Nowadays, there are a lot of ways customers can let you know how they feel about your business. In the best cases, you may get a five-star review on Yelp or Google.
But then, there’s the flip side: An unhappy customer can blast your company online. When someone leaves a negative review of your business, your gut reaction might be to sweep it under the rug or to fight back. However, those responses won’t win you any points in the long run. In fact, they can turn one negative review into a much bigger problem.
Given the power of online reviews, public negative reviews can seriously damage your business’s reputation and influence your customers’ decisions. But while you can’t control what other people post online about your business, you do have some control over the outcome of a negative review.
In this post, we’ll go over:
- Why you need to respond to negative reviews
- How to respond to negative reviews (with examples)
- 6 review response templates to personalize
- How to rebuild your reputation after a negative review
By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll feel confident about not only responding to negative reviews but also maybe even turning them into positive ones (I’m not crazy, I promise).
Why it’s important to respond to negative reviews
Over 90% of people say they read reviews before making a purchase. That means if you have negative reviews, people are probably going to see them. And while you can’t control what people write about your business, you do have the opportunity to respond publicly.
This means your responses don’t just convey messages to the reviewer but also to every other current and potential customer. And people are reading those responses! In fact, 97% of people who read reviews say they also read the responses.
This can help to:
- Build your reputation
- Earn trust
- Encourage more reviews
Plus, responding to negative reviews can actually impact your bottom line. People spend nearly 50% more money with businesses that respond to their reviews.
Related: Get more interesting online review stats here.
How to respond to negative reviews (with examples)
Now that you know how important it is to respond to negative reviews, here’s how to do it with some examples from real businesses.
Get in the right mindset
You’re passionate about your business and you care about your customers, so negative reviews are going to sting. However, a negative state of mind will only make the situation worse.
So take a big step back and a few minutes to process the review. Remind yourself that negative customer reviews don’t make you a bad business; they’re an inevitable part of running a business. Think of them more positively as a challenge to tackle and an opportunity to learn.
While you’re in this mindset, remember these important tips:
Don’t get defensive. This only makes the reviewer upset and can make potential customers reading your response cringe. (I experienced this firsthand when looking for examples for this post 😥)
Don’t share customer information. You may remember the reviewer and want to share information about their experience to make your case. It’s best not to dive into too many details. It can come off as defensive and may be seen as an invasion of privacy.
Don’t dismiss the review. There may be times when you receive a negative review that seems questionable. Did the reviewer review the right business? Did this experience really happen? If that’s the case, you can try to flag the review for removal. If that doesn’t work, you can respond with something like “I’m sorry to hear about your experience. We’re unable to find a record of you in our customer database. I’d love to talk with you to get more details. Please call me at [number]. Thank you.”
Personalize your response
It’s important to personalize your response to negative reviews. This shows you’re acknowledging both the reviewer and the review. Include the reviewer’s name in your negative review response (if possible), and potentially mention something they called out in their review.
And make sure you’re not posting the exact same response to every negative review!
Personalizing your negative review response can go a long way in establishing a connection and showing that you’re genuinely interested in making amends.
Regardless of what went wrong and why, always apologize to your unhappy customer. Nearly 40% of reviewers say they’re simply seeking an apology after leaving a negative review. Your initial message when responding to negative reviews is that you feel sorry that they are in distress and would like to work with them on changing that.
Apologize promptly to show that you care, and keep it concise (long explanations will come off as defensive).
Offer a resolution (and take it offline)
After promptly, clearly, and publicly expressing your apologies, you should propose a resolution—that is made offline.
Compensatory action in your response to negative customer reviews could mean the difference between simply satisfying your customer and actually retaining them. This is something that you can discuss with the customer during your follow-up conversation if it’s not included in your initial review response.
Offer to reach out via phone or email for a one-on-one conversation or provide your contact information for them to reach out if you don’t have theirs available. This enables a deep dive into the situation and eliminates noise such as additional comments by other users. It’s also during this more in-depth conversation that you can share your findings about the root of the problem.
Tip: If you don’t want to give out your direct number or email address, designate an email or phone number for customers to call. Make sure it’s something you check regularly so you don’t miss out on a reviewer following up!
Follow through and make improvements
After providing an opportunity for resolution, make sure to follow up and follow through. Ghosting a reviewer who has tried to reach out or not delivering on what was promised in your review response can lead to more fallout and negative reviews.
This is also a prime opportunity to see if there are any improvements that can be made to keep this type of review from happening in the future. That may not always be the case; you can’t please everyone, and sometimes there are off days for your business. But if you notice trends in the types of negative reviews you’re receiving, it may signal that there are areas you can focus on to stave off further negative reviews.
If you’ve made improvements (or plan to make improvements) as a result of your reviews, you can also let reviewers know in your response. This shows that you paid close attention to their feedback and were willing to make changes to provide a better experience moving forward.
Negative review response templates
Still unsure where to start? Here are some templates you can use and personalize when responding to negative reviews.
- [Reviewer’s name], Thank you for taking the time to provide your feedback. I’m sorry to hear about your experience. At [business name], we aim to deliver excellent [service/food/etc], so I’m disappointed to hear that wasn’t the case for you. I would love to make this right [insert any details about how you will do this here]. Please reach out to me at [number] or [email address]. – [Your name]
- Thank you, [Reviewer’s name], for bringing this to my attention. I’m sorry to hear you were disappointed with your experience, and I’d love the chance to make it up to you. Please give me a call at [number] or email me at [email address] so we can come to a resolution. Thank you. [Your name]
- [Reviewer’s name], I’m so sorry to hear [detail from review]. Our goal is to provide the best possible service to all our customers, and it sounds like we fell short for you. Please give me a call at [number] so we can make this right for you. Thanks, [Your name]
- Hi [Reviewer’s name], I’m so disappointed to read about your experience—this isn’t what we want for our customers at all! Can we make it up to you? Please call me at [number] or email me at [email address] for a free [item/service] on us. Thanks, [Your name]
- [Reviewer’s name], I’m so sorry to hear about [insert detail from review]. 100% satisfaction is our goal at [business name], so I’d love the chance to make this up to you. Please reach out at [number] or [email address]. Thanks, [Your name]
- [Reviewer’s name], While I’m happy to see [insert any positive mention from the review], I’m so sorry to hear the rest of your experience wasn’t up to par. I’d love to make it right for you. Please call me at [number] or email me at [email]. Thanks, [Your name]
Make sure to vary your negative review responses, include details from the review, and let them know how you’re planning to resolve the complaint.
How to rebuild your online reputation after negative reviews
Once you’ve responded to a negative review, here’s how you can get your business’s online reputation back on track.
Get more positive reviews
A proper response can lead customers to edit, remove, or even replace their negative online reviews. Some customers even turn into fans of your business! However, this isn’t always the case.
While you can’t delete reviews made on other platforms, you can reduce the review’s prominence. Get more positive reviews to push the negative review further down the timeline. If it’s on a mixed media platform such as Facebook, publish additional content such as stand-out blog posts and company updates to increase the amount of positive and beneficial content.
Here are some review request email templates you can use to help get more reviews.
Respond to positive reviews
Obviously, it’s crucial to respond to negative reviews, but don’t forget to respond to positive reviews, too. Responding to positive feedback provides opportunities to:
- Engage with customers
- Reveal more of your brand personality
- Educate your audience
Stay on top of online reviews
You can’t respond to negative online reviews if you can’t find them! With the power of online reviews today, reputation monitoring is crucial to your business’s success. Use reputation management to stay on top of what customers are saying about your business online, make improvements where necessary, and identify strengths to harness.
Start responding to negative reviews today
If your business has a few negative reviews in the mix, don’t sweat it. In this age of transparency, there are actually several opportunities that can come from bad reviews:
- They make positive reviews more sincere.
- They humanize your business. A negative review with a proper response might have more of an impact on a consumer than a positive review with a mere “thanks!”
- They (ironically) can facilitate trust. A string of generic positive reviews can be underwhelming or even a little suspicious. Having a mix of positive and negative reviews shows that you’re genuine and have nothing to hide.
Knowing how to respond to negative reviews, especially those that occur online, is the key to customer relationships and continued success. Negative online reviews aren’t the worst thing in the world, and when handled properly can be turned into opportunities to better satisfy your customers and improve your business.