How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews
Key 'Takeaways' From This Post
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated
  • 84% of people trusting an online review as much as a personal recommendation

Nobody likes to get a bad online review. As a business owner or employee, when you see a bad review about your business, your first reaction might be to take the reviewer’s comment and low-star rating as a personal insult. You may get upset. You might get mad. However, taking it personally isn’t the best way to handle negative reviews. Getting upset or angry isn’t going to solve your problem: you have an unhappy customer. Not only do you have a dissatisfied customer, but you also have one who has publicly put their bad experience about your company online for the whole world to see…

Here are some tips on how to diffuse a bad online review and hopefully turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied customer who may even be willing to go online and change their bad review into a good one.

Keep Calm. Take a Breath

When you see a bad review about your company, the first thing to do is stop, take a breath and think. Don’t hastily respond to the ticked-off customer without thinking things through first. (If you need to step away from your computer and walk around the block, do that. Anything to settle your emotions down.) Never respond when you’re angry.

When you reply to a person who’s had a bad experience with your company, it helps to have a set of standard review responses that you can use to respond. These “canned” responses will give you a starting point when you write a response to the reviewer.

Now, don’t re-use the same responses over and over, but having a starting point – especially if you’re upset – can help a lot. Take a canned response and customize your response for each individual reviewer’s feedback.

You Must Respond to the Negative Reviewer

If you think you can ignore a bad review, you’re wrong. Not responding to a negative review is responding. It’s telling everyone that sees the bad review that you don’t care about your customers. Responding to complaints can help increase customer advocacy. Not responding to a bad review decreases customer advocacy.

Often a grumpy customer just wants to be heard. If you show that customer that you heard what they had to say and that you’re happy to resolve the issue, sometimes that’s enough to appease them. Replying to and resolving the issue quickly and in one “transaction” is important (“first contact resolution.”) Customers who receive a successful first-contact problem resolution are twice as likely to buy from you again.

Seventy percent (70%) of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Make sure all your customers feel loved – even the unhappy ones.

 Responding to negative reviews also makes you stand out from your competitors. Most companies don’t pay attention to reviews – so customers (and potential customers) will remember the companies that do pay attention to what their customers think. That means they’ll remember you.

Resolve the Issue

Don’t just respond to the negative reviewer — fix the problem, too. In some cases, depending on the situation, it may mean asking the customer to contact you by phone or ask them to stop by your place of business so you can discuss the issue/problem in person.

Whole Food Goes the Extra Mile

Whole Food Goes the Extra Mile

When you show you’re actively trying to fix the problem, that shows the customer (and others) that you truly want to solve the issue. With 84% of people trusting an online review as much as a personal recommendation, going the extra mile is important. Not only does fixing the issue make that customer happier, other potential customers will see how important satisfying your customers is to your business.

Get a Second Opinion

When you’re responding to good or bad reviews, it’s best to let an impartial third-party read your response to the reviewer before you post it online. Ask a friend, family member or co-worker to double check your reply for message and tone to make sure it “reads” well to a third-party.

Look at the POSITIVE in the Negative

If you get a bad review, really look at what the person wrote. Were they unhappy with a staff member? Did they have a bad experience at your location? Did your product/service not work like they expected? If you evaluate what the customer has said, you may discover bigger issues that you need to work on at your company.

When you get a bad review, take this opportunity to get insights into what your company might be doing wrong — you may discover ways to improve your business. Try to look at the positive side of a negative review.

Customer Service Is Out In The Public

Let’s face it. Few people like to pick up the phone and call any more. According to Harris Interactive, 75% of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent on the phone. That means more and more people are using social media and review sites to get customer service and voice their opinions. With the Internet, customers expect almost an instantaneous response. And some of these people like this very public forum – because it gets attention.

If you have a negative review, remember that everything you say to that reviewer is out in the public for all to see. That means you don’t want to do battle with that customer online. The best way to handle these attention-seeking people is to take the discussion offline. Simply let the customer know you heard them and then ask them to call you personally so you can resolve the matter. Even if the person doesn’t call you back, anyone that sees that review discussion will at least see that you tried to rectify the situation. That goes a long way to building trust with future customers.

Also, don’t engage in a one-on-one “battle” with a reviewer online. Never respond more than twice to the same customer about the same issue on a public channel.

Ask For a Do-Over

If you’ve worked closely with an unhappy customer to remedy the situation, politely ask them to update/change their review to reflect that the situation has been resolved.

Change a Negative Review to a Positive Review

Change a Negative Review to a Positive Review

If you can turn a bad review into a great review – you’ve won!

Get More Positive Reviews to Push Down the Negative Reviews

If you get a bad review about your business, you want to try and get a few more positive reviews to help “push down” that negative review. There are a lot of tools on the market that can help you monitor, manage and get online reviews from customers.

To get more positive reviews, make it easy for happy customers to leave reviews about your business. If you use BrightLocal’s ReviewBiz badge on your website, it’ll be super easy for any customer to leave a review about your business.

Use BrightLocal's ReviewBiz

Use BrightLocal’s ReviewBiz


BrightLocal is essential for Local SEO and is a great value for the range of tools.

Nicole Nelson Salt Lake City, UT

Monitor Reviews

It’s important that you know what customers are saying about your business online. Did someone leave a bad review about your company? Do you have 5-star reviews? What review sites do your customers use to leave reviews about you? You can use BrightLocal’s Reviews & Ratings feature to see what your customers are saying about your business on the top online review sites.

Check for Online Reviews

Check for Online Reviews

Using a review monitoring tool will help you keep tabs on what your customers are saying about you online. You want to know about the good AND bad reviews and respond to ALL reviews as soon as you can.

What Do You Think?

Do you respond to online reviews about your business? What tool are you using to monitor your online reviews? How do you respond to unhappy customers? Let us know in the comments below.

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6 thoughts on “How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews”

  1. Do you also have any recommendations about how to treat negative Online Reviews at Google which are fake? Google does not answer, react, change anything when you give them the feedback. Fake Online Reviews = if the user did never anything else then this one star rating without comment and picture and neither a full profile.

  2. Get a bad review? Contact your good customers and ask for 10 good ones. Nothing can negate a bad review, people are going to be grumpy and angry if they don’t get their pound of flesh. So let them stew and then get 10 good ones from people you know and who trust the business or yourself.

    Google is the worst review site in the world. Anyone can say anything, so long as not vulgar or threatening, about any business and Google could care less. They will never take down a review, unless it violates their core policies. Anyone can rate any business, you do not need to be a customer. Facebook is the same way.

    Yelp has their algorythm, but even it is skewed as non-customers can rate a company and throw them under the bus and Yelp will not resolve non-customer reviews. You can show them your data and customer information and they……do not care.

    Best thing to do with a bad review is get 10 good ones. People make mistakes, they screw up from time to time, so be a human, admit being wrong, beg for forgiveness and then go get 10 good ones to balance out the bad with a lot of great!

    1. Thanks Jack. I agree – the anonymous nature of the internet isn’t necessarily always good, particularly for local business. It’s increasingly important for local businesses to recognize reviews though, I still see so many not responding. If I see a well-thought out response to a bad review it definitely helps to counter it.

  3. Thank you for this article, good stuff. We get thousands of tax and accounting professional reviews on our site, so we’ve seen it all and these are mostly good recommendations.

    However, I am not sure that I agree that the business “must respond” publically to every review. Sometimes it is recommended that the business first reach out to the customer by phone or email to learn more and/or to see if the situation resolved. Responding to the review online is not as personal and can shut down any chances of getting things resolved.

    Also, there may be other reasons not to reply to *every* review, including abusive language used by the reviewer, legal issues, etc.

    If the review is placed on some obscure site, by replying to the review you may actually be HELPING to get more visibility to that review — Google and other search engines may rank it higher because of your reply. If the review is buried on some obscure site on the internet, might be best to ignore it in some cases.

    Finally, small business clients may not realize that, even if they successfully get the reviewer to remove the negative review, it might live in Google for months. More on that here:

    1. Thanks Brad, some good points. Reaching out offline via a phone call is probably the best path but important to try and get the original review updated if at all possible. Not to forget that review sites still provide filters for ratings and often times a potential customer might want to see a worst case 1 star rated review.

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