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How to Respond to Negative Reviews

An occasional unsatisfied customer is inevitable. Learn how to respond professionally and turn criticism into positive customer experiences.

Anyone who runs a business tries their best to keep every customer happy, loyal, and satisfied. But no matter how much you prioritize providing excellent customer service, it's almost inevitable that you will face the occasional negative online review.

Even if the vast majority of your reviews are positive, those few negative comments can be frustrating. Feeling defensive, angry, or disappointed about a negative review is natural. But learning how to respond to negative reviews in a productive way can benefit both you and your business and show potential customers that you take each negative experience seriously.

Whether you run a small local shop or do business online, read on to learn why you shouldn't let online reviews ruin your day, why it's important to deal with negative feedback head on, and how to craft a good negative review response.

The impact of negative reviews

Before the internet, if customers were unhappy with a business, they might have expressed displeasure in person or shared their opinions with their friends and family. But now, it's easy for someone who is disappointed with a product or service to write a negative review online, making it visible to anyone with an internet connection.

This widespread access to reviews adds a new challenge for business owners, who now have to worry that negative reviews are hurting their online reputation and turning away customers. It's one more thing to deal with on a busy day!

On the other hand, it can also be a good opportunity. An online review gives you a chance to respond to criticisms that you might not have known about if customers only shared their frustrations with their personal contacts. And a positive, well-thought-out response to bad reviews can demonstrate to other potential customers that you take your reputation and customer satisfaction seriously.

Read on to understand some of the ways a negative review can be harmful and learn about why responding to them is important.

Damage your brand

Since potential customers are more likely than ever to read online reviews before making a purchase, a negative review can harm your brand by keeping customers away, eroding trust, and damaging your company name.

Buyers often trust the opinions and experiences of others. And if they feel like several people have bad things to say about your brand, it can overshadow any positive feedback you also receive.

Customers may start to associate your company with poor customer service or low-quality products. Also, the fact that online content can stick around forever means that your company name may suffer long-term harm if you don't learn how to respond to negative reviews well and prioritize reputation management.

Turn away customers

Reviews from disappointed customers can directly impact sales. Consumers have become accustomed to seeking out reviews of a product or service before making a purchase, and reading about others' negative experiences may turn off potential customers, sending them to a competitor instead.

Hurt employee morale

If you are aware of negative customer reviews, it's almost certain that your employees are as well. These reviews can damage your employee morale by creating negative feelings about their work and the sense that they aren't valued and appreciated. They may feel unmotivated and worry about losing their jobs, further impacting their overall job performance.

Monitoring your online mentions and responding to negative reviews in a positive way shows your employees that you care about the reputation of your workplace. But make sure not to lay the blame for negative experiences at their feet. Make them part of the solution and make the way you respond to negative reviews a team effort.

Crowd out positive feedback

Even if the negative reviews your business receives are only a small percentage of the overall online feedback, they can have an outsized effect. One negative review may be more memorable than a dozen positive comments, and some customers may search specifically for negative reviews when deciding whether to buy a product.

Overall, hoping that a small number of bad reviews will be drowned out by all of your positive reviews isn't the best way to address the situation.

Why it's important to address negative reviews

Many business owners feel that the best negative review response is no response at all. Unfortunately, ignoring a negative review won't lessen its impact. In fact, it may make the situation worse. Proactively engaging with customers who have had a negative experience has benefits both for them and for your company. Following are some of those benefits.

Customers read reviews

Of course, you hope your business's great products and excellent services speak for themselves! But the reality is that reading online reviews has become a crucial step for many people when deciding where to spend their money. Researchers at Northwestern University found that customers are 270% more likely to purchase a product if they find at least 5 online reviews for it than if they don't find any at all.

It's to your advantage to welcome customer reviews. And while you hope that every review is a positive review, when you do get one that's negative, your customers will probably see it too. So making sure you know how to respond to negative reviews is important.

Good responses protect your brand's image

It's more important than ever for a brand to foster an image of customer-focused problem-solving. Demonstrating that your company takes criticism and feedback seriously boosts that reputation. A swift and thoughtful response to negative reviews shows that there's a human face on your brand. It also sends the message that you're sorry to hear that your product or service has fallen short of expectations and that you will correct the issue. This is good for your company name.

Personal engagement builds trust

Many business interactions today can feel very impersonal. Especially when shopping online, it's easy to research, order, pay, and receive a product without ever communicating with another person. So, when someone has a problem, engaging personally with them, using the customer's name, and letting them know that you're sorry to hear their experience was unsatisfactory can go a long way toward building trust in your brand.

Especially for new customers who may be using your business for the first time, knowing that you're good at responding to negative reviews gives them confidence.

Responding boosts your search engine rankings

Responding to negative reviews can help your business appear higher in search engine results. Sites like Google take user engagement into account and analyze whether content on a site is relevant to the search results when determining search result rankings.

By responding to a negative review, you show that you actively manage your online content and interactions. Search engines notice this engagement too, and this customer-focused approach can boost your ranking.

In addition, if you respond to negative reviews in a positive and helpful manner, your responses may include keywords that are relevant to your business and could further boost your search engine rankings.

Search engines also take user satisfaction into account when ranking businesses. Review responses that address concerns can also help result in better placement on sites like Google Reviews, thus boosting your business's success.

Best practices for responding to negative reviews

While every customer review is unique, there are a few things you can do to make sure that your review response is well crafted, positive, and as likely to be as productive as possible.

Address customer feedback promptly

Quickly responding to customer reviews demonstrates that you care about your customers' experiences and keeps the feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction from becoming worse. Addressing concerns in a timely manner can help foster customer trust and loyalty and shows that you truly care about addressing any negative experiences.

Have a policy for dealing with negative feedback

It's almost inevitable that any business will experience a negative online review from time to time. Rather than letting it take you by surprise, have a plan in place for how you will deal with a bad review before it happens.

You may want to designate a specific person to keep an eye out for negative reviews. This employee could flag specific responses, specify a maximum time to provide a review response, or have readily available discount codes to offer customers who have minor complaints. Whatever steps make the most sense for your business, planning ahead will keep you from being surprised when a negative review pops up.

Create a template, but personalize responses

Once you accept that you'll inevitably have some negative online reviews, you can prepare a response ahead of time by creating a template. Prepared response templates allow businesses to take the time to write calmly and professionally without dealing with an upset customer in the moment.

In addition, a pre-written response template means that you can respond quickly, demonstrating your business's responsiveness. It also means that the customer doesn't have further reason to be upset by a slow reply.

A response template should include an apology, a statement of your commitment to high-quality products or services, a request for more information if necessary, and the steps you will take to address the issue.

However, don't just cut and paste the same response template for every negative review. In fact, that might make the situation worse by indicating that you don't take criticisms seriously. Leave space in your template to personalize your own responses with details like the customer's name, details of the complaint, and other information that might be useful.

Don't take a negative review personally

It can be easy to let negative reviews upset you. They may be about a service you personally provided or about a business that you've poured your heart and soul into. Keep in mind that any customer who's had a negative experience with a product or service usually isn't engaging in a personal attack—they're just expressing frustration that their expectations weren't met.

In fact, customers who leave negative online reviews demonstrate that they had high expectations and care enough about sharing their experience to write the review. If you can view negative customer reviews as just information to help your business improve, it will make accepting and responding to them easier.

Respond in a professional manner

Getting negative reviews can be frustrating, and there may be times when you feel the customer feedback is unfair. However, it's still important to respond to the reviews in a way that's calm, straightforward, and professional, using the following tips.

Thank the reviewer

It may seem strange to express gratitude for a negative comment or one-star review, but it's a good first step to addressing the situation. Leaving any review takes time and effort and most feedback—even the most negative—can provide valuable insights into what your business is doing well and where it needs to improve. Thanking the reviewer acknowledges the effort they made to communicate with you.

Starting with a word of thanks sets a positive tone for your review response. It shows that you appreciate any customer engagement and are open to hearing about any experiences that fall short of expectations.

Try to avoid impersonal, formulaic language like "Dear customer." You may address the customer by name or repeat some information about their complaint—like the specific product they ordered—to show that your review response isn't just something you cut and paste for everyone.


Even if you don't feel like the negative review is justified and you don't believe you've done anything wrong, a sincere apology is always a good way to start a response. Make it clear that you're sorry to hear the customer is unhappy. Apologize for the fact that they had a bad experience and say that you would like to understand and address their concerns.

Take criticisms seriously

It can be tempting to find excuses or convince yourself that a dissatisfied customer doesn't understand how your business works. But it's always a good idea to take every negative reviewer seriously and evaluate their complaints before responding.

It's possible that their expectations are unrealistic or that what they wanted simply couldn't be accommodated. But before assuming that, take a look at the situation with a clear eye and think about whether there's anything your business could have done better to avoid the situation.

Maybe the customer ordered a custom item and is upset about your no-returns policy. The policy may be reasonable, but is it as clear and easy to find as possible? If a customer doesn't like the quality of a product they purchased, evaluate whether any elements of your procurement or manufacturing process need some attention.

A good review response will acknowledge anything you could have done better and then genuinely promise to improve going forward.

Reach out offline

Often it can be helpful to reach out offline to a customer who has left a negative review. Your Customer Support team may need more information to resolve the issue or there may be personal details that aren't appropriate to discuss on a public site.

In addition, sending a direct message or contacting a customer by phone can sometimes help to calm an angry customer who feels like they're not being heard.

Know when to move on

Occasionally you'll encounter an unhappy customer who just can't be satisfied. They may just want the chance to complain or expect an unreasonable solution to their problem—a free expensive product in response to a slight shipping delay, for example.

When it seems like your efforts to thank the customer for the feedback, sincerely apologize, and offer a reasonable solution or compensation just aren't enough, it may be time to let it go. Offer one final thank-you for the feedback and pledge to offer a more positive customer experience in the future, then move on.

When to use a professional service

Dealing with both positive and negative reviews can be time-consuming and challenging for any business owner. Sometimes, especially in the following situations, it makes sense to seek the help of a professional.

Brand reputation rescue

While negative reviews affect every business, there are times when they become more harmful to your business's reputation than an occasional unhappy customer. Maybe it's been necessary to recall a faulty or dangerous product, or a negative customer service interaction has gone viral.

When a negative review situation escalates to a public relations concern, bringing in an outside expert may help. A specialist can rescue your online reputation by managing the response process and giving you specific tips and strategies for addressing the current situation and moving forward.

Large volume

Occasionally the number of negative reviews is just too much for a business owner or an internal customer support team to handle. If there is a problematic product or service, an outside expert can help you craft a strategy for dealing with the large number of customers who are unhappy about that particular issue.

On the other hand, if your business has grown, a large volume of negative reviews may show that you are reaching a larger audience, resulting in more reviews overall—both positive and negative. In that case, bringing in outside help can be useful for that as well.

Legal issues

Sometimes negative reviews contain false or defamatory statements or include personal information about you or your staff. While it might be effective to request the host platform remove the review, it may be necessary to bring in the assistance of a lawyer or other expert who knows how to respond to negative reviews.

Industry-specific tips

Of course, every business wants to provide a great product and exceptional service. But your review response method may vary depending on what kind of industry you're in. We've pulled together some ideas for a few different types of businesses to get you started.


In addition to popular review sites like Yelp, there are many places for restaurant customers to voice their opinions. Restaurant-specific sites like OpenTable offer both reservation services and reviews, and most delivery services like Grubhub and Uber Eats offer customers the chance to leave feedback as well.

Depending on the nature of the complaint, responding to negative reviews about restaurants can be tricky. One person's delicious meal may be much too spicy for someone else. An enjoyable experience is often a matter of taste. Diners can be offered a refund or a chance to visit again.

If the complaint is about the service, let the customer know how you're addressing the issue and thank them for taking the time to help make your business the best it can be.


Many brick-and-mortar retail stores are local businesses. Negative reviews can be particularly damaging to these companies, which depend on word of mouth and a loyal customer base. If possible, reach out to any unhappy customers personally.

In addition to offering them a replacement for a defective product or a discount on a future purchase, you can invite them to stop by and discuss the issue with you in person so you can let them know that their concerns were heard.


Travel is often expensive and stressful. So, when something goes wrong, it's not surprising that customers might take their disappointment or frustration to an online forum or review site like Tripadvisor, which offers travelers the opportunity to review hotels, attractions, and other travel products.

The travel industry faces unique challenges in ensuring customer satisfaction. If a hotel is overbooked or a private tour is canceled, it's not as simple as replacing a damaged product. The customer may not have another chance to take advantage of an equal replacement and the opportunity to receive the service they paid for and to enjoy the memories is lost.

Of course, you should follow the standard review response advice to act quickly, apologize, and be professional. You can also offer to refund all or part of the cost, follow up about any changes you made in response to the review, or offer a discount on future travel, if possible.

Wellness and healthcare

While much of the general advice about responding to negative reviews applies to any industry, companies in wellness and healthcare need to be especially careful not to violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (also known as HIPAA). HIPAA prohibits sharing personally identifiable health information without a person's consent. If any reviews deal with healthcare appointments or services provided, err on the side of caution and reach out privately when responding.

Platform-specific tips

There are many places online for customers to express their opinions and leave either positive or negative feedback about your business. Each platform operates a bit differently.

It's worth taking the time to understand how they work and the best way to respond to negative reviews on each site productively and positively.


Although Google's main business isn't online feedback, according to Statista it hosts more than 70% of online reviews. Google reviews of businesses can appear either in Google Search results and, for businesses with a physical location, also on Google Maps.

Google provides a guide for businesses about how to reply to online reviews. However, to confirm that you are the one authorized to reply on behalf of the business, you must verify your business through Google before responding to reviews.


Yelp is one of the most popular online review sites for customer reviews of businesses. Like with Google, you'll need to register on the Yelp for Business page before posting a review response. In addition, Yelp gives you the option of responding publicly, sending the reviewer a private message, or simply clicking a button to thank the customer for the review.


Any time you create a business page on Facebook, customers can leave reviews. To respond to negative reviews on Facebook, simply reply to the comment. You can also use the Facebook Messenger platform to communicate directly with the reviewer to resolve the issue or get more information.

If you see a review that seems fraudulent, you can alert Facebook and the company will review it. In addition, Facebook allows you to turn off the review option for your business. While you don't want to deactivate reviews simply to avoid dealing with criticism, if the volume of reviews becomes too much to handle, it may be something to consider. That will allow you to focus your attention on other review sites and use your Facebook page simply as a way to deliver information to customers.

Instagram and TikTok

While these social media sites don't officially give users the opportunity to post reviews, many people use them as a place to talk about good or bad experiences they've had with businesses. Unlike with more traditional reviews, there's no way to post an official response to a negative review.

The good news is that these sites are designed to show users the most recent and relevant content, so negative comments will be less likely to show up over time. However, anyone who searches for your company's name may still encounter negative reviews.

You can respond to these posts in the comments, through the site's private message function, or by making your own post in response.


Glassdoor is a bit different than other review sites, since it focuses on reviews of businesses posted by current and former employees. Your ability to recruit top-notch staff is important, particularly in a tight job market, but a negative Glassdoor review can reflect poorly on your company.

You can think of the reviews on Glassdoor like customer reviews on any other site and view job seekers as potential customers. Apply the same approach you would use for dealing with negative reviews about a product or service: Prepare response templates, thank the poster for sharing their thoughts, tell them you're sorry to hear they had a bad experience, and commit to examining the issue and taking action if warranted.

Of course, you can't offer a free product or service (or a salary increase or promotion to an ex-employee complaining about those issues). But you can reach out to discuss the criticism and seriously consider whether your business can make changes as a result.

Your own site

If you allow customers to leave reviews on your e-commerce site, you have the freedom to manage them the way you want. However, it's a good idea to screen reviews before they're posted to avoid reviews with offensive or defamatory information.

Screening also means that you can post a review response at the same time as the review itself goes live, showing that you respond quickly. However, while you may want to feature positive reviews in a more prominent location, you should avoid choosing to post only positive reviews, which sends the message that you don't want customers to be straightforward with their feedback.

What about deleting negative reviews?

Some sites may allow businesses to request that negative reviews be deleted. If a review contains offensive or inappropriate material or includes personal information, you may consider asking for it to be deleted or altered.

However, think carefully before deciding to delete a review. Doing so can hurt customers' trust in you and can make it seem like you're avoiding criticism instead of dealing with it professionally.

Good examples of how companies respond to negative reviews

While negative review response templates will serve you well for most interactions, there may be times when you want to take a more creative approach.

Following are some examples of companies that respond to negative reviews in a way that reflects their business ethos and customer base and takes their negative review response game to another level.

Zappos: Genuine sincerity

Online shoe store Zappos, founded in 1999, has always been known for its responsive customer service. In 2012, the company was even on Fortune Magazine's "World's Most Admired Companies" list.

Zappos has made it a priority to have an extensive social media presence and to engage with customers directly. In fact, Zappos' average response time on social media is just 3 minutes!

Zappos strives for a friendly, sincere, and positive tone in their responses and offers customers a genuine thanks for the feedback, even if their specific request can't be accommodated.

Wendy's: Fast food with a side of humor

Fast food chain Wendy's often responds to negative online comments with offbeat humor and banter. For example, when a social media user jokingly asked Wendy's how many retweets he would need to receive a year of free chicken nuggets, the official Wendy's account replied, "18 million." The user took the challenge seriously and Wendy's held up their end of the agreement, giving him free chicken nuggets for one year.

Wendy's also uses this approach with criticisms, particularly when the complaint is general, unspecific, or lighthearted. When the brand posted an ad for a breakfast deal, another user replied that they were going to a rival fast food outlet instead, with the comment, "Joke's on you." The Wendy's account turned the comment around and told the user that the joke was on them instead, implying in a clever, lighthearted way that they'd be missing out by not eating at Wendy's.

The tone comes across as irreverent and probably wouldn't work for a business in a more serious industry, but it's the unusual approach itself that has brought Wendy's attention and a customer fan base.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema: Finding the positive in negative feedback

As a chain of movie theaters, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is known for its comfortable seating, ambitious programming, and in-seat food and beverage service. But they're also known for their strict policy prohibiting talking and texting during movies. Alamo promises to kick out customers who violate the policy, and they follow through.

Alamo occasionally receives negative reviews from customers who violated the policy and were ejected from the theater. In 2011, the company released an ad proudly featuring a recording of one angry customer complaining about being kicked out after texting.

The ad demonstrated that Alamo takes their policy seriously, a positive for movie-goers who want to watch a film free of distractions and who often find themselves frustrated by other theaters that ask patrons not to talk and text, but rarely apply any consequences.

Seven proactive ideas that can improve your responses to negative reviews

When it comes to negative review responses, don't wait for a minor situation to escalate. Think about how you can identify customers who have had a less than positive experience, tell them you're sorry to hear of their disappointment, and make things right before it harms your online reputation.

You may also request feedback via email or include a code on physical receipts. If a customer contacts you rather than complaining online, you'll have the chance to address it before it gets posted, and they might even leave a positive review about your proactive customer service! Read on for more ideas to get ahead of online criticism.

Idea #1: Stay on top of online reviews

Don't wait until someone points out a negative review or the response of other customers to the review creates an even bigger problem. You should monitor popular review sites for mentions of your business so you can send a review response right away.

You may want to set up real-time notifications on sites like Google or Yelp to let you know when a new review is posted. If that seems like it might become distracting or overwhelming, you could designate a specific time each day to deal with review responses or assign a different member of your Customer Service team to monitor reviews each day of the week.

Whatever method works best for your business, have a system for reviewing reviews so you can send a prompt response when necessary.

Idea #2: Use social listening

Also known as social media monitoring, social listening is the process of actively keeping an eye on a business's online reputation by monitoring social media channels. It's similar to the previous advice to monitor your online reviews, but it focuses more on mentions and discussions across social media platforms.

Even if your brand doesn't have a presence on a certain site like Instagram or TikTok, your customers may be active there. Rather than just keeping an eye on Google or Yelp reviews, search your company's name to see what comes up.

Social listening can make it easier to spot issues like consumer frustration with a product even if customers aren't leaving negative reviews. According to research conducted by Mention, a company that specializes in helping brands monitor their presence online, half of Instagram users have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers. Even a brief negative mention of your product can reach that many people instantly!

Idea #3: Empower your staff

Often, a bad review is the result of a relatively minor issue that could have been handled in the moment. Make sure your staff is trained on how to provide excellent service and handle an unhappy customer. They should know how to acknowledge the complaint, apologize, and de-escalate the situation if necessary.

In addition, give your staff some power to make things right. If the complaint is relatively small and easily remedied in the moment, let staff do so at their discretion. Ask them to let the customer know that they're sorry to hear they're unhappy and offer to fix the problem before the situation escalates to a negative review.

For example, if a diner is unhappy about their meal, the server may offer a free replacement. Maybe you have a policy of only accepting returns for store credit, but your staff might have the authority to offer a full payment refund instead in the case of a defective item.

You increase your chances of having a happy customer who doesn't go on to leave a negative review, and they may even post a positive review instead.

Idea #4: Highlight positive reviews

Just taking the time to respond to negative reviews online isn't enough. You'll also want to highlight positive reviews so the criticism doesn't drown out the conversation. Many sites allow you to choose a few reviews to feature at the top of your page. Choose ones that feel especially honest and authentic, and then switch them out every once in a while for more current reviews.

In addition, consider responding to positive reviews as well as negative ones. Whether it's just to offer a quick thanks or to provide some added value—like pointing out a feature of a product that the customer didn't mention—engagement with reviews of all kinds shows your commitment to good customer service and creates a friendly tone.

Idea #5: Welcome negative reviews as constructive criticism

Rather than viewing negative reviews as a problem that needs to be handled, try to turn it around. Here are customers who cared enough to tell you why your business didn't live up to their expectations. That's valuable feedback.

If an unhappy customer didn't complain, you'd never know there was a problem and you might lose a customer forever. On the other hand, knowing that a customer’s experience wasn’t great because they’ve taken the time to share that with you is worth a lot. Not only does it give you a chance to respond in a way that shows you care about your customers' perspectives, but it also tells you what aspects of your business might need some improvement.

While you may assure your staff, vendors, and outside experts like consultants that they are free to come to you with suggestions, customers are ultimately the ones you want to please. In addition, they are coming to you with an outside perspective and the freedom to take their business somewhere else.

You may be more likely to receive straightforward and honest feedback from unhappy customers than from happy customers. This can make reviews with complaints even more valuable than positive ones.

Idea #6: Offer a direct line of communication

While some negative review responses may be relatively simple, others might require you to get additional information, ask for more feedback, or verify some details. Sometimes a customer has had such a negative experience or is so unhappy that dealing with the issue via Yelp reviews isn't the best way to handle it.

In addition to letting the customer know that you're sorry to hear about their bad experience, sometimes it makes sense to give them a way to get in touch with you directly. That doesn't mean sending out your personal cell phone number, of course, but for difficult issues or customers who seem especially upset, offer them the chance to talk directly to someone with the authority to resolve their complaint.

You may have a dedicated phone line for your Customer Service team or you may occasionally direct people to the business owner's office number or email address.

Sharing direct contact information and taking the conversation offline can go a long way toward replicating the feeling of dealing directly with a local business and putting a real face or a human voice on the other end of the communication.

Idea #7: Remember the person on the other side of the screen

Finally, don't forget that every customer—even an unhappy one—is a real person. Even if their criticism is harsh or their communication style is challenging, try to reframe your view of them as a human being expressing frustration and looking for help or an apology.

Perhaps they've just had a bad day or have dealt with similar issues with other companies. Make sure the tone of your response is empathetic, use the customer's name, and let them know you're sincerely sorry to hear about their bad experience.

Whether you feel that the negative review is justified or not, approaching the interaction in the spirit of understanding and assistance can often redirect the mood and result in a satisfying solution that turns around the customer's experience.

Receiving negative reviews about your business's products or services is never a good feeling. But after exploring how to respond to negative reviews, you shouldn't worry next time you hear from an unhappy customer. Instead, follow the tips here to reach out, use one of your negative review response templates, and let the customer know you’re sorry, taking the conversation offline if necessary.

Look at these reviews as an opportunity to gain valuable feedback and turn a negative review into a positive experience.

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