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When considering how to respond to negative reviews, it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not the review itself that says a lot about a business. It’s the business’s response to the review that speaks volumes.

Of course there are also cases where customers leave negative reviews based on things beyond your control, like poor weather or adding something to a dish they personally didn’t like. Sometimes people will go as far as to leave a completely fake review.

So how should you respond to negative reviews to ensure that they don’t harm your business in the long run? In this post, we’ll explore how to respond to negative reviews without alienating potential customers.

Rule 1 – Always Respond

Never leave a negative review without a response (or a positive one, for that matter). You might know that the review is inaccurate, false, unfair, or a fluke incident that doesn’t reflect the usual standards of your business, but that doesn’t mean that other people reading the review know that this is the case too. They’ll look for your response to negative feedback to judge the situation for themselves.

By not responding, you are near enough admitting that the review is correct; it looks sheepish and accepting. The best responses to bad reviews can turn a negative into a positive.

Rule 2 – Remember Your Manners

Good practice for how to respond to negative reviews is to start your response by thanking the reviewer for taking the time to leave the review and introduce yourself. Next, apologise for the fact that they had a bad experience with your business. These are good manners in the online review world and can gain you a lot of respect from both viewers of the review and the reviewer themselves.

Remember that when you reply to the review, you’re representing your business. If you leave a rude response to negative feedback, potential customers might picture you as a company that doesn’t provide good customer service.

Two goats butting heads, demonstrating a negative feedback response.

Rule 3 – Don’t Get Defensive

The best response to a bad review is to stay calm and remain collected. No matter how much you see red or how protective you are over your business – don’t get defensive.

A defensive business looks like a guilty, unfriendly brand that can’t accept that it’s in the wrong. To have the best responses to bad reviews, you should be open to criticism, even if you think it’s unreasonable or invalid.

Unfortunately, some people leave negative reviews on businesses to win freebies or just because they think it would be funny to get a rise out of the company.

Rule 4 – Adapt Your Response Individually

One size does not fit all in the case of reviews. It reflects poorly on your company if every negative feedback response is the same non-committal reply.

Remember, when people look at your reviews, they’re looking to see how you will respond if they also have a negative experience; always think about how the response looks to those who don’t know the situation.

The best responses to bad reviews are tailored and will often include things like:

  • A promise that it’s not a reflection of your company’s standards
  • Acknowledging their complaint
  • Explaining how you will look to rectify this issue in future
  • Offering contact details to discuss the matter further

Where relevant, you could even offer them a complementary product/service/experience as an apology. This shows that your business cares about keeping its customer base satisfied. Of course, you don’t have to use everything here – these are just examples.

A template that suits your brand style guide might be useful here to make sure you’re including everything that you need to, but you’ll want to change up the wording between responses.

Rule 5 – Get Out of the Public View

When responding to negative feedback, the last thing you want to do is spark a social media storm. This could be detrimental to your business – it’s not something that you want other customers to see.

Instead, offer an alternative way of communication should they wish to make any further comments or reply to your response. For example, ‘We’d be happy to discuss this further – please get in touch by emailing/phoning us at [number/email]’.

If you have the capacity to do so, consider directing the complainant to a person within your company or giving a more specific email. If you have no choice but to ask them to email ‘info@yourcompany.com’, you could give them a name or reference number to cite.

It’s important that the reviewer doesn’t feel like you’re fobbing them off. It’s not unheard-of for unhappy customers to go back and change their reviews to reflect good customer service, but you have to work for it!

A man at a computer considers how to write the best responses to bad reviews.

Rule 6 – Keep It Short

It’s important to know that the best way to respond to a negative review is to keep it short. The best responses to bad reviews are concise and clear. It’s not a debate or an argument. They have expressed their opinion, and you should respond politely.

Thank them for taking the time to leave a review, apologise, assure them that this isn’t your normal service, offer an alternative form of communication, and sign off.

As tempting as it might be to explain in great detail exactly why a reviewer is wrong and criticise them – especially if their experience is exaggerated or just made-up – it won’t do your business any favours. If the review is fake, you can try to get it removed.

Knowing how to respond to negative reviews will help you keep a level head next time you’re faced with one. It’s imperative to your brand’s reputation that you keep on top of responding to your reviews, both positive and negative.

Brand reputation management doesn’t stop at responding to reviews, either. Check out our guide to social media damage control for additional and effective ways to improve your brand’s reputation using social media

Here at Zelst, we’re experts at advising our clients on how to respond to negative reviews and monitoring the platforms that their reviews are left on. If you need some brand reputation management help, get in touch today.