How to Respond to a Negative Online Review

{Updated May 31, 2017}

Oh No! It happened. You got a bad review and it’s not a 4 or even a 3 star. It’s a 1 star! It’s heartbreaking, I know. You work very hard and you understand that you can’t please everybody all of the time and you’ll run into it every now and then.

But to see it in black and white for all to see is disheartening. As a business owner, it can hurt.

Yeah, we know, we can’t take it personally. But we are close to our work and customers so to see this can ruin a morning.

You can’t ignore it and you can’t return fire.

As the above stats highlight, people want to hear from you; the good and the bad. It’s about that trust factor that is all so important these days. It’s about the personal touch that can be missing with automation, technology, and mass marketing. Follow the rules, yes. But know that there are people in the equation with emotions and history and baggage. You can’t control that.

You can’t delete it either.

Not everyone is going to think glowingly of your business. It is impossible if you are growing and successful. In fact, one or two bad reviews will give your business some legitimacy. If Social media users see nothing but positive comments, they’ll assume your company is deleting the bad comments or, worse, faking the good

#1. Take a moment and do a little research.

So what do we say now? Well, before you respond take a moment, or, rather a few moments, and reflect. Don’t immediately start writing something in response. The worst thing you can do is to reply quickly. Find out who the person might be. Find out if they are a valid customer and was there a positive resolution before the review. What was the issue and who was involved.

Does the review have to do with an employee? If so, there are always two sides so before you accuse, get some facts and ask your employee for history without emotion.

If this is a review from a customer that you cannot verify, respond truthfully by acknowledging that you can’t find them in your records but don’t accuse them.

#2. Consider that the person might have a valid point.

Consider that the review might have some valuable feedback or insight into a situation that you might not be aware of. If so, what sort of remedy might you provide? Will this begin a new process to make sure it does not happen again? Will it provide an opportunity for better customer relations? If so, let them know.

#3. Draft a response on a notepad.

Get any feelings of dread or anger out by scribbling something on a notepad. Then delete or throw it away and rewrite it professionally with positive words and an encouraging, sympathetic tone. Remember, any response you provide is the same as if you were standing in front of them, face-to-face.

#4. Apologies & Resolutions.

Your response should be apologetic as well as helpful. Don’t defend yourself. Any resolution that you include will go a long way. Usually, customers want to know that they’ve been heard and that you and the people in your company will make things right. You don’t need to be a pushover but be authentic when you respond. A clear template response copy/pasted over and over will be viewed negatively.

#5. Abusive or Hostile Reviews.

If you find a certain person is being blatantly hostile, you can ban them. It’s a last resort but sometimes necessary. You, your staff, as well as your customers do not deserve that type of language or behavior. If you rectify it by noting what happened and what you did to resolve it can help later. See our list below to the various review websites and their removal policies.

Here are some examples of responses:

Not a customer?

Hello Brad, We were sorry to hear about your experience and that your review was not a happy one. At this point, we cannot verify that you were a customer at our [store, restaurant, etc]. We would love to speak to you in person so we can resolve the issue. Please call 555-555-5555 so we can see how we can help.

Too expensive?

Hello Jim, We acknowledge that our prices might seem high but our greatest asset is our experienced and friendly team. We only hire those with true craftsmanship and a genuine interest in customer service. We are more than happy to help you in any way. Please email or call us to see how we can help you.

Service Was Really, Really Bad?

Hello Sarah, Thank you very much for taking the time to review our {product or service}. Your input, and the feedback from all of our {customers, guests, clients} is vitally important to us and we always want your expectations to be met. Per your comments, we have {whatever improvements/changes were made} to ensure that future {customers, travelers} are made aware of the {policy, change, etc.}. Please know that your {comfort, home, car, pet, etc.}are our top priorities. We sincerely apologize. We hope to see you again in the future and you can reach us directly at 555-555-5555 if we can be of any assistance.

Service Not What They Expected?

Oh no! We are sorry you had this experience, Mary. We will take your review into account and see how we make some improvements. Please call or email us to see how we can keep you as a valuable customer.

Customer At Fault?

Doesn’t matter. All of the above examples will work. No blaming. No accusing.

Here are more examples:

Just remember that mistakes happen. We are all human. Customers get upset and complain. Think of this as an opportunity to show how your company listens and responds to all feedback. It can only help.

Online Review Policies and Removing Reviews:

I hope this will be helpful.

If you have your own reviews that you might need help leave a comment!


Christina Hawkins

1 Comment

  1. Benson on March 22, 2019 at 1:06 am

    If the comment is abusive and hostile then you can complain about the particular review and google will check it out and then take the respective action. If the review doesn’t violate their policies then Google will leave it as it is.

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