ll be more than happy to help you achieve greater success.

Make It Happen Today!

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