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1. The consequences of negative reviews for your business

How to respond to negative reviews: 11 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! However, dealing with occasional negative reviews is a normal part of reputation management.

This article will cover 11 best practices for responding to negative reviews. You'll learn effective strategies to address customer concerns, turn negative feedback into positive outcomes, and strengthen your brand’s credibility. 

Whether you're a small business owner or managing a large company, these tips will help you navigate the complexities of online reviews with confidence and professionalism.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Responding to negative reviews with professionalism and politeness can de-escalate situations and demonstrate a commitment to customer service.

  • Addressing negative reviews promptly and using the reviewer’s name can help build a connection and show attentiveness.

  • Recognizing the customer’s complaint and offering a solution or compensation can turn negative feedback into a positive experience.

  • Taking responsibility for issues and providing a context where necessary builds trust and shows a commitment to improvement.

  • Encouraging further feedback and showcasing improvements based on customer input can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The consequences of negative reviews for your business

Negative reviews can significantly impact a business, influencing customer perception, sales, and overall reputation. Addressing these reviews promptly and effectively is crucial to maintaining a positive image. 

Here are some specific consequences of negative reviews, supported by reputable statistics:

  • Loss of potential customers: According to BrightLocal, 87% of consumers won’t consider businesses with low ratings.

  • Decreased sales: Harvard Business Review states that a one-star increase in Yelp ratings can lead to a 5-9% increase in revenue, highlighting the adverse effect of negative reviews.

  • Damage to brand reputation: Negative reviews can erode trust, making it harder to attract and retain new customers.

  • Impact on search engine rankings: Moz reports that online reviews account for 15.44% of how Google ranks local businesses, so a flood of negative reviews can lower your ranking.

  • Reduced employee morale: Employees may feel demotivated if their efforts are overshadowed by public criticism, which can affect productivity and job satisfaction.

The importance of responding to negative feedback

Responding to feedback

Responding to negative feedback is crucial for maintaining a positive online reputation and fostering customer loyalty. When businesses address concerns and complaints, it demonstrates a commitment to customer satisfaction and can turn a negative experience into a positive one. 

Here are the specific advantages of responding to negative reviews:

  • Builds trust: Addressing negative feedback shows that your business values customer opinions and is dedicated to resolving issues. This transparency builds trust with both the reviewer and potential customers.

  • Improves customer retention: By responding promptly and effectively to negative reviews, you can often resolve the customer's issue, increasing the likelihood of retaining their business.

  • Enhances your online reputation: Potential customers will likely read reviews before purchasing. Seeing a business respond professionally to negative feedback can enhance your reputation and show you care about customer satisfaction.

  • Provides valuable insights: Negative reviews can highlight areas for improvement. Responding to these reviews allows you to acknowledge the feedback and take steps to enhance your products or services.

How to respond to negative reviews: 11 best practices

Responding to negative reviews effectively can turn dissatisfied customers into loyal advocates. Let's explore 11 best practices to help your customer support team address negative feedback professionally, maintain your reputation, and improve customer satisfaction.

1. Respond in a timely manner

Timely response to reviews

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.

Now, responding to older negative reviews can be challenging, but it’s essential to address them with care and professionalism. Here are some tips on how to respond tactfully:

  1. Acknowledge the delay: Start by apologizing for the delayed response and explaining that you recently came across their review.

  2. Express genuine concern: Show that you care about their experience and are committed to making things right, even if some time has passed.

  3. Offer a resolution: If possible, provide a solution or compensation and invite the reviewer to discuss the matter further.

  4. Thank them for their feedback: Appreciate their feedback, as it helps improve your services.


"Dear [Customer's Name],

I sincerely apologize for the delay in responding to your review. We recently came across your feedback and are truly sorry for the inconvenience you experienced. Your satisfaction is important to us, and we appreciate you bringing this to our attention.

We would like to make amends by offering [specific resolution]. Please contact us directly at [contact information] so we can discuss this further and ensure your concerns are fully addressed. Thank you for your patience and for helping us improve our services.

Best regards,[Your Name][Your Position]"

2. Address the reviewer by name

Using the reviewer's name in your response personalizes the interaction and shows that you genuinely care about their experience. This practice helps build a connection and demonstrates attentiveness, which can positively influence the reviewer and potential customers reading the exchange.


"Hi John, thank you for sharing your feedback. We're sorry to hear about your experience and would like to address your concerns promptly. Please contact us directly so we can resolve this issue satisfactorily."

By addressing the reviewer personally, you acknowledge their experience and convey a sincere desire to rectify the situation, enhancing the likelihood of a positive resolution.

3. 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.

Here are a few negative review response examples:

  1. Example 1: "Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We're sorry to hear about your experience with our customer service. We understand how frustrating this must have been and are committed to addressing the issue to improve our services."

  2. Example 2: "We appreciate your feedback and apologize for the inconvenience you faced with our product. It's clear that we did not meet your expectations, and we will be investigating this further to ensure it doesn't happen again."

  3. Example 3: "Thank you for sharing your concerns. We're sorry your dining experience was not up to our usual standards. Your feedback is valuable, and we will use it to make necessary improvements."

4. 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 bringing this to our attention" or "We appreciate your valuable feedback." Keep in mind that customer feedback of all types helps make your business better.

5. Apologize when appropriate

When responding to a negative review, resist the urge to infuse your response with an airtight defense claiming that your company is flawless. This can 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.

6. 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. 

Here are a few examples of how business owners can demonstrate this best practice:

  • Example 1: "We apologize for the inconvenience you experienced. We take full responsibility for the delay in your order and are taking steps to ensure this doesn't happen again. Please contact us directly, and we will make it right."

  • Example 2: "We’re sorry to hear about your recent experience. It was our mistake, and we appreciate your feedback. We are reviewing our procedures to prevent this issue in the future. Please allow us to make amends by offering you a complimentary service."

  • Example 3: "Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We acknowledge that we fell short of your expectations, and we are working to address this problem immediately. We hope to have the opportunity to earn back your trust with a better experience."

7. 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.

Here are a few examples of how business owners can do this effectively:

  • Example 1: Response: "We apologize for your recent experience at our restaurant. On the night you visited, we were short-staffed due to an unexpected illness, which impacted our service. We're addressing this to prevent future occurrences and appreciate your understanding."

  • Example 2: Response: "We're sorry to hear about the issue with your order. Our supplier delivered a defective batch of products, which we have since returned. We are working closely with them to ensure this doesn't happen again. Thank you for bringing this to our attention."

  • Example 3: Response: "We regret that your stay at our hotel was not up to standard. During your visit, we were undergoing essential maintenance to improve our facilities. We should have communicated this better, and we are revising our notification process to avoid similar situations in the future."

8. Address improvements and offer solutions

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."

9. Encourage further feedback

Encouraging further feedback after addressing a negative review is crucial for continuous improvement and customer satisfaction. By inviting customers to share more insights, you show them that their opinions matter and that you're committed to enhancing their experience. 

Here’s why this practice is valuable with some examples:

  • Builds stronger customer relationships: Asking for additional feedback fosters a sense of involvement and shows customers that you care about their opinions. For example, you can say, "We appreciate your feedback and would love to hear more about how we can improve. Please feel free to share any additional thoughts."

  • Identifies recurring issues: Encouraging further feedback helps identify patterns or recurring problems that need attention. For instance, you might follow up with, "Thank you for bringing this to our attention. If you encounter similar issues in the future, please let us know so we can address them promptly."

  • Demonstrates commitment to improvement: Your willingness to listen and adapt based on customer feedback highlights your dedication to quality. An example could be, "Your feedback is invaluable to us. We are committed to making the necessary changes and would appreciate any further input to help us serve you better."

10. 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."

11. Keep your response professional and polite

Keeping your response professional and polite is essential in managing negative reviews. This approach reflects well on your business and helps to de-escalate potentially heated situations. Responding with professionalism and courtesy can turn a negative interaction into a positive experience, showcasing your commitment to customer service and maintaining your brand's integrity.

Here are a few examples of professional and polite responses to upset customers:

Example 1
  • Customer review: "The service was terrible, and the staff was rude. I will never come back!"

  • Professional response: "We’re sorry to hear about your experience and appreciate your feedback. We strive to provide excellent service and will address this issue with our team. Please contact us directly so we can make things right."

Example 2
  • Customer review: "I had to wait over an hour for my food, and it was cold when it finally arrived. Very disappointed."

  • Professional response: "We apologize for the delay and the condition of your meal. This is not the standard we aim for. We would like to offer a solution and ensure a better experience next time. Please reach out to us at your convenience."

Example 3
  • Customer review: "Your product broke after just one week of use. Totally unacceptable!"

  • Professional response: "We regret to hear about the issue with your product. We take quality very seriously and would like to resolve this for you. Please contact our customer service team, and we'll arrange a replacement or refund."

Negative review response templates for different scenarios and industries

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]"

Here are more examples listed below:

Ecommerce shopper upset over delayed shipping

Upset over delayed shipping

"We apologize for the delay in shipping your order. We understand how frustrating this can be. Our team is currently working to expedite your shipment and prevent future delays. Please contact our customer service for a discount on your next purchase."

Restaurant customers dissatisfied with meal quality

"We are sorry that your meal did not meet your expectations. Quality is our top priority, and we will address this with our kitchen staff. Please visit us again; we would be happy to make it right with a complimentary meal."

Hotel guest complaining about customer service

"We regret that you experienced poor customer service during your stay. This does not reflect our standards. We will address this with our team immediately. Please contact us directly to discuss how we can make amends and improve your experience."

Tech support query gone wrong

"We apologize for the inconvenience caused by the tech support issue. Our goal is to provide prompt and effective solutions. We have escalated your case to a senior technician, who will contact you shortly to resolve the problem. Thank you for your patience."

Fitness club member unhappy with equipment availability

"We are sorry to hear about the lack of available equipment during your visit. We strive to provide a well-equipped and accessible environment. We will review our equipment management and ensure better availability. Please let us know if there’s anything else we can do for you."

Retail customers frustrated by a product defect

"We apologize for the defective product you received. Quality assurance is important to us, and we will investigate this issue. Please return the product for a full refund or exchange. We appreciate your understanding and hope to serve you better in the future."

Car rental client with a complaint about vehicle cleanliness

"We apologize for the cleanliness of the vehicle you rented. This does not meet our standards. We have addressed this with our cleaning team to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Please contact us for a discount on your next rental."

Beauty salon patron disappointed with service results

"We regret that your salon experience did not meet your expectations. Our goal is to provide excellent service and results. Please visit us again; we will redo the service at no additional cost or offer a complimentary treatment. Thank you for your feedback."

Online education students facing technical issues

"We apologize for the technical issues you encountered with our online platform. Our support team is working to resolve these issues promptly. Please contact our helpdesk for immediate assistance, and we will ensure a smoother experience moving forward."

Real estate client unhappy with their agent's communication

"We are sorry to hear about your dissatisfaction with our agent’s communication. We take customer feedback seriously and will address this matter internally. Please contact our office directly to discuss your concerns and how we can improve our service to you."

Three tips for encouraging positive reviews

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

Most customers are happy to leave their feedback on review sites if you simply ask. Consider sending a follow-up email after every order to thank customers for choosing your business and for any feedback they may choose to provide.

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.

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Responding to bad reviews FAQs

Why do people leave bad reviews?

People leave bad reviews primarily due to dissatisfaction with product or service quality, poor customer service, delayed or incorrect orders, high prices, misleading information, and lack of communication. Negative reviews often reflect unmet expectations or frustration, serving as a way for customers to express their concerns and help businesses identify areas for improvement.

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.

How to respond to a 1-star review with no comment?

Responding to a 1-star review with no comment should be courteous and proactive. Say something like: "Thank you for your feedback. We're sorry to see your low rating and would like to understand more about your experience. Please contact us directly at [contact info] so we can address any issues and improve our service.

How not to respond to negative reviews?

Do not respond to negative reviews with hostility, defensiveness, or dismissiveness. Avoid arguing with the customer, blaming them, or ignoring their concerns. Refrain from using unprofessional language or tone. Instead, acknowledge their feedback respectfully, apologize for any issues, and offer a solution or invite them to discuss the matter privately to resolve it.

Can you get 1-star Google reviews removed?

Yes, you can request the removal of 1-star Google reviews if they violate Google's review policies, such as containing inappropriate content, spam, or conflicts of interest. Flag the review for Google to assess. However, if the review is legitimate but negative, it cannot be removed; instead, respond professionally to address the customer's concerns.

Why shouldn't you delete negative reviews?

Not all negative reviews are bad. Deleting negative reviews can harm your credibility and trust with customers. It suggests you're hiding problems rather than addressing them. Negative reviews provide valuable feedback for improvement and show that you’re transparent and committed to resolving issues. Responding positively to criticism can enhance your reputation and demonstrate your dedication to customer satisfaction.

How many 5-star reviews do I need to negate a 1-star review?

The number of 5-star reviews needed to negate a 1-star review depends on the current overall rating and the total number of reviews. Generally, one 1-star review can significantly lower the average rating, so it typically takes several 5-star reviews to offset it. As a rough estimate, around 4-5 five-star reviews are needed to balance one 1-star review.


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