How to Respond to a Negative Review


7 critical reputation repair steps for responding to a negative review positively!

How to Respond to a Negative Review: 7 Reputation Repair Steps

Getting a bad review can feel like a gut punch. You work hard to make your customers happy and you strive every day to make a quality product, or provide a quality service. But everyone has bad days, and sometimes those bad days end up in an angry customer posting a negative review online. As painful as this can be, it’s actually an opportunity to make things right—both with the customer personally and with any other potential customers reading along with your response. And yes, you must always consider that anything you do or say to respond to a negative online review is going to be watched like a hawk by other potential customers. So, take a few deep, calming breaths and proceed with care! Follow these 7 critical reputation repair steps for responding to a negative review positively! For more tools to get positive reviews and stop negative reviews, get Reputation Builder on your team today.

1. Respond Right Away

Ignoring a bad review is a bad idea. The damage from just one bad review ignored could potentially cost you up to 30 new customers. So, it’s critical to address your customer’s concerns as soon as you know a bad review has appeared: usually within 24 hours is best. Beyond 48 hours and you start to look like you don’t care, and that is exactly the wrong message. A quick response to a bad review shows the customers (and anyone else looking at your online reviews) that you are on top of it and that you care. Speaking of caring…

2. Use a Sympathetic and Apologetic Tone 

Even if you don’t think it was your fault the customer had a poor experience, it’s important that you quell their fury with the right tone from the beginning. The example below is an example of one way you could start the relationship healing process with an angry customer:

“We are so sorry to hear that you had a poor experience with us! We usually strive to delight our customers in every way, so we are sad that we fell short. Please contact me at (business number) so you can tell me more about your experience, and I can make it right for you.”

Being the first to apologize here, whether you were in the wrong or not, can diffuse some of the customer’s anger. It shows them that you are willing to listen to their concerns, that you care about their feelings, and that you want to help. And that’s the next step in the process…

3. Extend an Offer to Make Things Right

This is really the key to turning an angry customer back into a fan. After apologizing, invite them back in so you can directly fix whatever went wrong, and do it on the house. Offer a freebie or a gift card for something special as the extra cherry on top. Replace the defective item immediately, with as little inconvenience to them as possible. Offer a future discount. Whatever went wrong for the customer, try your very best to fix it in the most gracious, sincere and understanding way possible. That said, it can take some customers awhile to calm down, even when you’re doing your best to stay calm (and stay calm you must)!

4. Make the Conversation Private as Soon as Possible

As you respond quickly to negative online reviews using the steps above, make sure to invite your customer to contact you personally offline to start the “making it right” process. You want to minimize any negative conversations online about your business as much as possible so these pieces of text don’t show up in search results or confuse other potential customers. As you can see from step 2 above, the customer service rep or manager invites the customer to personally contact them without mentioning the business name. This gives the customer someone to contact offline, and gives you the opportunity to build a personal connection with the customer. It also minimizes online negative impressions and keeps things positive for potential customers looking on out of curiosity.

I feel awesome about my experience with ReputationBuilder. It is an easy to use and affordable platform for collecting reviews and managing my online reputation. And, it's very affordable for the many, many features that the platform includes. 

Stephen S. 

5. Keep it Short and Sweet

There’s no need to go into any long explanations or excuses in your online response to a bad review. That will only make things worse. Any excuses will be seen (by the angry customer and potential customers) as a way to shirk responsibility, and it won’t look good. Again, just keep it short, apologetic, and make a personal invitation for them to contact you so you can make it right for them.

6. Use a Reputation Defense Tool to Capture Customer Reactions Before Customers Leave the Store

If you really want to reduce the number of negative online reviews you receive by nipping them in the proverbial bud, then use a tool like Reputation Builder to collect customer feedback in the moment they are there with you in the store. That way, you can immediately find out if your customer is having a bad experience before they leave, and do something to turn it around before the transaction is over. Reputation Builder’s Feedback First feature empowers business to do exactly this. By capturing in-store experiences from customers in-the-moment, you accomplish two great things that can help you improve your online reputation:

  • You can collect happy customer reviews immediately, which is something that’s actually harder to do than you realize. Happy customers, for whatever reason, often forget to post happy reviews once they get home, whereas angry customers always seem to remember…

  • You can stop an angry review from ever going live in the first place. That’s because you’ve asked for feedback right away and were then able to handle the unhappy customer’s problem at that very moment. This will hopefully make them happy so that they will think of you as the responsible, responsive, delightful business that you are, and they can then post a review to that effect.

7. If the Bad Review is in Bad Faith

Most honest customers having a bad experience will be mollified or even delighted by your efforts to go the extra mile for them. You can even ask them (offline, of course) to update their bad review to reflect their current happy opinion of their business. Sometimes, however, there are people who a.) won’t be happy no matter what you do or b.) just enjoy posting bad reviews for sport (trolls). There are some tools you can use in these situations too:

  • If the post goes against content guidelines for the platform it’s been posted on (Yelp! Google Reviews, Yahoo! Facebook, etc.), you can flag the review as such to have it removed. Actively pursue this if you feel the review was trolling. These platforms can be a little slow to respond, so if this is the case, again, you might post a very short, polite response as explained above as a sort of place-holder until they take the review down.

  • Smother the bad review with a pile of good reviews. Research shows that it takes about 12 happy reviews to cancel out the negative effects of a bad review. Reputation Builder has easy tools that make collecting real, happy customers reviews a snap.

Keep Future Customers in Mind

Online reviews have become a major source of material for search engines to use when they are responding to search queries by your potential customers, which means that actively collecting positive customer reviews can significantly boost your SEO. Make sure that your potential customers always see your best responses to bad reviews so you can build that reputation for being caring, high-quality and truly attentive to your customers’ needs! Sign up for Reputation Builder’s online review collecting and management tools today so you can take an active role in making the most of every customer contact!


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