How to Respond to Negative Reviews

by | Oct 2, 2019 | Online Review Marketing, Reputation Management, Review Generation | 0 comments

You’ve worked hard to get your business going. You’re working even harder now that you’ve added online marketing to your overall marketing strategy. That strategy includes online reviews.

Now, you’re working hard to build your online reputation. That’s why it can feel like the end of the world when you receive a negative review or several. Fortunately, your business’ reputation doesn’t need to hang in the balance every time a poor response comes your way.

By being prepared beforehand, you can navigate your way through any storm your business endures, including negative online reviews. That’s what we’re going to cover in this post.

Before we start, make sure you also check out our guide on how to respond to positive reviews, another important pillar of managing your online reputation.

Why You Need to Pay Attention to Negative Reviews

You may think positive reviews are the most important aspect of your business’ online reputation, and you’d be right for the most part. What you may not be aware of is how much negative reviews can impact your business. I don’t just mean the amount of business they scare away, either.

seattle coffee shop respond negative review

Negative reviews can shape your business in ways positive reviews never can. They’ll let you know of any areas your business needs to improve on, for starters.

The way you respond to such criticism can have an impact as well. Online reviews are a public forum, which means every potential customer will be able to see how you respond to criticism. If you respond without snark and take responsibility for things even if they are not your fault, you’ll have the potential to impress future customers despite having received a negative review. 

There’s also a secret upside to negative reviews. They make your business look legitimate. Today’s online-first consumers are experts in spotting “fake news” in all its forms. This includes fake reviews acquired through paid reviews (don’t do this) or review gating to only allow positive ones. Many potential customers may avoid your product or business if you only have five-star reviews. Therefore, an occasional negative review can actually be a good thing by showing that your business is real and that you haven’t gamed the system.

Above all, paying attention to negative reviews gives you opportunities to make things right with disgruntled customers. You may even encourage them to give your business another try.

What the Data Says About Negative Reviews

Most of the data on online reviews demonstrates the importance of positive reviews. It’s true. When you receive a higher average star rating, you’ll receive more business. This is why it’s imperative for your business to receive more good reviews than bad ones.

Statistic - Negative Reviews

That doesn’t mean you should ignore negative reviews and only focus on positive ones altogether. Here are a few stats on negative reviews. You can view more stats in our post on how online reviews can make or break your business.

  • 87% of consumers state a business needs an average rating of 3-5 stars before they’ll do business with them. BrightLocal
  • 48% of consumers state a business needs at least a 4-star rating before they’ll do business with them. – BrightLocal
  • 94% of consumers state an online review has convinced them to avoid a business. – ReviewTrackers
  • 35% of consumers have left online reviews for bad experiences. – BrightLocal

The most important piece of data here is the one that states 94% of consumers have avoided a business after reading a bad review. By responding to negative reviews and giving your own side of the story when appropriate, you can lower that number and prevent negative reviews from having so much influence over your business.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

When you respond to positive reviews, you don’t necessarily need to worry about who is responding to your customers. Your business’ reputation isn’t on the line, so you can train your support staff to handle this aspect of your marketing plan.

Things are a lot different when it comes to negative reviews. A single negative review can deter a lot of potential customers from giving your business a try. Furthermore, the response you give can be the tipping point that either convinces a potential customer to give your business a chance or turn around without ever giving it a second thought.

As such, who responds to these types of reviews is important. If you’re a small business, your best bet is to have your business owner respond to these reviews. A manager is the next best thing.

If neither have the time, have your lead support member or marketing manager respond to these reviews. If you have to use regular support members, cover this topic thoroughly in their training, and renew training regularly.

When it comes to handling negative reviews, here are a few key points your response should touch base on:

Let’s elaborate on each of these, starting at the top.

Look for Detailed Reviews

It’s best to respond to negative reviews within 24-48 hours of when they were first published. However, if you’re setting aside a designated time to respond to these reviews, seek out reviews that have a lot of information and criticisms for you to respond to.

The reviews don’t necessarily need to be long. They simply need to have some kind of claim or evidence that warrants the one or two-star rating the customer gave you. Avoid vague responses, such as “this place sucks,” for now. We’ll get to them in a bit.

Personalize Your Response

The worst way to respond to negative reviews is to deliver canned responses. Very little turns customers off more than seeing dozens of responses from your support staff that all say the same thing word-for-word.

Each and every response you give should be unique. A simple way to ensure this is to personalize responses by addressing the reviewer by name.

Thank Them

This should be a given, but be sure to thank your customer for leaving a review. They’re taking time out of their day to provide much-needed feedback, even if it’s negative feedback.

You should do this regardless of the type of review you’re responding to. It gives you a simple way to remain classy even when your reviewer leaves a colorful review worded in a way that’s obnoxious and immature.

Take Responsibility & Ownership of the Problem

A reviewer is going to make claims and accusations potential customers are able to read. Your best bet is to immediately take full responsibility, even if it’s not your fault. Avoid beating around the bush. Do not get defensive, deny their claims, or make excuses.

Address their claims in the order they list them in. If you did something wrong, own up to it. If your chef overcooked the vegetables that night, for instance, admit it and apologize for it.

negative review response screenshot

Even if it was not your fault, take ownership, and focus on things you can do to prevent other people from having the same experience. The moment you blame or pass responsibility to someone or something else, you lose your ability to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again. Blame and excuses may seem like the easy way out, but they only compound the core problem, leaving it open for more of your customers to experience and write more negative reviews.

Give Insight on Business Plans

This one ties into the last point. If there’s something fundamentally wrong with your business that’s causing customers to leave poor reviews, changes are in order. Be sure to share how you plan on improving. That way that customer as well as potential customers will see you’re willing to own up to your mistakes and take action on them.

Of course, if you’ve already addressed the problems the review highlights, be sure to share that with them as well.

Make Things Right

Close your response with an attempt to make things right. If the claims were minor, simply invite the customer to give your business another chance. If the claims were more on the severe side of things, open a direct line of communication with management or your business owner.

If your business messed up royally in a way that seriously inconvenienced your customer, cost them a lot of money or even injured them, offer to compensate them.

Additional Considerations

“The customer is always right.” Unfortunately, that mantra is not always true. Some customers are going to embellish details in their reviews and either flat out lie or leave out key information.

In this case, it’s important for you to stand your ground and defend your business, employees, or product, rather than apologize as you normally would. If you know for a fact your business or product functioned as it was supposed to and did everything (or most things) right, give your side of the story. Remain respectful and be honest about any mistakes you did make, take ownership for things that are nobody’s fault then tell the parts they’re not sharing or correct (respectfully) any falsehoods. You might even invite them to come back and experience it all again so you can ensure that they have the intended experience this time around.

Lastly, if a reviewer gives a vague response, open a line of communication to encourage them to share more details about their experience.

How to Prevent Negative Reviews

It’s important for your business to have a strategy in place when it comes to responding to negative reviews, but you should also make an effort to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

make customers happy photo

Be sure you’re always working to improve your products and services no matter how successful you become. Get feedback from your customers on a regular basis. It’ll help to ensure you’re moving in the right direction.

You should also ensure customers have easy access to your support staff. Open all avenues of customer service your business is able to manage, including social media. Be certain you’re training support staff members adequately as well.

Lastly, be sure to act on any promises you make in your responses. If you stated your business is looking into new vegetable suppliers to make up for low-quality produce, get to work on that promise.

Encouraging Feedback

The most effective way to prevent customers from leaving negative reviews is to encourage them to provide feedback instead. Starfish Reviews makes this possible. With a simple survey asking customers to rate their experiences as positive or negative, you can attempt to make things right with customers privately before they give up on your business entirely and rate it poorly.


Lyn Wildwood

Lyn is an expert freelance WordPress blogger. She brings many years of WordPress content writing experience to the Starfish Reviews team.

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