You run an outstanding business with phenomenal customer service. But as much as it probably pains you to admit, not all of the customers that you serve are going to leave your business happy—despite everyone’s best effort. 

It’s no secret that no one likes getting negative reviews. In fact, it’s pretty hard not to take them personally. However, if you don’t have a plan in place, a negative review could turn into a reputation-demolishing nightmare and possibly do irreparable damage to your business. Luckily, we’re here to help you nail down a strategy so that doesn’t happen to your business. 

Read on to learn how to respond to negative reviews and how to use negative feedback to improve your business operations.

Do I need to respond to negative reviews of my business?

Negative feedback doesn’t feel good. But there are a lot of important reasons you should always prioritize responding. Here are a few:

  1. Reputation management: Negative reviews can damage a business’s reputation, especially if they are not addressed. Responding to negative reviews can show customers that the business cares about their experience and is willing to take steps to improve.
  2. Customer satisfaction: Responding to negative reviews can help to resolve issues and improve the customer’s overall experience. This can help to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  3. Search ranking: Search engines like Google may consider a business’s online reputation when determining its search ranking. Responding to negative reviews can help to improve a business’s reputation and potentially improve its search ranking.
  4. Improved customer relationships: Responding to negative reviews can help to build stronger relationships with customers. By showing that the business values customer feedback and is willing to address their concerns, businesses can create a more positive brand image and foster customer loyalty.

Four steps to responding to a negative review

So, you’ve just received a negative review. And it’s standing out like a sore thumb in your sea of positive reviews and has brought your rating down, despite all your positive feedback. What should you do? 

First, stay calm. The worst thing you can do is let your emotions get in the way. This is why we suggest making sure that the person responding has some distance from the situation. This will prevent you from sounding defensive and make sure the situation isn’t further exacerbated. 

Next, start working to solve the problem in a timely manner. And remember, in reality, a negative review is a do-over. It’s a chance to get it right. 

The four steps outlined below are proven ways to successfully turn negative reviews into positive ones and shore up your online reputation. If you weave them into your review management strategy, new customers, as well as potential customers, will be able to tell the level of care you show to your customers and the level of service they can expect. 

Responding to reviews

01 Address the unhappy customer by name.

This is usually the part of a negative review response that most businesses get wrong. A lot of the time, companies will address people with the line “dear customer” or “valued customer” to save time. They might even use “ma’am” or “sir” for formality. But when it comes to responding to a negative review and addressing an unhappy customer, you want to keep it as personal and genuine as possible. This means that you should always address customers by name. 

Addressing customers by name in a kind and respectful manner indicates that you see them as a person and that you have a relationship with them that is important to you. Powell Electric did this perfectly in the example below:

Source: Rizen

02 Thank them for the feedback.

Regardless of whether it’s negative or positive, customer feedback is valuable feedback. And you should always thank customers for it. Doing so lets your customers know that you appreciate what they think and that they can feel comfortable sharing anything with you, good or bad. It also lets them know that you’re genuinely interested in them and what they have to say. 

Sometimes, it can be difficult to say “thank you” for a customer’s complaint that seems particularly obtuse or somewhat unfair. However, if you can do it with some grace and respect your customer’s experience, other customers will take note. Check out this response from Jakers Bar and Grill: 

jakers bar and grill review response
Source: Toast

03 Apologize. 

Recognizing that you or your business has done something wrong, and admitting that wrongdoing by apologizing to the offended party can be difficult. But by apologizing, you show your customers that you care about their experience and you’re not afraid to admit when there’s room for improvement.  

Of course, there may be instances where the negative response has nothing to do with you, and there is nothing you or your staff could’ve done to prevent it. In these cases, it is still crucial to accept responsibility for what has occurred. Regardless of what has happened, your customer felt dissatisfied—and that is not something they should feel when doing business with you. You should always respect your customer’s experience in your review responses. 

Check out this response from Ocado:

Ocado review response
Source: SMA Marketing

04 Make things right.

Even more important than the apology is offering a proactive solution to the problem. The solution should show that you have put some thought into the response and should not be some run-of-the-mill “hope we can make it up to you” vaguery. While canned responses might increase efficiency, they won’t read as authentic. And the more often a canned response is used publicly, the easier it will be for your customers to find out that your responses to customers aren’t personal. 

Part of making things right also means asking yourself: how will you make sure the negative experience isn’t repeated in the future? Don’t be afraid to take the discussion offline. You should offer to speak privately and refer them to a customer service manager or someone who can remediate the situation. Doing so doesn’t mean that you don’t believe in transparency. It’s just often easier to communicate over the phone or via email than going back and forth on Google or Facebook, allowing you to help them more speedily. 

In the example below, JetBlue quickly offers a very specific solution in a casual, effective way:

Responding to a bad review- jet blue

7 negative review response templates to try

Trying to find the words to respond to a negative review? We got you. Check out these 10 templates for common points of detraction for customers.

Example 1: Poor communication


Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We apologize for the poor communication you experienced and want to assure you that this is not the level of service we strive to provide.

We value our customers and their satisfaction is our top priority. We will make sure to address this issue and implement measures to improve our communication going forward.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any further concerns or issues. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and appreciate your understanding.


Example 2: Misinformation or misunderstanding


We apologize for the miscommunication or misunderstanding that has caused you frustration. We value your business and want to ensure that you are satisfied with our products and services.

To resolve this issue, we would like to offer you a [discount/coupon/compensation] as a gesture of goodwill. We hope that this will help to make up for any inconvenience or dissatisfaction you may have experienced.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any further concerns or issues. We are committed to providing excellent customer service and appreciate your understanding.


Example 3: Poor product or service quality


We apologize for the issue you have experienced with our [product/service]. We take all customer feedback seriously and are committed to providing a high level of satisfaction.

Please allow us the opportunity to resolve this matter for you. Could you please provide us with more information about the issue you have experienced? This will help us understand the problem and find a solution as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, please know that we value your business and appreciate your patience while we work to resolve this issue.


Example 4: Pricing issues


I apologize for any frustration you may have experienced with the pricing of our product. I understand that it can be disappointing when expectations are not met, and I want to assure you that we value your business and appreciate your feedback.

I would like to address the pricing issue you have raised. [Insert explanation of the pricing issue here]. I hope this explanation helps to clarify any confusion or misunderstanding.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our customer service team. We are always here to assist you and ensure that you have a positive experience with our company.

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.


Example 5: Poor customer service


I am sorry to hear that you had a poor experience with our customer service team. We value our customers and strive to provide excellent service, so it is disappointing to hear that we fell short in this instance.

I would like to sincerely apologize for any inconvenience or frustration you may have experienced. We take all customer feedback seriously, and we will be sure to address this issue internally to ensure that it does not happen again in the future.

To make up for the poor service you received, we would like to offer you [compensation, such as a discount or credit]. We value your business and hope that you will give us the opportunity to serve you again in the future.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact our customer service team. We are always here to assist you and ensure that you have a positive experience with our company.


Example 6: Employee mistakes


I am sorry for the mistake that was made by one of our employees during your recent interaction with our company. We take full responsibility for this error and apologize for any inconvenience or frustration it may have caused you.

To make up for the mistake, we would like to offer you [compensation, such as a discount or credit]. We value your business and hope that you will give us the opportunity to serve you again in the future.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact our customer service team. We are always here to assist you.


Example 7: Questionable/false reviews


It can be frustrating to receive a fake review as a business, especially if it is negative or untrue. Here are a few steps you can take to respond to a fake review:

  1. Verify the review: Before you respond to the review, make sure it is actually fake. Check to see if the reviewer is a legitimate customer and if the details of their experience match up with your records.
  2. Respond professionally: Even if the review is fake, it is important to maintain a professional tone in your response. Avoid becoming defensive or accusatory, as this can escalate the situation.
  3. Offer to resolve the issue: If the review is negative and the customer appears to be legitimate, offer to resolve the issue. This shows that you care about customer satisfaction and are willing to go the extra mile to make things right.
  4. Report the review: If you are unable to verify the review and believe it to be fake, you can report it to the review platform. Most platforms have a process in place for dealing with fake reviews and will take appropriate action if the review is found to be illegitimate.
  5. Monitor and respond to reviews: Regularly monitoring and responding to reviews, both positive and negative, can help to build trust and credibility with your customers. This can also help to mitigate the impact of fake reviews, as customers will see that you are attentive and responsive to feedback.

Negative reviews are an opportunity to grow 

On their face, negative reviews are something that a business wouldn’t want. But, the silver lining is that they can be an important ingredient in improving your business operations and your customer experience.

For example, a negative review can shed light on a problematic employee or a process that isn’t working as well as you had hoped and give you the insights you need to correct that problem and improve your business. It’s important that you not only respond to negative reviews but also use them to implement positive changes in your business.

Consider the fact that having a negative experience with employees is the leading motivation for leaving a negative review. 85% of consumers say that employee attitude is the most likely motivation for consumers to leave a one-star review. However, having a positive experience with employees is also the leading motivation to leave a positive review. If you put in a little work and show the customer some love, you can turn a negative experience into a positive one and significantly increase customer satisfaction.

How do I get started?

Collecting, managing, responding, solving…that’s a lot of work for any team. How do you do it all?

An online review management platform streamlines the collection and management of online reviews (especially Google reviews), which can improve local SEO standing, boost revenues, and help you maintain a stellar online reputation. The more reviews your business collects, the less impact the stray negative review can have as it pushes the bad review further down on the list. 

Podium’s review management platform gives local businesses everywhere the ability to fully harness the power of your online reputation—including both positive and negative reviews. Through its seamless mobile experience, you can easily convert your happiest customers into online advocates for your business. This is accomplished by:

  • Leveraging your customers’ existing apps to match the reputation needs, thereby producing a balanced online review presence across multiple review sites.
  • Allowing you to monitor and manage your online reputation in real-time and respond quickly to any problems in your business or with employee performance as they arise.
  • Integrating with industry-leading software platforms, allowing you to collect and report on new reviews as they come in.

With the right changes (and the right tools), you can start turning negative comments into positive customer reviews and unhappy customers into advocates.

Get started today by watching this demo.

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

Adapt the way you do business. Press send.