“Negative customer feedback hurts your business. Positive feedback helps.”
That’s a false dichotomy. A bad review can actually help you grow your business—you just need to respond to it in the right way.
In this article, we teach you how. Let’s get into it:
Negative reviews give a bad impression of your business. In responding to negative reviews, your goals are twofold:
Responding to negative reviews can also give you an opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality—sometimes, responses to reviews can even go viral if they’re crafted carefully.
Going viral isn’t always a good thing, though—if it happens because your response was tone-deaf or insulting, you might end up destroying your reputation. That’s one of the reasons we created this guide—to help you improve your reputation management strategy by giving the right responses to negative reviews.
“There’s no such thing as bad publicity”. The same is true with feedback—there are negative reviews, but there are rarely bad reviews. (We’ll talk about the big exception to this rule in a bit).
Negative feedback tells you what your business can improve. Customer feedback is essential—while positive reviews tell you what you’re doing right, negative reviews from unhappy customers can teach you what your business can do better.
Maybe the service was poor one night. Maybe your product had a defect. These can be one-time issues, but if you see a lot of feedback pointing to the same issue, it might be a pattern.
Another positive is the ability to turn the customer experience around. An angry customer who tells all of their friends not to shop at your business is a huge liability—word-of-mouth still matters, even in the age of online reviews.
When that same customer posts their review online, however, you have the power to turn their negative experience into a positive one.
Customers deserve to feel heard. Welcome all forms of feedback—positive reviews and negative ones.
You’ve put your everything into building your business, and some person who probably doesn’t know their right hand from their left has the audacity to tell you the service was bad, even though you know fully well that they were told to expect a 45 minute wait, and that they couldn’t even wait 15 minutes?!
As a business owner, it can be hard not to see a negative review as a personal attack.
Negative reviews aren’t attacks. The person who left the review might be wrong (the customer isn’t always right), but that doesn’t mean responding in kind is the right idea.
They wanted something from your business. They didn’t get it. Look at things calmly, and find a way to turn their negative experience into a positive.
You want to respond to an online review, be it positive or negative, within 24 hours.
The faster you respond, the better. When you respond to negative reviews in a timely manner, it shows that you care about your business, your customers, and your online reputation.
Arguing with your customers is a bad idea.
You can keep things brief: “We’re sorry you had a negative experience” or “We’re sorry that our product didn’t meet expectations”. You may disagree with the customer, but don’t tell them that—at least not yet.
Eventually, you might need to argue with your customer—it happens. Make sure these arguments take place offline, outside of the public eye.
Negative online reviews can be short and blunt (“The service was trash”), but they can also be quite detailed.
Either way, you’ll want to address the concerns in your response. Often, this will involve rephrasing exactly what your customer said.
For example, a customer might say: “They told me this product would be a light green, but it’s a mid-to-dark green at best! It doesn’t match my aesthetic at all!”
You could respond with: “We’re sorry to hear the product was not the shade of green you expected.”
Often, customers will list a number of different issues in their negative online reviews. Address each of those issues in your response.
Remember—negative feedback is a positive thing. Be sure to thank your customer for leaving the review in the first place; think of it as them taking time out of their day to help you improve your business.
This can be as simple as starting your review with “Thanks for the review” or “Thanks for letting us know what we can do better”.
When you start your review response with a thanks, it can completely change an unhappy customer’s outlook—you’re responding with humility and telling them that you appreciate the opportunity to better your business. It’s a good look for a business owner to have, and it might lead to more productive conversations offline.
If you take absolutely nothing else away from this article, the single most important lesson we can teach you is this:
Take the conversation offline.
Customer complaints aren’t always right or fair. Some people make things up to try to get free products or services. Some people just have a different idea of reality than the rest of us.
You might have to debate with your customer. They might be completely in the wrong.
Potential customers who are looking at your review responses? They don’t know that. And if you start arguing online with the unhappy customer who left a negative review, you can turn potential customers away from your business forever.
Requests to take the conversation offline can be simple: “A member of our support team will be in contact with you to resolve this issue” or “Please call us so that we can further address your concerns”.
Here’s the review: “I am SO unhappy with X Corp. I ordered my coffee mug in what they promised was a light green but was actually a mid-to-dark green at BEST! Also, the mug they sent me wasn’t a coffee mug but a TEA mug! Unbelievable. I will NEVER buy from them again!! Avoid at all costs!!!”
You’re the business owner. You know the color of your mugs. You know that coffee and tea are just two kinds of hot beverage that can both fit in mugs.
Breathe. Then, respond (within 24 hours):
“Thank you for your review. We’re sorry to hear the color of the mug didn’t meet your expectations. We also apologize for the confusion over coffee and tea mugs. We want to make this right. Our team will send you a direct message so we can fix this for you.”
With this response, we’ve addressed all of the main points:
Obviously, this is a very generic reply to a very silly, made-up review—but it gives you a good idea of the general framework a review response should have.
Spotting fake reviews can be challenging. Thankfully, there are a few tricks you can use to determine if online reviews are fake:
It’s important to know that even if you think you’ve spotted fake reviews, your potential customers can’t tell the difference. As such, it’s important to respond in a professional manner, even if you’re responding to a negative review you believe is fake.
We’ve talked a lot about online reviews in theory—let’s take a look at a few ways to respond to reviews in practice. Here are a few negative review responses we love. Use these examples to craft your own review response when you’ve got negative feedback that seems tricky to respond to.
What makes this response so genuine is that the manager offers to introduce themselves to the person who left the bad review. That tells us they really want to set things right, and they’ll put in the personal effort to do so. Great review response.
This is a candid response to a negative review—and it was a really bad review (so we didn’t even include it above). Without being able to verify with 100% accuracy if the negative reviewer is, in fact, a fake reviewer, they’re inviting more conflict.
It’s tempting to go viral for a pithy response (who wouldn’t want their review response to go viral in a positive way). It can backfire badly, though. Avoid this tactic.
Sometimes, you make a mistake. Admitting it—publicly—can show that you really care.
This response lacked speed, and we would prefer a more concrete effort to continue the conversation offline—but you can tell the owner really cares. That means a lot.
This response has everything we talked about. The reviewer is thanked for their negative review—we especially like the use of the phrase “honest feedback”. They address the client’s concern, make it clear that the customer’s experience does not align with the company’s values, and give them the opportunity to take it offline.
The only mistake here is that it took them two weeks to respond. 2 weeks is way too long—but responding 2 weeks after you received negative feedback is better than not responding at all.
Short, sweet, and to the point, this is the kind of response that’s likely to make an unhappy customer into a repeat customer. We love the last bit—it’s a fun way to encourage the reviewer to re-engage with the brand.
We love this response because they’re candid about the review and referral gift they offer, then they invite the reviewer to visit their clinic and pick up a gift card. You always want your healthcare providers to be honest—this is perfect.
A great review response can turn a bad review into a good one. Responding to negative reviews is simple—just follow the steps we outlined—and it’s an essential part of any company’s reputation management strategy.
Finding every bad review can be difficult—especially across multiple platforms. Our reputation management software can help, alerting you whenever a negative review has been posted.
Now go out there, and turn a negative into a positive!