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November 22, 2021

Tips On Why And How You Should Respond To Negative Reviews

When your business is in the firing line via a negative online review, the criticism is hard to hear.  It may be upsetting, hurtful and even embarrassing.   Frustratingly, even though some negative reviews are unjustified, and some turn out to be fake, the story is out there in the digital realm for all to see.  They become ‘virtual reality’ – until you do something about them.

The fact is – reviews influence people’s buying decisions and you need to take action when someone posts negative comments.  And taking action doesn’t mean simply pressing the delete key!

Why And How You Should Respond To Negative Reviews

Here’s Why You Should Respond to Negative Reviews:

  • A bad review is an opportunity to fix the problem
  • It’s an opportunity to get a disgruntled customer back on side
  • Bad reviews can actually improve conversion rates
  • Your response is a chance to strengthen your business or brand’s reputation  
  • Responding builds customer advocacy
  • It demonstrates your business’s accountability
  • Responding demonstrates trust and integrity
  • It helps build authenticity.  Consumers are wary of businesses that hype the positives and ignore the negatives


Here Are Some Guidelines on How to Respond to Negative Reviews

  1. A good rule is to be ‘hard on the facts, soft on the people.’  Your first goal should be to engage with the customer and uncover what went wrong.  
  2. Stay calm.  Keep your emotions in check and always be civil and polite.  Being defensive or sarcastic will only antagonise a disgruntled customer, so always keep things professional and genuine.  
  3. Always thank the reviewer for their review.  Acknowledge their point of view even if you don’t agree with their version of events.
  4. Apologise when necessary and show genuine intent to right any wrongs. 
  5. Respond timeously.   In most instances, the person writing the review just wants to vent their feelings and they need to feel that their voice has been heard.  Responding in a timely manner shows that your business cares about their opinion and takes it seriously.  Replying within 24 hours is a good rule of thumb for a first response.  You can always acknowledge their review and buy some time by advising that you’ll respond in more depth once you’ve investigated things in full. 
  6. It is worth having a set of templates for your responses, with several different variations on the same theme.  This will avoid any sense that your business simply sends out ‘automated’ responses, plus you can customise your reply depending on the particular situation.
  7. Remedy the situation.  If the reviewer provides sufficient detail of events that gave rise to them leaving a negative review, you need to take action.  Fixing the problem shows that you value your customers, you take their opinions seriously and that you are genuinely concerned about customer service.   
  8. A negative review may actually contain valuable insights into your business.  They may highlight areas where your business, your products or your service could improve.  They may alert you to a staff member who is problematic.  They may contain suggestions which could lead to business opportunities.  Feedback from a dissatisfied customer may actually contain some uncomfortable truths – and you can change things for the better. 
  9. Not all situations have to be resolved by the time you respond for the first time.  It’s OK to just acknowledge the review, apologise if necessary, tell them you need time to establish the facts and get to the bottom of the issue and that you will revert with a solution or an explanation.   Remember to follow up on your response and give details of the next steps. 
  10. You may even want to discuss the issue with the reviewer in a different forum, eg on the phone, in person or via email.  Invite them to get in touch with your company and provide contact details of the person who will be dealing with the issue.
  11. Research the reviewer.  Some people make a habit of finding fault with businesses they interact with, and you can always run a check on their profile to see if they are a serial complainer and what sort of responses they’ve been given.  You may also find that the negative review has been posted by a disgruntled ex-employee or a competitor – so it is important to know who you are dealing with.
  12. Request that the reviewer update their review if the situation has been resolved.  It’s best to do this offline, preferably in an email where you can outline the steps you took to resolve the situation and politely request them to update their submission to reflect the outcome.   
  13. Identify fake reviews.  Check out the guidelines on how to flag, report and delete a fake review and make sure you follow all the steps correctly so that the review doesn’t linger and do any unnecessary reputational damage.


People are mistrustful of businesses that only have positive reviews.  It’s simply not believable.  Negative reviews provide an important reality check and if your business deals with these in a professional way showing a willingness to right any wrongs, then negatives can become positives.

The very best way of minimising the influence of negative reviews is to ‘silence’ them with good reviews.   Every business should have processes in place which make it easy for customers to leave a review (eg a follow-up SMS or email on completion of a job, a link on a website etc).  The harder to work at accumulating reviews – the more likely you are to get a steady stream of positive ones.

Want Some Insider Tips on How Ask for Reviews?

You can learn how to successfully collect reviews to boost your online visibility and strengthen your reputation (and your bottom-line!), why why Google Reviews sometimes vanish, and more in my new online guide to all things SEO, The SEO School.

The SEO School is a self-managed modular course which covers all the important areas of SEO.   Participants progress through the course at their own pace, implementing SEO tools and techniques to get their websites higher up the Google rankings and benefiting from my insider tips and secrets, garnered over decades of experience as a Perth SEO expert. Find out more or book your course at The SEO School.


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