• How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Every customer has their own preferences, expectations, desires, and wishes. In a perfect world, you would satisfy every customer; but in the real world, you can’t; and in the digital world, anyone can publish an online review of your business.

The power of online customer reviews can seriously impact your business’s reputation and customers’ decisions. While you cannot control what other people post online about your business, you do have some control over the outcome of a negative review. This post will go over how to respond to negative reviews, so that you can mitigate the damage and protect your business’s reputation.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Preparing to Respond to Negative Reviews

As a business owner, you want to provide a response, and not a reaction, to negative online reviews. This requires some preparatory work to help you get into the right mindstate.

Think positive.

You’re passionate about your business and you care about your customers, so negative reviews are going to sting. However, a negative state of mind will only make the situation worse. So take a big step back and a deep breath in. Remind yourself that negative customer reviews don’t make you a bad business; they are an inevitable part of running a business. Think of them more positively as a challenge to tackle and an opportunity to learn.

Think of the customer.

The best way to respond to negative reviews is to work with the customer on their terms. Prepare for this by thinking about your customer beyond just your business—their lifestyle, personality, mindset, habits, occupation, pace of life. This can help you to understand their side as much as possible, enter the situation with the proper empathic mind state, and communicate with them in the most productive manner.

Find the root of the problem.

This does not mean finding out who to blame, but finding out where the breakdown occurred. Being able to explain the breakdown shows the customer that you cared enough to look into the issue, and may even get them to see the situation differently. It will also help you to come up with the most effective solution, as well as prevent it from happening again with other customers.

Keep in mind that your initial response to negative customer reviews will not likely contain this information. There is a time and a place for providing your findings, which we will cover later on in this post. There will also be times that you can’t find a breakdown on your end. Even still, you should still approach the situation with the same willingness to take responsibility.

Responding to Negative Reviews

Now that you’ve achieved the right mindset and gathered the important information, you’re ready to actually respond to the negative customer review.


Regardless of what went wrong and why, always apologize to your unhappy customer. Your initial message when responding to negative reviews is that you feel sorry that they are in distress, and would like to work with them on changing that. Apologize promptly to show that you care, and concisely (long explanations will come off as defensive).


This initial response to negative online reviews should take place on the platform on which it was made. This will help with your online presence, and allows you to show both your customer and other visitors to the site that you are prompt and proactive with your customer service. Responding to negative reviews online is particularly challenging, as online communication can easily be misperceived, so make sure your message is clear.

Then take it offline.

After promptly, clearly, and publicly expressing your apologies and willingness to take action, you should then propose to take the conversation offline. Offer to reach out via phone or email for a one-on-one conversation. This enables a deep dive into the situation, and eliminates noise such as additional comments by other users. It is also during this more in-depth conversation that you can share your findings about the root of the problem.

Repairing after Negative Reviews

Once you have prepared and apologized to your unhappy customer, it’s time to take action: first to make the customer happy and second to get your business back on track.

Make the Customer Happy

The priority when responding to negative reviews is not your company, it’s the customer. Therefore, your response should always include some form of compensatory action. You might provide a refund, offer the same service free of charge or at a discount, give a gift certificate, or an additional service at no additional cost. Find out out from your customer what will make them happy, and serve that need to the best of your ability.

Compensatory action in your response to negative customer reviews could mean the difference between simply satisfying your customer and actually retaining them.

Get More Positive Reviews

A proper response can lead customers to edit, remove, or even replace their negative online reviews. Some customers even turn into fans of your business! However, this isn’t always the case. While you cannot delete reviews made on other platforms, you can reduce the review’s prominence. Obtain positive reviews to push the negative review further down the timeline. If it is on a mixed media platform, publish additional content such as stand-out blog posts and company updates to increase the amount of positive and beneficial content.

Also, remember that negative online reviews are not entirely a bad thing. Visitors who see a negative review with a prompt followup and positive customer reaction may favor the transparency over a competitor that has only positive reviews.

Stay on Top of Online Reviews

You can’t respond to negative online reviews if you can’t find them! With the power of online reviews today, reputation monitoring is crucial to your business success. Use reputation monitoring to stay on top of what customers are saying about your business online, to make improvements where necessary, and to identify strengths to harness.

Knowing how to respond to negative reviews, especially those that occur online, is the key to customer relationships and continued success. Negative online reviews are not the worst thing in the world, and when handled properly, can be turned into opportunities to better satisfy your customers and improve your business.

Kristen McCormick
Kristen McCormick
Kristen is the Content Marketing Manager for ThriveHive, where she geeks out daily over SEO, organic traffic, and A/B testing. When she's not equipping business owners and marketers to get their name out there through effective content, she's out pedaling the streets of Boston on her beloved bike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *