Winnie Murugi
Health and Beauty Expert

Most businesses and marketers worry that negative reviews tarnish their reputation, and understandably so. According to ReviewTrackers, 94% of customers said a bad review about a business had convinced them not to buy from it.

However, when handled properly, negative reviews are a powerful marketing tool. They provide crucial feedback about customers’ expectations and experience with your business—its products, services, policies, and procedures. Therefore, they present an opportunity for improving and growing your businesses.

They also offer a chance to engage with your existing customers and to build trust with potential ones. Your response provides social proof to potential customers and informs their buying decision.

In this article, we will offer you tips on how to respond to negative reviews. We also refer to real customer review examples to help you effectively engage with negative customer feedback.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews: 10 Tips

The main difference between positive and negative feedback is that the latter can damage your reputation and cause your business to fail, while the former builds your reputation and attracts more customers. The way you handle positive vs. negative feedback is not the same. Therefore, negative reviews require a more detailed response.

Below are 10 tips to respond to negative reviews for improved customer service.

1. Always Respond

Brightlocal findings indicate that 89% of consumers are likely to buy from a business that is responsive to its online reviews. However, 63% of the respondents said that they never got a response to their negative reviews. Therefore, even if the review comes across as petty or from bullies, respond anyway.

While some reviewers are difficult naysayers, most negative reviews come from customers who have had a dissatisfied engagement with your products or services. Responding to negative feedback can help you retain the clients. Remember, you’re responding not just to the affected person, but to the many other potential customers.

Furthermore, most consumers can quickly identify fake reviews. As long as your response is precise, factual, respectful, and offers the supposedly aggrieved customer an opportunity to get assistance, it demonstrates your ability to be receptive to their issues and experience.

2. Respond Quickly

Responding alone is not enough. You need to do it in a timely manner. Customers expect businesses to respond to both positive and negative reviews within a week or even a shorter time. Therefore, for optimal reputation management and customer satisfaction, you should respond to bad reviews within 1-3 days.

For instance, Nike's customer service is quite prompt in responding to complaints on the @Nikeservice Twitter page. They usually respond within 1-3 hours.

example of responding to online feedback

Often, companies are unable to respond to negative online reviews quickly because they do not have a strategy and team for online reputation management. As such, they may not be aware that a client has left a negative review.

Therefore, develop a well-thought-out strategy for collecting and responding to customer reviews. Use tools such as advanced search on Twitter and Facebook, or Google search query “business name+reviews” to find out where customers leave reviews about your business. 

Then put a customer service team together to respond to customer reviews. Have a schedule for checking and responding to reviews: preferably within 1-3 days. Also, develop a template for responding to the various type of issues. Gather some negative feedback examples for your business across various platforms and come up with appropriate responses.

Be proactive about seeking customer feedback. When closing a sale, provide the consumer with a channel to leave their feedback or get assistance with any issues that may arise. It is important to have a system for recording and reviewing the issues brought up so that they can inform the large strategy of the business.

3. Apologize to the Customer

Do not be defensive in your response. Rather, apologize to the customer for the inconvenience caused. Even if you do not agree with their grievances, empathize with them that their expectations were not met. You could also thank the consumer for reaching out or bringing up the issues.

All these approaches validate the customer’s feelings and help to de-escalate their emotions. As such, they diffuse tension and pave the way for a resolution.

For instance, you can say, “We apologize for the inconvenience caused by the delay in delivery”. If your business was outrightly in the wrong, own it up. For example, “You are right. We should have delivered the items sooner.”

Use indirect speech to point out something that the reviewer should have done. This approach helps to redirect blame from the client.

For instance, a customer was supposed to provide certain information to facilitate the purchase process of a given product, but they did not. Instead of saying, You did not provide the correct information”, you can say, "We do our best to process customer orders promptly. However, we require that the customer provides us will all the necessary information on the onset."

On PissedConsumer, Adore Me has great negative feedback examples on how to thoughtfully yet professionally apologize to consumers, i.e, review #3329019.

how to apologize to customers

4. Be Polite and Professional in Your Response

A bad customer review can sometimes feel like a personal attack on you or your business. It is not, so do not take it personally. Instead, be professional, polite, and empathetic in your response.

Even if a person is confrontational and aggressive, use a polite and calm tone in your response. If you feel agitated by the tone and wording of the review, take some deep breaths and allow yourself some time before responding.

5. Customize Your Response

Some businesses and marketers provide generic responses, which are not effective. Whenever possible, address the customer by their name. Refrain from addressing them as “Dear customer”. Personalized responses are authentic, and they make the consumer feel heard. Do not copy-paste the same response on every review.

6. Make It Right

An apology is not enough to resolve the issue. You must take the appropriate action to make it right with the client. For instance, expedite delivery of the ordered items if the issue was a delivery delay. You can also offer an incentive such as a discount on their next purchase, refunds, free shipping, or free products as compensation.

In scenarios where a systemic issue caused a negative experience, review your business procedures and policies to ensure that the issue does not arise again. For instance, you may need to train the sales and delivery teams to ensure seamless order processing and shipping flow. Or, develop more favorable return, refund, and cancellation policies.

Explain to the customer what you will do to ensure the issue does not recur. It shows that you are committed to improving and may help to rebuild their confidence in your business. It also indicates to prospective clients that they will not encounter similar situations.

Most businesses do not explain to customers what they are doing differently to ensure that issues reported by them do not come up again. Therefore, doing so can help you stand out from the competition and improve customer retention.

7. Take the Conversation Offline

Once you have publicly responded to the bad reviews, you want to take the conversation offline. Going offline allows you to get more details about the issue in order to provide the best solution. 

In your public response, offer the reviewer a way to contact you directly, e.g., a phone number or email address. Ensure that the contact information you provide is accurate and they can get immediate assistance. For instance, asking to fill out a contact form where they get a response several days later can make them more disgruntled.

Once offline, ask for personal and order details to view the customer’s recent history with your business. Clarify the facts about the issue and rephrase them to ensure you fully understand. Once again apologize for the inconvenience caused and offer a personalized solution to the issue. Answer any questions the customer may have to help mend their relationship with your business.

8. Reinforce Your Commitment to Uphold Your Company’s Values

Let the reviewer and other customers know that this was a mistake and your business is still committed to its core values of good quality products and customer-centric customer service.

9. Keep Your Response Short and Simple

You want the response to be 3-5 lines long. Thank the customer for their feedback, acknowledge the issue, apologize, and offer them contact information to reach you directly.

In most cases, longer responses have an aspect of defensiveness, where the business or customer service representative tries to justify the issue. Besides, most consumers do not read longer responses or the reviewer may miss some useful information.

Simple and short responses do not give you leeway to be defensive and over-explain. They help you focus on apologizing in the simplest terms possible and then quickly move the conversation towards resolution.

10. Never Ask a Customer to Takedown Their Negative Review

It compromises the integrity of the business and stifles the customers’ ability to provide feedback. However, in most cases, if customers are satisfied with the resolution of the issues, they often go back and update the review to indicate that the issue was resolved. Sometimes, they also raise the rating of a business, like in this customer review example.

customer review example

Negative Review Response Examples

Data from Pissedconsumer.com indicates that 64% of companies improved their rating by responding to negative online reviews. Below is a look at some effective negative review response examples.

Responding to a Negative Telecommunications Company Review

Grande Communications handles negative feedback on PissedConsumer excellently. For example, in Grande Communications review #3790065, they personalize their response and address the reviewer by name.

The customer service representative then thanks the reviewer for sharing their experience and empathizes with them for the disruption caused. After, they provide the reviewers with an email address for better assistance.

The response is concise and sufficient. One of the most notable aspects of the Grande Communication responses is that the representative provides their name. That way, when the customer reaches out for further assistance, it is easy to refer to the representative who responded to their review.

Grande Communication review response

Online Store Negative Review Response Example

Flipkart has a similar response strategy on Twitter for negative reviews examples. They address the reviewer by name, apologize, and empathize with them. The customer support then asks the reviewer to provide relevant information about the issue via a direct message.

Flipkart feedback response example

Responding to a Negative Law Firm Review

On the other hand, Morgan and Morgan are keen to reinforce their company values to offer legal assistance for different issues and categories of people. However, they are upfront in their response that despite their best efforts, they cannot cater to everyone.

In Morgan and Morgan review #3796750, the representative concludes their response on a good note by wishing the reviewer all the best and providing them with contact information to reach out if need be. Like Grande Communications, in the Morgan and Morgan negative reviews examples, the customer support representative provides their name on the response.

Morgan and Morgan customer review response exampleIf mishandled, negative feedback can cost your business heftily. They can lead to the loss of existing and potential customers, which makes it difficult to make profits and grow your business. Although you cannot please every customer, you want to make amends with as many customers as possible.

Therefore, endeavor to respond to customer reviews promptly. Be polite, take responsibility, and make it right with the reviewer. If you are not sure how to go about it, check some negative review examples online for inspiration.

Winnie Murugi
Health and Beauty Expert

Winnie is a freelance writer and B2C content expert who specializes in health and beauty, cafes and restaurants, fitness products buyer guides and researches. She has been working with international clients since 2012.

  • best practices
  • business reputation
  • customer feedback
  • customer reviews
  • how to respond to reviews
  • negative review response examples
  • negative reviews

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