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How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Building a business can be nerve wracking for many reasons. Often, it feels like you’re putting yourself out there and building a great business, brand and online reputation takes a lot out of you. So when you receive a bad or negative review, it often feels personal.

It doesn’t help that reviews are so public either. 92% of customers now read online reviews and 88% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Google and other search engines have taken note with as much as 10% of your business ranking attributed to reviews.

While great reviews offer an amazing opportunity to grow your presence online, leading to more website visitors, leads and customers, negative reviews can be disastrous if not dealt with properly. As much as 54% of Americans who read online reviews indicate that they pay more attention to extremely negative reviews when trying to make decisions.

“One thing is certain in business. You and everyone around you will make mistakes.” - Richard Branson

At some point though, there is going to be someone who is unhappy enough to leave a less than stellar review. But it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Done right, responding to a negative review can turn a bad situation into one that can actually boost your reputation even more.

People aren’t looking for perfection, they’re looking for confirmation that you’re a real, genuine and authentic business. Showing your future prospects how you deal with both the positive and negative of doing business gives them more confidence that you’re the right person for the job. In fact, as much as 30% of people think online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews.

Here’s how to take advantage of the opportunity and respond to negative reviews:

1. Always respond. It’s only on very rare occasions that no response is the best response. For the majority of less than perfect reviews submitted online, the default should be to respond.  

2. Step away from the keyboard. Negative reviews can often feel personal but responding to reviews when angry or tempers are running high is the worst thing you can do. Take some time to simmer down if needed before tackling that review.

3. Don’t wait too long though. The sooner you tackle that negative review and respond, the sooner you can turn things around. Having a system to help manage your reviews in one place helps you stay on top of them all. The NiceJob dashboard is perfect for this.

4. Think ahead. Have a plan on how to deal with negative reviews before they ever make it to Google or Facebook. This way you’re ready to get to work to make things right the minute that review pops up and aren’t left scrambling. It also removes a lot of the emotion from your response, see above. Think about having a script that fits with your brand and style and takes into account how your future prospects will view it. At least have the following components but keep it short and sweet too:

  • An apology for the situation. You might not be in the wrong but this isn’t about assigning blame, it’s about protecting your reputation. Apologise for the situation at hand and having missed the mark with your customer.
  • Include contact information for the customer to reach out to you and offer to make things right. This also has the added benefit of taking the conversation offline.

5. Be genuine in your response. Customer feedback is crucial to any business, and since most business revolves around building relationships with people, negative reviews give you a chance to learn, grow and even strengthen your relationship with your customers. They’re often opportunities in disguise.  

To help you start thinking about how to incorporate each of these pieces into your response, here is are two sample scripts to work from:  

Thanks for taking the time to leave a review. I am so sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number / email].

Hi there, thanks for taking the time to give us feedback. We’re usually known for our customer service, so I am sorry to hear we missed the mark here. My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number / email].

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

A couple extra points to keep in mind when responding to negative reviews:

Don’t mention your business name or location in your reply. This helps keep the review out of search engine results as much as possible, and follow up with the customer as much as possible and once the situation is resolved, politely ask them to update their review. Then be sure to respond to that too.

There’s no mistaking that online reviews are a huge opportunity to grow your business. The opportunity isn’t just in getting lots of great reviews, although we recommend doing that first, it’s also in responding to the customers who take the time to leave a negative review. After all, a bad review is really a second chance to turn an unhappy customer into a fan.


Here’s why you should think about replying to every glowing five star review, too.

1. Reviews are so public that it’s important to treat them as if everyone is watching! So thank your customer for taking the time, it’s the polite thing to do.

2. It gives you a chance to include your location and business name in the reply to help boost that particular review in the search rankings.

3. This is the perfect chance to introduce your latest service offering or mention an upcoming promo but depending on your business, keep the tone conversational and informal, as if you’re replying to a friend.

For everything you need to know about online reviews, read more here.

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