How to Respond to Negative Reviews

How to Respond to Negative Reviews: The 10 Best Practices (and Response Examples!)

Even though every business gets them, negative online reviews still cut deep. Whether justified or not, you’ll probably want to send a response defending your business immediately. After all, 97% of people say that online reviews—both positive and negative—impact their decision about whether or not they want to give their business to a given company.

Though you can’t control the words people use to define and label your business, you can control your response. Responding to negative feedback is an important step in offering excellent customer service. The way you respond to less-than-ideal feedback has a significant impact on how the review impacts your profits and overall reputation.

How Bad Business Reviews Impact Your Company 

You’ve poured your heart and soul into your business, so it’s no surprise that you feel angry and defensive about negative feedback—especially if it’s unfair. A single bad review has the power to adversely impact your business by:

  • Resulting in a loss of revenue
  • Harming your company’s reputation
  • Dissuading future customers from trying what you have to offer

Despite the potential for these negative impacts, the likelihood of this occurring is more dependent on the ratio of positive reviews to customer complaints and the way in which you respond to negative reviews.

Why Bother Responding to Negative Reviews? 

As long as you don’t have so much negative feedback that your average customer rating on your Google Business Profile is sitting below five stars, negative reviews can be used to your advantage. Some of the ways in which negative reviews can benefit your business include:

  • Eliciting sympathy.  Sometimes negative customer feedback is so blatantly unjustified and absurd that, within a sea of positive reviews, is interpreted by customers as lacking credibility. A one-star review that isn't backed up with details isn't credible. Seeing such an unfair review evokes sympathy for your business and can even result in customers posting positive reviews that challenge the bad review.
  • Increasing SEO.  Negative feedback can boost your local SEO and increase your company’s visibility and search rankings by including keywords.
  • Building customer trust.  Customers see companies without any negative feedback as unrealistic and untrustworthy, leading positive reviews to come across as fake reviews. While a lot of negative reviews may compromise customer trust, a handful will indicate to the potential customer that the positive reviews are genuine too.

When customers see your response to a negative review, their sympathy and trust increases even more. That being said, the manner in which you respond to negative feedback determines the impact it has on your business.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews the Right Way 

Responding to negative feedback incorrectly can cause a negative review to do more damage than it would have in the first place. By adhering to these ten best practices, you can make negative feedback work for you every time.

1) Stay Calm and Collected 

We get it. When someone has something unflattering to say about your business, the first thing you want to do is defend yourself. Maybe the customer service was lacking one day because several of your staff members were out sick, causing your remaining employees to be stretched a little thin. Or maybe there was a software error that resulted in the double-booking of clients who were in need of your services. 

One-off issues like these happen, but one bad review can convey to potential clients that this happens all the time. Regardless of what the review says, the worst thing you can do is come across as defensive in your response. Customers see a defensive response as a warning sign that if they have a poor experience with your business, their concerns will be brushed under the rug. 

A calm response to an emotional negative online review shows future customers that your business is rational and therefore credible—unlike the upset customer. 

2) Be Empathetic

Upset customers generally just want to be heard. Whether or not their poor experience is reflective of your business as a whole, the fact remains that their experience with your business did not meet their expectations. Expressing empathy for their experience tells the unhappy customer—and other potential customers who read your reply—that you’re willing to listen.

To be empathetic in your response, you’ll need to do two things:

  • Thank them for taking the time to leave their feedback. Acknowledging the time it took your customer to write a review shows that you value their time. 
  • Acknowledge the problem. Though it may seem obvious to you that you’re acknowledging their poor experience simply by replying, restating the problem makes it clear to readers that you’ve heard them. 

3) Apologize

After knowing they’ve been heard, angry customers often only want an apology. Explicitly saying “we’re sorry” in your reply—even when the review is irrational and you don’t believe you were even a little bit in the wrong—shows that you’re not afraid to own up to your mistakes and take the higher road.

If you don’t agree with what the customer has to say, you are likely still sorry that they felt dissatisfied with their experience. By saying “we’re sorry you experienced X” or “we’re sorry your experience with us did not meet your needs,” you can convey a genuine apology without claiming fault for an incident.

4) Be Personable

Have you ever left a review for a product or service and received a reply that looks like a robot wrote it? How did it make you feel?

If you didn’t have any kind of reaction to an auto-generated response, congrats—you’re human! Responses that don’t have any kind of personality are completely devoid of empathy and genuinity, which, as we’ve already discussed, are essential components to a good reply to a bad review.

To come across as personable and genuine in your review replies, you should avoid copying and pasting a template. Although negative review response examples can be useful, they should only be used as a starting point. By copy and pasting the same negative review response examples for every negative online review, customers will pick up on the pattern and be less likely to view you as genuine and trustworthy.

Using the customer’s name at the beginning of the reply also makes the reviewer feel like they’re corresponding with a human being rather than an algorithm.

5) Be Professional

While you want to be personable in your reply, you’re still representing a business. “Hey man!” is a great way to start a message to a friend, but not an acceptable opening for an online review response.

Establish your professional credibility by identifying your role within the organization. Throughout your response, use professional language and double-check it for grammatical errors, missing punctuation, and correct use of capitalization.

6) Offer A Solution

While many customers will just want their experience acknowledged, sometimes an apology isn’t enough. You can actually convert an unhappy customer into a loyal customer by backing up your apology with a solution.

Although you can’t go back in time and change their experience, you can offer them an incentive to give your business another chance. The incentive will look different depending on the industry, but it may involve offering a discount, coupon, or a refund. It’s good practice to encourage the customer to reach out to you through email to discuss the type of solution they would like rather than prescribing a single option with a “take-it-or-leave-it” attitude implied.

7) Respond Quickly

When your business gets a negative review, don’t hesitate to reply for long. Ideally, reviews should be responded to within 24 hours of being posted. The longer you wait, the more time you leave for potential customers to read that negative review and only hear one side of the situation. Unhappy customers will also be less likely to take advantage of the solution you offer once several weeks have passed.

8) Keep it Brief

An angry customer isn’t interested in the logic behind why their experience went in the direction that it did. It is, understandably, important for you to understand the cause of the situation, but it couldn’t be less relevant to the customer. Avoid rambling on for paragraphs upon paragraphs in your review replies. Ideally, you’ll want your response to be 3 to 4 sentences long.

A longer response is sometimes appropriate when a customer lies about the experience they had. By staying calm and collected, you can avoid sounding defensive while still setting the record straight.

9) Express the Rarity of Their Experience

While you don’t want to come across as defensive, you can tactfully point out that the type of experience the customer had is a rare occurrence. The angry customer won’t care, but all the other potential customers that read your reply will.

If your Google Business Profile is mostly made up of 4- and 5-star reviews, you probably don’t need to touch on the rarity of the 1-star review experience. Potential customers will understand that this was a one-off simply by looking at the ratio of positive to negative reviews.

Being explicit about the rarity in your response may be valuable if you only have a handful of Google reviews. In this case, potential clients don’t have a long list of positive reviews to read to support your reputation.

10) Continue the Conversation Offline

Some negative responses are logical, but most are not. Even when you’ve done everything right in your response, the customer may feel too passionately about their experience to back down.

Instead of going back and forth in a public argument, take the conversation away from the public eye to an email or phone call. People will read your reply and see that you were able to move forward with the negative feedback professionally.

Negative Review Response Examples

Using the negative review response examples below, see how many of the ten best practices you can identify in each response.

Negative Review Response Example 1

Good afternoon Sheila,

My name is Tom Smith and I am the manager here at Plumbing & HVAC Central. Thank you for taking the time to leave your feedback about your service on June 5th. I’m sorry to hear that you were not happy with the service you received from us. At Plumbing & HVAC Central, we have high standards for customer service and would like to make things right. 

Please give me a call at 555-555-5555 at your earliest convenience to resolve this issue. We value your business and hope you’ll give us the opportunity to make it up to you.


Tom Smith

Negative Review Response Example 2

Hi Sheila, 

We’re so sorry to hear that you were not completely satisfied with the quality of workmanship you received from us. At Plumbing & HVAC, we’re known for our high attention to detail and competitive prices. Thank you for bringing this to our attention so that we can prevent this from happening again.

We value all of our customers and would love the opportunity to make this right. Please give us a call at 555-555-5555 so we can discuss this matter further and come up with a solution.


Tom Smith, Manager at Plumbing & HVAC Central

Negative Review Response Example 3

Hi Sheila, 

I am sorry you were less than satisfied with your experience with Plumbing & HVAC Central.

You stated that you were dissatisfied with the wait time and that you had not been informed that your service would be delayed. According to our records, we indicated to you that there would be a 30-minute additional wait time due to your last-minute request that we perform on top of the booked service. 

Our reputation for having excellent customer service is important to us. Should you wish to discuss the situation further, we would be happy to take your call. Please contact us at 555-555-5555 at your earliest convenience.


Tom Smith, Manager at Plumbing & HVAC Central

Get Support with Bad Business Reviews

Responding to not just negative reviews, but positive ones as well, is important for strengthening and upholding your business’ reputation. However, it can also be a time-consuming process.

Digital Shift’s Google Review Management Services are designed to help you nurture and repair your relationships with customers on review sites and social media. To find out more about how we can make bad business reviews work for you, give us a call at 888-380-2260 and speak with one of our experienced and knowledgeable digital marketing experts.

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