How to Respond to Negative Reviews

August 24, 2020

Learn how to respond to negative reviews in a way that gets customers back on your side. Follow our steps for responding to negative reviews.

how to respond to negative reviews includes studying them. An image of a magnifying glass over an angry face.

No matter what business you’re in, you’ll inevitably receive a bad review sooner or later. Even the greatest companies receive negative feedback from time to time. In this article, we’ll discuss how to respond to negative reviews – without being negative yourself. After all, you can’t make everyone like you. We’re all human so we all make mistakes. In turn, these mistakes can lead to negative online reviews.

Along with this, remember that everyone is different. We’ve all had different upbringings, cultural experiences, socioeconomic experiences, etc. Understandably, these human experiences have also lead us to develop different expectations. In short, what may be amazing to some may be completely unimpressive to others. So continue reading to learn how to respond to negative reviews from all humans!

A graphic with 3 options for a review - green thumbs up, yellow middle thumps up, and a red thumbs down. How to respond to negative reviews.

Who Cares About Online Reviews Anyway?

You’ve probably heard very few (if any) people say, “it has bad reviews, but I don’t care.” On the contrary, 84% of customers state that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations when shopping for products. Reviews are an important element for your businesses’ online presence. Positive and detailed reviews actually help your businesses’ SEO. So online reviews directly impact your business’ revenue and directly sway your potential buyer’s decisions.

Good Reviews and Your SEO

Reviews can tell Google and other search engines about the products and services your business offers. This is especially true for Google Reviews – so although all reviews are important, make sure your businesses’ Google My Business account is set up. You’ll be able to use this account to reply to your customer’s reviews as well. Responding to your negative reviews is important as well, we’ll explain why in a later section. Google trusts consumers to validate a page’s content and it’s accuracy compared to their search queries.

Getting the Most Out of your Online Reviews

There are many factors that contribute to consumer’s reactions to and dependency on reviews. For example, you should keep your reviews current and consistent. While it’s exciting to get a bunch of reviews when starting up your site, the most important thing is to keep the momentum going.

Current reviews are important to potential customers when forming opinions. Research shows that 73% of consumers don’t think reviews are relevant after they’re older than three months. So, make sure you’re continually encouraging customers to write reviews. Make it a part of your regular sales process so it’s fresh in every customer’s mind after their experience with your business.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

A little girl rolling her eyes after meeting Santa.

So now that we’ve covered why good reviews are important, let’s jump into how to respond to negative reviews. As we previously mentioned, a number of things can lead to negative reviews. This includes the fact that some people are very unimpressed with awesome things. Even something as awesome and magical as meeting Santa Claus can get some eye rolls.

Believe it or not, some of the “greatest places on earth” even get the occasional one-star reviews. For example, this post by Mother Jones covers many hilariously terrible reviews of places like The Petrified Forest and Joshua Tree. So while it’s true that sometimes you just can’t control how people respond to your business, you can control how you respond to them – even if someone is trying to be ridiculous.

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Responding in general already increases your ratings among customers. When a business takes the time to respond to reviews, people seem to show their appreciation in ratings. One connection is the fear of confrontation. When people see that previous negative reviews received responses from the business, they’re more likely to censor their reviews. This doesn’t mean you’re “scaring” people away, it’s just human nature at work.

Now let’s jump into the steps of how to respond to negative reviews.

Take a Moment

First, take a deep breath. Sometimes when you’re in the heat of the moment after reading a bad review, you may react emotionally or defensively. Sometimes people can be downright mean in bad reviews, so don’t fall into an emotional rant or ‘strike back’ mode. Instead, give yourself a moment to take a breather and shake off any knee-jerk reactions.

Instead, pause and take a moment to collect your thoughts before responding. If you have a business partner or someone else to talk to, discuss the issues outlined in the bad review with them. This will help you collect your thoughts properly and see other angles and opinions. Then, you can take the time you need to formulate a professional and well-thought-out response.

a blue sky with clouds and sky writing that says "sorry" inside of balloons. How to respond to negative reviews includes apologizing!


First thing’s first, apologize! Yes, even if you don’t think (or really didn’t) do anything wrong. If the customer had a negative experience and feels an apology is necessary, there’s really nothing to argue with. You can’t say their feelings are wrong. You can apologize without agreeing with what was said. More often than not, an apology is all someone wants.

However, don’t get too long-winded with your apology. Quickly move onto the next steps and how things will be better the next time. Don’t get overly-mushy with your apology so that it becomes unprofessional or uncomfortable for the customer.

Be Specific and Personal

Do not use a bland response template that is simply copied and pasted in every review. This is arguably worse than not receiving a response at all. And aside from annoying the customer that posted the negative review in the first place, you’ll likely annoy any other potential customers scrolling through the reviews.

So instead, add personal details to your response to show that you took the time to read and consider their review. It’s especially important to address their concern – don’t respond but completely ignore the issue that made them write a negative review in the first place.

Side note – you should be specific and personal with positive reviews as well. General rule of thumb when responding to your reviews is don’t do it on the fly or when you’re low on time. Give each review and customer the time they gave you! This brings us to our final step in how to respond to negative reviews.

Reach Out

Rather than just a quick apology and response to a negative comment, you’ll need to take it a step further. The goal of responding to a negative comment or issue is to resolve the problem and make the customer happier about the situation. You also want to convince them to return to your place of business.

A chalkboard that says, "Everyday is a second chance!" in white chalk.

To accomplish this, you’ll need to reach out on a different platform that just Yelp or Google reviews. Give the customer a phone number to call and the name of the manager or person that can help them. Make sure the person receiving the call is ready and prepared with a solution. This will help the customer feel like their needs are actually being cared for.

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Depending on the issue and it’s intensity, you can take it a step further and have the reviewer come back in. If you serve food it could be a free drink or dessert. You can offer your apology in the form of a coupon or discount. Whatever it is, make sure you’re getting the customer to give you a second chance and that you’re improving the next experience right off the bat.

The Best Responses

Now that we’ve covered how to respond, let’s finish up with the best type of responses to use. These have been studied by Review Trackers and tried across the board of responses and are proven to be the best format for negative reviews. This is their template suggestion for negative feedback:

“Dear So-and-So, thanks for sharing your feedback. We’re sorry your experience didn’t match your expectations. It was an uncommon instance and we’ll do better. Please feel free to reach out to us with any further comments, concerns, or suggestions you wish to share. We would love to make things right if you give us another chance.”

You can start with the above layout and then add any specifics to the review (as we discussed earlier) and address any questions.

Managing The Trolls

how to respond to negative reviews no trolls

The internet has been public and widely available for nearly 30 years. It’s developed, changed, and adjusted throughout its existence. Along with these adjustments, came another annoying development – the internet troll. These people are determined to watch the world burn, and stoke the fire in any way they can.

It seems no business is immune to these hecklers. If you’re unlucky enough to catch the attention of a troll, don’t panic. If you’re unsure whether a user is in fact a troll or not, here are a few signs from Metro UK.

While most companies either ignore these annoyances or stay strictly professional, there are some that instead choose the route of humor. This gives both a way to diffuse any tension and a way for people to share your interaction. There are plenty of humorous business replies that have gone viral.

Now Go Tackle Any Negative Reviews

Now that you know exactly how to respond to any negativity you may receive, do it with confidence. While we all receive negative reviews from time to time, it’s all about how you handle them. So do your thing and work to turn those negatives into positives as soon as possible!

A quote about positive thinking by Willie Nelson over an image of flowers.

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