How to respond to negative reviews

It’s almost unavoidable that you’ll receive a bad review if you own a business. Even if you provide your customers with the best service and experience, it’s impossible to please everyone. The customer may have gotten into an argument with one of your employees or had a problem with one of your products. There might have been an unexpected delay in service or they may have been annoyed by some event that transpired that day.

There are just way too many situations that could ruin a customer’s experience when they peruse your business. Life is impossible to control and with circumstances like these, customers will likely leave a negative rating and review on sites like Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp.

It’s important to avoid the emotional trap of taking the response personally. Individuals will typically leave responses in order to give other potential customers some awareness of their experience.  They’ll often be expecting some kind of response from the owner or manager. Reviewers want validation, respect, and to feel like their needs have been heard. We hope to show you the best means of replying to negative reviews, provide you with some examples of how to respond appropriately, and give you some tools and templates for quick and customized responses.



Step 1: Introduction

The first thing to understand is the importance of how you address your customer when responding to negative feedback. These kinds of customers are going to be upset, frustrated, or very dissatisfied with your service.
What these customers are really searching for is an employee or owner to accept blame for their actions and revise the issue (if the issue or service can be fixed). This may be your first time hearing complaints and issues of this nature. Problems naturally arise when using third-party vendors and systems, so your business wouldn’t even be the guilty party.
Regardless, you need to reassure your customers that this problem will be dealt with and exemplify the service you want them to receive in the future. This means a personalized apology directed at the reviewer, first and foremost. Don’t argue, shift the blame, or make excuses. This will only ruin your business’ image and further agitate the customer.
Keep the apology brief and genuine. Here are a few examples of how you can begin the apology:
• Hey Jamie,
This is Carl, the owner and manager of Bistro Carl. We’re very sorry about your negative experience with our business.
• Hey Angie,
I’m Sabrina, the manager at Gelato 4 All, Alexandria. We deeply apologize for any inconvenience that we may have caused and are addressing the issue now.

Why these work:
Both of these templates accomplish three things.
1) By addressing the reviewer using their first name, the response comes off as personal, a little touching, and non-automated.
2) The customer knows your name and recognizes that you’ve accepted responsibility for the situation
3) These responses demonstrate your disappointment in the customer’s experience and negative service.
Any introduction in your responses should be written with these ideas at the center. Keep it short but honest.

Step 2: Addressing the Issue

Even if you surprise the customer with a personalized and curated response, what they’re really looking for is a solution to the problem. The next aspect of your response should explain your plan to resolve the issue.
This is where you need to discuss the problem they had with your business, perhaps give a reason as to why the problem arose, and promptly lay out your plan of action going forward to avoid issues like these in the future.
• I recognize that the package ETA was Wednesday, but there was a delay in shipping dispatch and our tracking system is currently undergoing maintenance. We guarantee delivery by 8:00 PM today, at the latest. I’ve contacted the delivery manager and have ensured him of the delivery importance.
• We take extreme care to ensure that all of our ingredients pass a rigorous quality assurance test before being used and prepared. An employee of ours has overlooked the expiration date on one of our food packages from our supplier. We are taking immediate action in changing our wholesale food distributor.

Step 3: Try Making it Up to the Customer

After explaining how the problem may have come about and discussing your plan for solving the problem, discuss with the reviewer a compensation plan, such as a gift card or discount. Or you can ask if there’s anything you do to appease them and convince them to visit your business again.
• Please visit our establishment at a later date. We’re only interested in delivering the best customer service and we’d relish the opportunity to make up for your bad experience with a discount coupon.
• Please contact me using my personal work number (555-555-5555) and I’ll address this issue personally.

Step 4: Conclusion

Make sure to apologize one more time before signing off with a signature. Thank them for their review and for bringing this problem to your attention. Address their complaint and explain how you intend to avoid issues like these in the future.
• We regret the level of service our business displayed and wish this hadn’t happened. We hope that this response helped a little. Thank you for your feedback.

John Swanson
Swanson’s Meat

• Thank you for bringing these issues to light. We can guarantee that this will not happen again, and we’re very sorry for any inconvenience you may have experienced.

Elisa’s Yarn Emporium

It can be time-consuming and burdensome to respond to every review your business receives.