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1. The importance of responding to negative reviews

How to respond to bad reviews: 8 best practices

Unfortunately, negative reviews are an inevitable part of being a business owner, no matter how carefully you cover your bases. From unflattering Yelp reviews to negative feedback posted directly on a product page, the vast majority of businesses deal with unhappy customers every now and then.

Of course, if your business starts to receive more negative reviews than positive ones, it's probably time to make some changes! But dealing with occasional negative reviews is a normal part of reputation management.

Part of the challenge of responding to an online review is learning to respond publicly, in full view of potential customers. That's why it's vital to learn to respond quickly in a professional, helpful way that's in line with your company's values.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Learning to respond to negative online reviews in a professional way is essential for any online or local business.

  • Responding to a negative review can be a valuable opportunity to demonstrate to potential customers that you can be trusted if something goes wrong.

  • We'll go over the best practices for responding to online reviews from unhappy customers, complete with negative review response examples along the way.

The importance of responding to negative reviews


Believe it or not, negative customer reviews aren't always a bad thing. Not only do they provide free insights on how to improve your business, but they give you a chance to respond to customer feedback in a way that shows you are available to help provide solutions.

Regularly responding to reviews, both the good and the bad, can even help improve your ranking on search engines. While nearly half of all customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, many also see reviews that are too perfect as suspicious.

What potential customers are really looking for when they read business reviews is a sense of authenticity, which is why reviews that look censored or fake can be a huge turn-off. Rather than considering a bad customer review a personal attack, develop a solid reputation management strategy to ensure you respond in the best possible way.

How to respond to bad reviews: Eight best practices


Dealing with an upset customer is never fun, but it's important to do your best to try and resolve the situation in a professional way. Let's take a closer look at what to keep in mind when responding to negative reviews.

1. Respond in a timely manner

It's always best to respond quickly to a bad review, usually within a business day if possible. This can help avoid generating even more negative feelings surrounding a lack of customer service.

2. Recognize the complaint

When dealing with a dissatisfied customer (yep, even impolite ones), try to cut through the noise to get to the heart of the customer's concerns. What exactly was their issue with the product or service you provided?

If their feedback is too vague, don't be afraid to assure them that you're sorry to hear they had such a negative experience and ask for more information. Explain that you want to ensure that you can investigate to figure out what went wrong so that you can make things right as quickly as possible.

3. Thank the reviewer

While it may or may not always come naturally, be sure to thank a reviewer for their honest feedback, no matter how scathing their review may be. There's no need to go over the top here - just keep things light and as sincere as possible.

For example, you might open your response with something like, "Thank you for calling this to our attention" or "We appreciate your valuable feedback." Keep in mind that customer feedback of all types helps make your business better.

4. Apologize when appropriate

When responding to a negative review, resist the urge to infuse your response with an airtight defense ensuring future customers that your company is flawless. This can actually be a turn-off for potential customers because it tells them that you're more concerned about your online reputation than providing each customer with excellent service.

If a negative reviewer has a point, then the best approach, from both a moral and reputation management standpoint, is to acknowledge that they are right and offer a sincere apology. For example, you might say, "I sincerely apologize for your experience, as it is not in line with our/my company standards..."

That said, responding to negative reviews when you feel the customer is in the wrong can be a little trickier. Sometimes it's best to provide a diplomatic response like "We're sorry to hear our service/product didn't live up to your expectations," and leave it at that.

5. Take accountability

As a business owner, ultimately, you are responsible for ensuring that each customer's experience is as positive as possible. If something genuinely goes wrong, don't hesitate to take accountability.

Even the most unhappy customer is usually just looking for an acknowledgment that their negative feedback is justified or your reassurance that you'll do what you can to come up with a fair resolution. You might even begin your review response with, "We completely accept responsibility," before moving on to suggest possible solutions.

6. Provide relevant context

Always do your best to get to the bottom of a bad review to figure out exactly what went wrong. While it's important to emphasize that you're sorry to hear it affected a customer's experience, it can occasionally be helpful to explain why the issue occurred, especially if it was something out of your control.

The goal here isn't to respond to negative reviews by deflecting the blame onto someone else. It's to thank a reviewer for their customer feedback and explain that it's helped you prevent the situation from happening again.

7. Offer a solution

If there's one way to protect your business's reputation, it's to respond to negative reviews with solid solutions. This is not only a part of any good reputation management strategy but a foundational part of providing excellent customer service.

If the issue can be fixed with something like a product exchange, then move on to the next step and offer to speak with the customer directly. If the negative review is more general, then simply assure the customer they've been heard.

For instance, imagine you're responding to a negative review regarding slow shipping. You might say, "We're sorry to hear about your negative experience, but thank you for your feedback! We've passed your concerns along to our customer service team, who are investigating ways to make our shipping process smoother."

8. Bring the conversation offline

In some instances, negative online reviews will best be handled directly rather than in front of potential customers. Provide the customer with your direct contact information, such as your dedicated customer service email.

If a negative review is posted on your business's social media page, you can also invite them to send you a direct message. Your review response might say something like, "Thanks so much for your feedback. We'd like to explore this issue in more detail in order to offer the best possible solution. Please message us directly or reach out at [email] so we can get the ball rolling."

Negative review response template

The good news is that you'll find plenty of review response templates online that are designed to help you craft responses to negative feedback on review sites. Just make sure you personalize each review response, as providing each customer with the same generic message can feel more like a snub than an authentic response.

Negative review response templates are more of an outline to help you approach a negative online review using best practices. Negative review response templates tend to look a little something like this:

"Hi [Customer], thank you for taking the time to bring this to our attention! We were sorry to hear you had a negative experience, so we did some investigating to identify the source of the problem. We take full responsibility and are currently taking steps to ensure the issue never happens again. We sincerely apologize and would love to speak with you directly about how we can make it right. Please reach out to us at [email or phone] at your convenience. Thanks again for being a valued customer! - [Business owner]"

Three tips for encouraging positive reviews


The best way to keep negative online reviews from affecting your brand reputation is to ensure they are outnumbered by those with positive feedback! Here are a few tips to encourage happy customers to leave a positive review.

1. Ask for feedback

To use non-original art in your designs, you must get familiar with copyright laws and image usage rights. iStock offers a solid breakdown of various image licenses and the requirements of each.

With the exception of public domain work, never assume that an image is safe for retail use, even if registered under a Creative Commons license. There are actually multiple types of Creative Commons licenses, some of which require attribution, forbid modifications, or make an image ineligible for retail use.

2. Provide excellent customer service

Online reviews can be incredibly important, especially for a small business. The best way to generate customer reviews that shine is to give your customers plenty to rave about.

Make it as easy as possible for your customer to find any information they need by providing detailed FAQs, shop policies, and product descriptions. If a customer reaches out about a negative experience, do your best to resolve the situation as quickly and effectively as possible.

Creating a personalized customer experience can also be a great way for online or local businesses to stand out. Consider including a thank-you note, a free gift, or a discount code, especially when sending orders to new customers.

3. Showcase positive reviews

Don't be afraid to share positive reviews on your website, social media, or other marketing channels. No matter how great a business claims to be, there's nothing like social proof from real customers to enhance its reputation.

Improve customer satisfaction with print on demand

Looking for a way to ensure your products are of the highest standards, all while enjoying more time to respond to each customer review personally? Working with a print on demand service like Gelato is a great way to generate high-quality products that drive positive reviews.

POD suppliers like Gelato handle everything from order production to fulfillment, giving you more time to develop solid customer relationships that lead to a successful business. Find out more about how to create custom print on demand products with Gelato!

Responding to bad reviews FAQs

Should I respond to negative reviews?

Absolutely. Responding to a negative review in the right way, even if it's only to suggest taking the conversation offline, is a vital part of proving to potential customers that you'll be there for them if something goes wrong.

While software now exists that can automate replies to Google reviews, we highly recommend not relying on generic, automated responses for a few reasons. Choosing to respond to negative reviews with automated or non-personalized response templates is almost as bad as not replying at all.

It gives the impression that you don't care enough to take the time to craft your own responses or acknowledge each reviewer's unique customer experience. Personalizing your responses to both positive and negative experiences is a far better way to turn any reviewer into a loyal customer.

How do you politely respond to a bad review?

The perfect negative review response can vary based on the situation. But in general, you'll want to start by thanking the reviewer and assuring them you're sorry to hear about their issue.

Not only should you acknowledge their complaints, but do your best to get to the bottom of them. If you were in the wrong, don't hesitate to apologize, take responsibility, and suggest a solution or offer to discuss the issue further privately.

If the situation is not your fault or if the reviewer is obviously not in search of a solution, a little diplomacy can often go a long way. "I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience" is generally a safe way to go, as it shows empathy without necessarily acknowledging that your company was to blame.


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