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How Do I Respond To A Negative Review?

As a business owner, getting a bad review can feel like a punch to the gut. You get angry, defensive, and annoyed just as if someone were personally attacking you. What’s worse is that negative reviews have actual consequences, such as driving away potential customers. But there is a silver lining to bad reviews. They give you an opportunity to right your wrongs and deliver stellar customer service — in a public platform where potential customers can see. 

In today’s digital landscape, consumers have developed a healthy scepticism toward positive reviews. If all of your reviews are positive, they may come off as fake. Having a few reasonable negative reviews can add a bit of authenticity to your business, enticing people to trust you even more. Ignoring a bad review is no longer an option. Regardless of where the review is – be it Google, Yelp, Facebook, or Tripadvisor – what it says doesn’t actually matter. What really matters is how you respond. 


The following steps can be effective responses to a negative review:

1. Show appreciation and acknowledge the issue. 

Thank the customer for the negative review. Consider it a learning opportunity that can contribute to improving your product or service. Just say “Thank you for taking the time to provide me with this feedback.” or “‘Thank you for sharing and letting us know about this issue.” Then, validate their emotions. It’s normal for customers who have complaints to feel frustrated, angry, and disappointed. Acknowledge this first and express genuine sympathy so they can calm down while reading your response. Include statements such as “I understand how frustrating this must be,” or “I know this has been a frustrating experience for you.” After acknowledging their emotions, show that you acknowledge the issue too. Let them know that you understand why they are complaining. 


You can use acknowledging statements like: 

“I realize that this situation is difficult -”

“I know how frustrating it can be – ”

“I am now aware of the situation -” 

“I cannot imagine how upsetting it is to…”

“What you have experienced is no more acceptable to us than it is to you.”

2. Offer a sincere, non-defensive apology. 

If your business made a mistake, then by all means apologize and take responsibility. Before delivering an apology, check your words for any hint of defensiveness, or language that removes your business from responsibility. Avoid statements like “I am sorry you feel that way” or “I am sorry if you are offended.” or “It is unfortunate that things turned out this way.” 

It’s best to offer non-defensive apology statements like “We are incredibly sorry about [the complaint], this level of service is unacceptable.” or “We sincerely apologize that you’re feeling [emotion of the customer] because we did [the complaint].” By taking responsibility, you’re also showing potential customers that you care about making things right for the customer. 

3. Provide a brief explanation and how you will avoid making the same mistake

There may be instances wherein you’ll need to provide more information to clear up a misunderstanding. Explain in a way that is not coming across as making excuses, and at the end of the statement, offer advice on how to re-engage with your business. 

For example, “We apologize for the miscommunication that took place when booking your room. We experienced a serious technical issue with our scheduling software, which caused us to lose valuable information about our upcoming guests. As a result, we were not able to send a vehicle to pick you up at the airport. We feel terrible for the mistake and we truly apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you. We have since resolved the technical issue, so feel free to book another stay online or by calling us directly. We hope to have the opportunity to serve you soon.” 

4. Compensate the reviewer appropriately

As a customer, there’s nothing worse than having a negative experience with a company and have them brush it off like it was no big deal. In their eyes, the situation has cost them time or money. To help ease the tension, incentivize or compensate the negative reviewer. It can be in the form of a discount, promotion, or refund. This step can go a long way in regaining a lifelong customer. More so, a $75 gift card or a 20% credit on their next visit means they would have to use your business again. 

5. Invite the reviewer to take the conversation offline

Using the tips mentioned above should pacify even the most frustrated customer, but as they say ‘you can’t please everyone.’ If a reviewer is still dissatisfied, you can offer to move the conversation to a private platform and continue on your own terms. Work with the customer on a phone call, email, or video chat until you reach a resolution. 

Make sure to provide your name, title, and direct contact information. Remember to keep it short and to the point. Following your initial apology, you can say “Thank you for the review, we are sorry to hear that you didn’t have  great experience with us. Please contact our manager, Bill, at [company number] at your earliest convenience so we could further resolve the issue at hand.” 

Final Thoughts

Even though it presents several challenges, responding to a negative review is part of maintaining your company’s integrity. It gives you the chance to actively participate in improving your online reputation. If you ignore bad reviews altogether, customers are unlikely to return. More so, the customer might continue to share his or her experience with others offline or in other online platforms. When you respond quickly and with grace, you can actually make a negative review work for you, rather than against your business.