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How To Respond To Negative Reviews

how to respond to negative reviews

In today’s digital marketing era, all business owners will encounter the issue of dealing with a negative review. Despite you pouring all your hard work into pleasing your customers and delivering exceptional quality service, a negative review might occur. As frustrating as it may be, you have to respond to it. 


Why? Because it’s an essential part of reputation management.


Believe it or not, studies have also shown that responding to even those negative reviews can bring about a positive impact on your business. Customers often perceive companies with only star ratings and positive reviews suspiciously. Even they are aware that local businesses sometimes mess up and may not deliver the best service.


Your responsibility here is to respond in the most professional way possible. After all, how you deal with a negative review shows all your customers (old, new, and potential) your business ethics and how much you value their opinion.

Steps To Responding To Negative Reviews

All your customer interactions count, even those that occur after the sale or provision of your service. Your upset customers want to feel heard and have their opinions respected. You should take extra care into wording a reply to your customer reviews, especially to the bad reviews.


Here are seven easy steps you can follow to make sure you ace your negative review responses. 


  1. Respond Quickly
  2. Acknowledge The Customer’s Complaint
  3. Apologize & Empathize
  4. Take Responsibility
  5. Provide An Explanation If Needed
  6. Take The Discussion Offline
  7. Make It Right

Step 1: Respond Quickly To Negative Reviews

The phrase “time is money” couldn’t be more spot-on, especially when it comes to responding to negative reviews. 

As a business owner, you have a lot of things to stay on top of. Running your day-to-day operations, servicing clients, supervising and motivating your employees accounts for a significant portion of your day. But that one bad review you saw posted last night on Google? 


It shouldn’t be a mere afterthought. In fact, it should be your priority. When you spot a bad review on your radar, take some time to read it and briefly put together a plan of action.


Pro-tip: in the long run, it can help to form a document of processes that acts as a reference guide to dealing with negative reviews. This will also help the team involved by educating your sales reps on how to handle the situation. 


Responding in a timely manner is important. If the customer felt dissatisfied enough to post a review of your business, you should take it as a priority to seriously respond to their negative feedback. Aim to respond within 24-48 hours from the time they post the review. 


The quicker they hear from you, the more sincere your words will feel to them.

Step 2: Acknowledge the Customer’s Complaint

As a business owner, you’ve worked hard and poured hours into building your small business from the ground up. It’s natural for you to feel attacked by a bad customer review. It can put a dent on your online reputation, and all the star ratings you’ve received so far seem to sour in comparison to that one negative review.

Acknowledge the Customer’s Complaint
Source: Jobber Academy

But remember, you’re running a business here, and not every customer is going to be 100% satisfied with your service. It’s important to keep a hold of your emotions and read their feedback objectively, and in your response, acknowledge their bad experience. 


Showing the customer your willingness to see things their way can make a huge difference in their perception of you. This also acts as a great display of business ethics to potential customers, giving them a sneak peek into your business personality. 


If a reviewer feels bad, acknowledge that. Showing your empathy here can go a long way. 


The ways to do this are quite simple. Even saying something along the lines of “We’re sorry to hear you had a poor experience with us” will make them feel heard and douse out the flames to their fire.

template response to negative review
Source: SMAMarketing

You can earn extra brownie points by promising them a better quality service the next time to make up for this one. 


“We’re sorry to hear you had an unpleasant experience with us this time, and value your feedback. But we’d love to make it up to you the next time around. Contact us at [CUSTOMER SERVICE EMAIL] to receive a special discount code for your next purchase!”

Step 3: Apologize & Empathize

You’ve acknowledged the customer’s grievance – great! Now, it’s time to issue that apology. 


Take a deep breath before you embark upon that high road. Apologizing to your customer instead of arguing with them is an example of your customer service.

Apologize & Empathize to negative review
manager response to negative review

Here’s a sample of how you can frame that apology: 


“We sincerely apologize that our service was not satisfactory for you. We aim to provide the most excellent customer service and carry our business with high standards. It is of deep concern that our standards were not met in your customer experience. Your satisfaction is important to us, and we will ensure this does not happen again.”


Learn the most effective techniques to use when speaking to customers online and over the phone!

Step 4: Take Responsibility

The last thing a negative reviewer wants to hear from you is excuses. If you’re going to get defensive, don’t. 


Even if the poor experience was not your fault, you must take the moral high ground. When it comes to responding to reviews, you must consider a customer-centric approach. 


While taking responsibility for the customer’s experience, continue to reinforce your business’s quality standards. You should be willing to hear them out to ensure it does not happen again, as pictured in the negative review response example below.

negative review Take Responsibility​

Here are review response templates to fit the tone: 


  • “We are so sorry for the inconvenience caused. We pride ourselves for our delivery time and quality of service, and regret to hear that standard could not be met here.” 
  • “Thank you for taking the time to provide us your feedback. Your satisfaction is invaluable to us. We are certainly disappointed to hear that we did not meet the mark, but going forward will ensure this does not repeat itself.”
  • “It sounds like our [PRODUCT/SERVICE NAME HERE] missed our quality targets! We’re sorry you had a poor experience. We will investigate this issue and get back to you shortly.”

Step 5: Provide An Explanation If Needed

Depending on the customer experience and the kind of grievance they are reporting in their review, they might deserve an explanation. 


For example, if the bad review came about as a result of poor quality of materials used, slow delivery times, miscommunication, or another technical issue, providing your customer an explanation of where things went wrong wouldn’t be a bad move. 


All businesses are bound to make mistakes at some point, and by giving them that clarity into where things went wrong, you’re showing them a human side to your business. 


Keep these things in mind when you explain: 


  • Do not justify what happened; explain what happened. There’s a difference. You don’t want to sound like you’re making an excuse. Instead, provide clarity as to why the errors occurred.
  • Be sure to apologize. Emphasize that you’re ‘sorry’ even if you were technically not in the wrong. Your customers are entitled to feel the way they do. 
  • Offer alternative courses of action to fix things.

Step 6: Take The Discussion Offline

Online reviews are as public as they can be. This is a double-edged sword in where negative reviews are concerned. While responding is crucial, throwing in a subtle suggestion to move the conversation to another private platform is recommended. You do not want all your customers as witnesses to the interaction.


Depending on the customer’s convenience, you can contact them on another platform. For example, if you have a customer chat feature on your website or app, you can ask them to register an official complaint.


Or you directly request them to contact you via phone call or email. If so, double-check and provide your, the general manager, or the customer service rep’s name, title, and direct contact information. By doing so, you’re indicating that their experience is important to you, and you’re willing to hear them out.


Here’s a sample template of how you can word this section of your response: 


“We would like to investigate and provide a solution that works for you. If you’re open to discussing further, please get in touch with [CUSTOMER SERVICE REP NAME] at [PHONE NUMBER] or email us at [CUSTOMER SERVICE EMAIL]. Your happiness is our priority, and we would love the opportunity to make things right.”


Pro-tip: if at this point, you are tempted to ask them to take down their review, don’t. Your customers want to feel heard, not coerced. Don’t ask them anything that could add fuel to the fire.

Step 7: Make It Right

Taking responsibility for the reviewer’s experience means making things right. If the issue can be fixed, fix it.


Offer a refund if the customer deserves it, or consider offering a free service/product to make up for the last one. Get to the root cause of their dissatisfaction and turn things around. Sometimes, this can even result in the negative review being taken down or turning into a positive customer service testimonial. 


If nothing can be done to fix the situation, write a compelling public response to the review that shows your sincere regret and keenness to avoid this kind of situation from arising again. 


Here’s a template you can use:


“On behalf of everyone at [BUSINESS NAME], I apologize for your poor customer experience. We aim to provide the best service to all our customers, and as you can see from the other reviews, your negative experience was truly an exception. You have our word when we promise not to let this happen again. Our staff will commit to improving their delivery and give you the star service you deserve, should you choose us again. Please accept my heartfelt apologies in the meantime.” 


Easily Manage Your Business Reviews

Review management is no walk in the park, but learning to master it will pay off in the long run as you learn to grow your business reputation and attract new customers. You may encounter a negative online review on several popular review sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor even. Managing unhappy customers on social media is even trickier.

While you build your experience managing your business reviews, get in touch with us to make the process easier. Our platform offers solutions to help you get better reviews, address customer feedback, and automate your processes in real-time.

So you've learned how to respond to negative reviews. What's next?

Learn the most effective techniques to use when speaking to customers online and over the phone!

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