Respond To Negative Reviews


When you get a negative review online, it can feel like the worst thing that’s ever happened to your business and you might think of responding and right the wrong you have been dealt.

Sometimes it may make sense just to leave the negative review alone. If a customer seems unreasonable or is blatantly exaggerating an issue you’re already aware of, it may be best not to respond at all. But in most cases, responding to negative customer reviews online is going to be your best bet in showcasing your company as understanding, reasonable and fair.

1- Calm Yourself Down

Do whatever you need to do to calm your emotions and center yourself. For local business owners, negative reviews can feel like a personal attack. Don’t let them get to you. Most customers who leave negative reviews do so for a few reasons:

  • They want to inform you of where you fell short so you can get better in the long run.
  • They want to help other potential customers get the most out of their choices.

You don’t want to convince yourself that these customers hate you and want to get your business down. Though some customers who leave online reviews are genuinely displeased and unlikely to offer you their return business, most others simply want their voices heard.

2- Develop A Strategy

Develop a game plan for how to respond to negative reviews online. One strategy we’ve recommended in the past is to try to move the discussion offline as quickly as possible. You can ask them to send you an email with their phone number, for example. This works especially well if a commenter seems hotheaded or maybe even unreasonable, as you’ll keep an unnecessary back-and-forth from happening online. But this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, as it can also appear secretive if used too frequently.

Another strategy is to have a few response templates you can lean on to address different types of reviews. Leave yourself enough room in each template to personalize it with each customer’s name and specific details of his concern. Then, offer the same type of compensation for similar types of complaints. This will make you appear as fair and consistent as possible. The key is to not sound too robotic (and don’t get lazy!). Take the time to slightly personalize each response, even if you use similar templates frequently.

3- Draft Your Response

When crafting your response, first things first. Greet the customer, and validate his or her feelings in the first or second sentence of your response, whether you agree with the negative review or not. Be upfront, and address the review’s main concern openly and transparently.

Never undermine the complaint with a copout apology. When responding to a negative review, it’s tempting to offer a surface-level apology, especially if you disagree with a customer’s frustration or complaint. These copouts sound something like, “We’re sorry you believe our customer service wasn’t up to par.” If you find yourself apologizing for how someone feels instead of actions you took to make them feel that way, you’re offering a copout.

4- Avoid making excuses

Even if you acknowledge you were in the wrong, it may feel okay to justify why you missed the mark. Avoid doing this if you can. Whether it’s fair or not, providing an excuse can give the impression you’re not fully owning up to the role you played in causing an issue.

Here is a recent blog post about the response you don’t want to use when replying to a negative review

5- Structure A Short Reply.

Notice we said “short” reply. Try not to be too wordy in your reply – let’s aim for no more than 5, short sentences with easy-to-understand language. Here’s your recipe for the perfect reply:

  • Greet the customer by name (or screen name if applicable).
  • Acknowledge the concern or complaint.
  • Apologize for the misstep.
  • Either a) offer to make it better or b) promise you’ll do your best to ensure it’ll never happen again.

6- Take Action

We’ve alluded a few times to the fact that most successful business owners who respond to negative customer reviews offer something to make it right. Like we mentioned earlier, try to make anything you offer as a remedy consistent and fair across the board. 

Make sure whatever you offer is relevant and easy to redeem. (Warning: Don’t offer a customer a free pizza during their next visit, but fail to give them a coupon or method for redeeming it, for example. There’s nothing more embarrassing than asking your server for your free pizza and being greeted with blank stares.)