How to Respond to Negative Reviews

At some point in your business’s existence, you’re going to get a negative review. Even when you and your employees do everything right, there’s bound to be a customer who isn’t fully satisfied. It can feel frustrating, but knowing how to respond to negative reviews is an essential skill for any business owner. Not every negative review is going to be worth responding to. Every business gets some completely baseless reviews, which should be removed instead. But what is the best way to respond to negative reviews? It can be hard to know exactly what to say. Thankfully, our team at Keokee Media + Marketing has five tips to keep in mind!


#1: Say Thank You

Let’s be honest, this is the most difficult, but also the most important, part of how to respond to a negative review. It can feel uncomfortable to say “thank you” to somebody who is complaining about an aspect of your business. However, this kind of professionalism is what people reading reviews look for. Being combative or rude when responding to negative reviews can feel very tempting, especially when the review itself is rude. But responding to a negative review in this manner won’t end well. It’s fighting fire with fire.

There are a few ways to phrase this thank you. You could say something like “we appreciate your feedback,” or “thank you for leaving a review.” No matter how you choose to say it, remember that saying it is an important step. Try and keep a cool head as you write out your response.


#2: Acknowledge the Problem

If the first step was difficult, this step can sometimes feel impossible. Part of how to respond to negative reviews is being able to make the reviewer feel like you’ve heard their concerns. You may completely disagree with what they’re saying, but tactfully acknowledging their concerns is an essential (if painful) part of the process. Of course, there are reviews where it’s a better idea to request to have them removed. More on that shortly.

The trick to acknowledging concerns without exactly apologizing is in how you phrase it. Repeating what the customer said might seem like a good idea, but it’s not. If, for example, the customer is frustrated with slow service, responding and saying “I’m sorry to hear about the slow service” can actually hurt your business. Google and other sites pull from review content when people search for your business – and that includes your response. Mentioning “slow service” in your response is almost as bad as getting a second negative review that also mentions slow service.

It’s best to keep your response short and sweet, but also generic. “We’re sorry to hear you had a negative experience” is one way to do this. The reviewer will feel like you’ve heard their concerns. That’s all you can ask for.


#3: Make It Right

Simply saying thank you and I’m sorry is a great start, but there’s a third part of successful review responses. Letting the customer know you’re fixing the problem is another part of how to respond to negative reviews. Once again, keep this short and sweet. If a customer was frustrated about slow service, mention that you’re working on hiring new employees. If you’re a contractor, customers might be frustrated with supply-chain delays. You could mention how COVID has impacted the industry as a whole, but you’re working with your suppliers to ensure materials aren’t delayed in the future. If cleanliness was an issue, tell the customer you’ve spoken with your employees and reminded them to help keep your business tidy. Once again, remember what we discussed in step two. “We’re sorry the bathroom was dirty, but we’re working on it” is less effective than “we’ve heard your concerns and will remind our staff to keep our restaurant tidy.” The last thing you want to do is repeat the customer’s problem in your response.


#4: Correct as Necessary

If you’ve worked in customer service, you know the phrase “the customer is always right” is rarely true. But how can you respond to a negative review and correct the customer at the same time? It’s a hard line to walk. No matter what, you should be sure to include the three steps above. Simply correcting the reviewer without acknowledging the issue and their experience is a recipe for trouble down the road. But it’s also good to clarify and make sure your response is providing the customer with correct information.

For example, if the customer is confused about your hours of operation, you might say something like the following: “Thank you for your review. We’re sorry to hear that there was some confusion with our operating hours. They are clearly listed on our website and Google. We will review them to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”


#5: Report if Needed

For every negative review you’ll get that is based in reality, you’re bound to get one that’s not. Part of knowing how to respond to negative reviews is knowing which ones not to respond to. Reviews that unfairly target you and your employees (such as naming or calling out specific individuals), reviews that use profanity, and reviews that come from competitors or people affiliated with your competitors are slam dunk removals, but there are other reasons why you’d be able to get a review removed too.

If a review seems inappropriate, don’t be afraid to ask for its removal. The process is easy! To request a review’s removal on Google Business Profile, go to your profile, click on “Reviews” on the left-hand side of the screen, and find the review you’re looking for. Click the 3 dots icon on the right of the review and select “Flag as inappropriate.” Other platforms, like Yelp, have their own way to request a review’s removal. On the other hand, spamming removal requests on all your negative reviews isn’t a good idea. It can make removing actual off-topic or inappropriate reviews that much harder. Don’t be the business that cried wolf.

Are you having trouble figuring out how best to respond to negative reviews? The team at Keokee has the experience you need! Reach out to us and see what we can do for you. If you’re trying to build your business online or strengthen your already established online presence, we’re here to help.