How do I respond to negative reviews online?

Responding to Negative Reviews

Responding to Negative Reviews

Let’s face it, before social media and Yelp, Google+ Pages, TripAdvisor, Angies List, and Amazon, most unhappy customer’s complaints didn’t reach thousands of people. Now, they do. How your business chooses to respond to these reviews can either help or damage your business’ reputation. Here are a few suggested do’s and don’ts and examples to illustrate the good, the bad, and the ugly responses businesses wrote to their customer’s reviews.

When responding to negative online reviews, DON’T DO THESE:

  • Respond when you are very angry or hurt…cool off. Wait a day to respond.
  • Flag all negative reviews as fake or delete all negative reviews. A few negative ones validates the rest of the reviews. Your intelligent response on behalf of your company to negative reviews shows that the company is listening and cares.
  • Respond with a long essay. It comes across as defensive.
  • Use your response to a review as an advertisement, i.e. “You may have missed the green car sale but, wait! There’s more! The blue car sale just began. But act quickly! Supplies are limited.” Relate to the reviewer as a person.
  • Omit an apology to the reviewer. Empathize with them – this shows that you understand and care.
  • Ignore negative reviews completely and let them go unanswered. This is like ignoring a customer complaint in your store with others watching.

What to keep in mind when you respond to negative online reviews:

  • Have everyone on your team be sensitive to less then fully satisfied customers and do your best to address their concerns while they are in your presence.
  • Treat reviewers as sane, real people. Even if you know the review is fake – or the person is just crazy – the rest of the world doesn’t know that.
  • A well thought-out response to a complaint will help your credibility more than any marketing you can do.
  • Conditional reviews look and sound conditional. For example, don’t give a reviewer an extra cookie for a positive review. Listen for real raving fans and make it easy for your customers to write reviews.
  • Keep the bigger picture in mind: come from your commitment to service and not your emotional gut reaction.
  • Always thank reviewers for their thoughts – their time is precious to them.
  • Be personable. Pretend you’re having a conversation with the reviewer on the phone or at your business. Use first names to tailor your response. Don’t write a generic response to negative or positive reviews.
  • Keep in mind: you don’t want to write something that you will regret later. It will stay up online for many other customers to read. If it is written poorly, your business’ response may damage your online reputation further.
  • If you can determine who the negative reviewer is, first try to reach out to them privately by phone if possible. Some review sites will allow you to privately message the reviewer, and you can get their information that way in order to call them.

Additional thoughts and resources:

  • Be proactive. Claim all of your online listings and keep a close watch for new reviews.
  • You don’t need thank every reviewer that posts positively. Look for the ones that made a big effort to write a glowing review and consider thanking them.
  • Here is a possible handout to give customers which you can modify with your company information on it:
  • Watch Martin Brossman and Andy Beal’s video filled with helpful tips Enhancing your reputation online for individuals and businesses ******
  • Check out the guidelines on review sites to help business owners respond to reviews.

A good response to a negative review:

Ideal Business response: “Sally, we’d like to address this situation personally. Please email Manager Name with your contact information and we will personally handle your issue.”

Customer review: “I stayed at this hotel over XXX weekend. The rate was good XXX a night and I likes that there were shops…right out the front door. Check in went well front desk was very nice. My room was on the 4th floor bad view etc I guess that’s why rate was great…and then the loud neighbors started you could hear others in the halls being loud what you normally experience at [this kind of] hotel. Called front desk they offered to love me and send up keys, apparently there was confusion and housekeeping came up and told me I needed to leave when I tried to explain I was waiting on bellman with new keys they told me to go downstairs with my things. Front desk was really nice upgraded my room and gave me club access and apologized for the misunderstanding –honestly I wasn’t mad just goes and ready to take a nap. New room was nice I will say the walls are thin and hallways are loud I was woken several times during the night (and that was with earplugs in). Another disappointment I had was wifi is $10 a day…really? Who charges for wifi now days. I guess I am used to [XXX hotel]. The club room was nice the staff was wonderful very friendly and caring. All in all this hotel is just okay but I think for area it’s prob better than other options.”

Business owner’s response:Thank you for your review. I appreciate you acknowledging that our staff was friendly and accommodating during your visit. I’m very sorry to hear you found the hallways disruptive. This is definitely not up to our standards and we are constantly working on improving the quality of service provided. Your feedback is of great importance to us and allows us to monitor and continually improve our property. Thank you for staying with us and we all hope to have an opportunity to serve you again.
First and last name, General Manager”

A bad responses to a negative review:

Customer’s review: “I’m glad it wasn’t just me. The bald dude that runs the store stands there and stares at you the whole time you are there, and acts like you are wasting his time. The prices are fairly high. The ONLY reason I go there is to buy small ticket items because it is a convenient location.”

Business response:Of course you’re wasting my time when you just come in for small ticket items. Buy something big or don’t come in at all. Why are you young kids so rude these days?”

A good responses to a positive review:

Ideal Business response: “Sally, thanks so much for these kind words! We appreciate your loyalty and look forward to seeing you again soon!”

Customer’s Review: “The staff…the property, the food, […the] manager’s cocktail reception [and the] free airport shuttle…were amazing! Rooms are so well equipped! I was there for a group event and the meeting space was also great. Breakfast, lunch & break snacks also excellent. Only thing missing in my room was a bathtub.”

Business’ response: “Dear [XXX ] – Thank you for sharing your recommendation [on XYZ] during your stay with us while you hosted your business meeting at our hotel. We value the opportunity to have been selected as the site for group meetings! Thank you for making exception to the efforts our team to provide spotless accommodations, exceptional service and an outstanding experience to all of our guests as we are very proud of our beautiful [type of rooms] ! Additionally, we do have room models with bathtubs included. Please let us know your preference in the future and we will work to place you in a room with a tub. Again, we are proud you found our services and accommodations to be a value and we look forward to seeing you during your future visits to the…area!”

We hope this will help you put your best “foot” forward when responding to your customer’s reviews online. Love to hear your responses below.

By Martin BrossmanEllen Hammond 

Learn more about the Social Media Management Training at:

Special thanks to the following people that contributed to this article:
Heather Cutchin Evans –
Chloe Tuttle with Big Mill Bed & Breakfast –