7 Ways to Respond to Negative Reviews + Free Template

Drew Page

Reviews can help businesses promote their positive reputation to the world, but negative reviews can lead to a decline in sales or worse. This article explains the different types of reviews and provides a roadmap for responding to each one with professionalism.

While we certainly hope that every review a customer leaves online is going to be a five-star tribute to how awesome our business is, that isn’t always the case. 

Especially in today’s digital world, online reviews are abundant and express the customer experience, both positive and negative. The impact of online customer reviews can be drastic and ruthless if not managed properly.

Fortunately, there are a number of strategies for responding to negative reviews that can enhance your reputation online and establish stronger connections with your consumer base. 

In this article, we’ll unpack:

  • Whether you should respond to reviews
  • When you should remove negative reviews
  • Tips for responding to negative reviews
  • Formats for responding to negative reviews
  • Tips for responding to positive reviews

You might be tempted to forgo responding to negative reviews altogether. But, with these strategic response tactics, you’ll be able to handle both positive and negative reviews easily and maintain control over your reputation online. 

Respond to Your Reviews

When you’re looking for a new restaurant to eat at or searching for a service provider, where do you turn to first? More often than not, your first step is to start searching online. 

Today, the average customer is online and connected. They search for, connect with, and talk about businesses online through a variety of platforms and channels. In fact, 86% of consumers report that they read reviews for local businesses

With so many consumers checking reviews online, it makes sense for businesses to actively monitor, respond to, and engage with reviews. Your responses can become a strategic (and free!) marketing tactic for conveying to consumers how you operate, what you value, and the level of customer service they can expect from your business. 

Long story short: You must respond to your reviews

When Should You Remove a Negative Review? 

While the general rule of thumb is that you should respond to your reviews, in some cases it may be best to not respond to a negative review. 

Here are a few common situations where negative reviews can violate a platform’s rating policy, making it acceptable to not respond and instead, flag for removal:

1. A Conflict of Interest

Google, Yelp, or other platforms will consider removing a review if there is reason to believe the review was written by a competitor, rather than an actual consumer. This policy also applies to reviews from dissatisfied former employees. 

It’s worth noting that you’ll want to avoid giving your own business a review, as this falls into the same conflict-of-interest category. 

2. Fake or Inaccurate Reviews

Platforms will also consider removing reviews that are fake, inaccurate, or unrelated. If you have reason to believe a review is fake or inaccurate, take the steps identified by the platform for formally removing that review. 

3. Inappropriate Content

If a review contains content that could be considered offensive or derogatory, that review can be removed or flagged.  

Abusive content can come in the form of personal attacks, slanderous accusations, inappropriate language, or even threats. If you see any form of abusive content in your reviews, remember to flag the content for removal, and do not respond. 

Beyond the aforementioned review content, reviews can also be flagged or removed if they include dangerous or illegal content. 

7 Tips to Respond to Your Negative Reviews

Responding to a dissatisfied customer can help you prevent your business from losing a repeat consumer or a customer referral. 

Crafting a quality response to negative reviews can also communicate to future consumers the level of commitment, care, and dedication your business brings to every consumer experience. These responses may even end up being the reason one prospective customer chooses your business over others when searching online

Use the following seven tactics to create thoughtful responses to your negative reviews and convey to consumers online your dedication to solving customer concerns or issues with your business. 

1. Admit the Issue and Apologize 

The first step is one of the most important steps you can take in responding to negative reviews: acknowledging the customer’s problem. 

Take the time to identify the issue clearly to the consumer that you understand exactly what happened. You’ll want to follow up this acknowledgment with an honest and sincere apology for how the customer’s experience made them feel. 

2. Show Empathy to Your Customers 

Empathy goes a long way when it comes to online reviews. When you show consumers that you care about their feelings, they can be more receptive to mending their relationship with your business. 

Take a moment to put yourself in the shoes of your consumer before you craft a solution or response. Once you’ve taken the time to understand how they are feeling and why, you’ll be able to identify more personalized communications or solutions for their experience. 

3. Steer Clear of Confrontation 

When people are talking badly about your business online, it’s hard to not take things personally. Your business is your livelihood and very public, negative reviews can jeopardize your reputation. 

But before you respond, remember to pause for a moment and step back. Take a deep breath and remove yourself from the heat of the moment. If you let your emotions dictate how you respond to these reviews, your responses may run the risk of sounding defensive or confrontational. 

Taking a quick break before responding can increase the likelihood that your responses are empathetic and objective. 

4. Share Contact Information for Offline Support

Sometimes, you may want to take your conversation with a customer offline and away from social media or another review platform. We do not advise taking a confrontational tone with any customer, but if things turn even more sour, it’s best to take your discussion out of the public arena. 

Giving a phone number for them to call on their own time shows you’re willing to consider the dialogue, like in the exchange below:

negative review response
Instead of ending the interaction with your comment, you give the commenter control and another avenue to discuss their problem. When asking a consumer to join you in a conversation offline, remember to give the consumer a number or email address to reach you at, too. 

Providing this information signals to your consumers and prospective customers how important customer service is to you rather than simply asking the consumer to “reach out” or “give you a call.”  

5. Work to Rectify the Situation

Take steps to remedy the unsatisfactory customer experience online and offline. If there are no follow-up steps offline, make the effort to better the situation directly on the review platform. 

After acknowledging the issue and offering an apology in your response, include an offer designed to win back the customer’s good favor. Well-intentioned offers can enhance the customer’s opinion of your business. Moreover, this tactic also conveys your commitment to effectively solving customer concerns as well as your dedication to providing top-notch service to future customers. 

Remember, you never want an offer to come across as bribery for an updated, more positive review. Be strategic about what you offer, and carefully evaluate each customer issue individually before you include an offer in your response. 

6. Show Your Gratitude

Regardless of whether the once-disgruntled customer updates their negative review or not, respond to their reviews with gratitude. 

Think of each review as an opportunity to improve or learn more about your business. Thank each customer for giving you the chance to make things right. Without their review, you may have not uncovered an area of improvement for your business. 

This professional and genuine approach leaves consumers feeling valued and conveys a strong sentiment for prospective or future customers.

7. Refresh Your Response With a Status Update

If you’re making progress or have entirely solved a customer’s issue, remember to update your response with a status. Highlight the status of the complaint at the top of your reply. This is a simple yet effective way to spotlight your customer service efforts to other consumers browsing on the platform. 

Future customers will be able to see the effort your business puts in to solving customer issues and the fact that their complaints (should they have one) won’t go unrecognized by your company. 

A great way to communicate the status of a complaint is to use bold text or other special characters, like an asterisk. 

Template for Responding to Negative Reviews

There are a few key elements to a negative review response that you’ll want to make sure you include in every response. Beyond those elements, you can customize your responses and use the tips outlined above.

Following this template can give you a good idea of how to approach the issue of a negative review.

Anatomy of the Perfect Response to a Negative Review 

Source: Housecall Pro

By implementing all of the tips from above, ranging from empathizing with the customer to finding a reasonable remedy, you’ll impress potential customers and the ones you already have.

The foundation of a quality negative review response includes the following:

  • Addressing the customer by name
  • Thanking them for taking the time to bring the issue to your attention 
  • Acknowledging the customer’s issue with empathy 
  • Providing information for additional support
  • Offering a solution 
  • Personalizing with a salutation 

If, even after following those above steps, the customer does not update their review, you should take the time to update the status in the review, whether that is “attempted resolution” or “resolution,” including the following:

  • The resolution status
  • A description of what steps were taken toward resolution 
  • Any commendable customer service efforts
  • The customer involved, addressed by first name 
  • A personalized salutation 

Following up using these tips will show you’re still dedicated to resolving the issue.

Now that you have a base format for responding to negative reviews, let’s turn our attention to tactics for responding to positive reviews. 

3 Tips for Responding to Positive Reviews

Even if a customer is not reporting an issue in a review, it’s still important to take the time to acknowledge their experience with your business. And responding to positive reviews is not only a fun way to engage with your customers, but it’s also a great tactic for incentivizing more positive reviews. 

People, and customers specifically, love positive attention. Showering your customers with recognition for taking the time to leave great reviews online is a surefire way to turn delighted customers into advocates for your business. 

1. Thank Your Fans 

As we mentioned earlier, online reviews matter in today’s digital world. And positive reviews can make all the difference for your business. 

Take the time to thank your customers and show gratitude for those enhancing your reputation online. 

2. Highlight Another Perk 

Beyond giving thanks, consider using this positive customer experience as an opportunity to showcase other perks of your business.

This tactic can be great for retaining customers in the future and communicating to prospective consumers the benefits of your business that they may have not known about. 

3. Promote Your Referral Program 

Positive reviewers make great referrals.

Consider directly asking positive reviewers for referrals or provide access to your referral program in your response to their positive review. 

The Bottom Line: Reviews Matter

Positive or negative, customer reviews can make a big splash online. With so many consumers turning to reviews as a source of credibility and a tool in decision-making, it’s important to make review responses a standard operating procedure for your business. 

Tackling customer issues in a timely manner and consistently expressing gratitude to fans can not only enhance your reputation online but can lead to more business down the line. 


Drew Page

Content Marketing Lead, Siege Media

Drew is a content marketing specialist from San Diego, CA. He loves learning, writing and playing music. When not surfing the web, you can find him actually surfing, in the kitchen or in a book.

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