Best Practices for Responding to Negative Reviews

When you receive an online review from an unhappy customer describing their negative experience with your business in detail, it can be a lot to take in. We all know that bad reviews can be bad for business. But how you respond to a bad review can be even worse. Follow these best practices for responding to negative reviews and learn how you can instead use bad experiences to grow your business!

What is the best way to respond to a negative review?

Many business owners don’t know how to respond to a negative review. The way you respond to negative reviews can make or break your business. For this reason, bad reviews should be handled with care.

Did you know? The way you respond to negative online reviews can help you grow your business! Click To Tweet

Follow these 10 steps to better handle negative feedback and you’ll quickly gain trust and loyalty from both current and potential customers.

  1. Take a beat.
  2. Try on your customer’s shoes.
  3. Do respond!
  4. Be gracious.
  5. Never debate.
  6. Take it offline.
  7. Fix the issue
  8. Ask for a new review.
  9. Learn & adjust.
  10. Become proactive.

1) Take a beat.

Your business is your baby. When you read negative feedback from a customer, it can be devastating. Take a minute to calm down and gain perspective. Set your emotions aside before you respond or you could wind up doing further damage.

2) Try on your customer’s shoes.

Before you type your response, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Try to imagine why they were compelled to leave the review. Lay all defense aside and try to pinpoint the issue so that you can move forward with a resolution.  

3) Do respond!

The #1 way to show your customers you don’t care is by ignoring their negative review. Don’t make this mistake. Instead, respond as soon as possible (after taking a beat to calm down – see point #1.) Prompt attention to your customer’s concerns will show that their opinion matters to you. This first step will go a long way in regaining their trust.

4) Be gracious.

While positive reviews tell you what you’re doing right, negative reviews are valuable to your business too. Negative feedback shows you ways to improve and better show value to your customers. Be sure to thank the reviewer for their feedback and apologize for their bad experience. Even if you don’t believe that you or your employees did anything wrong, an apology is the best way to break down any barriers and take steps towards resolution.

5) Never debate.

Do not engage the reviewer in an online debate! This will only fuel the fire. You may have a good case for your defense. The customer could be way off base and completely irrational. But engaging them in an online public debate in response to their review on Yelp, Google, social media or another review site can cause permanent damage to your online reputation.

6) Take it offline.

The better way to go is to take it offline as quickly as possible. Leave your public response with your apology and a way to contact you for resolution. Leave a phone number and invite them to call you directly or invite the user to chat with you live. By taking it offline, you allow the customer to vent privately, protecting your public reputation. But you also provide a more effective channel to work towards resolution.

7) Fix the issue

Your next step is to resolve the issue. The right reaction to a customer’s negative feedback can often lead to a long-standing relationship with your customers. How can you turn this unhappy customer into a loyal brand ambassador?

Pro Tip: Respond to negative reviews in a way that shows customers and potential customers you care. Don’t just respond to the review – fix the problem!

8) Ask for a new review

Once you’ve fixed the issue, you will most likely have a gracious, happy customer. In this moment, you have the opportunity to ask them to remove their negative review and replace it with a positive one. When you go out of your way to show someone you care, they will typically respond favorably to this request.

9) Learn & adjust

Don’t stop there. Customer feedback is valuable to improving your customer experience. Learn from the negative feedback and take steps to improve your service, processes, and products for future customers.

10) Become proactive

Want to decrease your chances of receiving negative reviews online? Take a more proactive approach to manage online reviews. Review management services not only provide a way to collect more 5-star reviews. You can also provide a way to solicit not so positive feedback from customers in a more private manner – thus keeping the negative reviews at bay.

Houston Reputation Management

Online reviews are a signal for potential customers of the kind of experience they can expect to have with your business. These reviews are also a local SEO ranking signal for search engines. Because Google, Bing, and other search engines base their rankings on the engagement and opinions of people, you want to keep your people happy and your online reputation intact.

Houston is a flourishing city with thousands of competing businesses. Make sure your business has a fighting chance when users are deciding where to spend their hard-earned dollars. Contact us to learn more about how Houston reputation management services can give you a leading edge.


Traci has spent a better part of the last decade developing a diverse digital marketing portfolio. As Content & SEO Team Manager at ITVibes, she enjoys working with businesses from various industries to develop data-driven content marketing strategies that yield high results. Traci is passionate about the inbound marketing process as a way to connect businesses with the exact people that are looking for their products and services at the exact moment they are searching. Traci is known for her highly-collaborative methods that help her realize the vision each client has to successfully create engaging content to captivate carefully targeted audiences across multiple platforms. She loves the ever-evolving nature of the digital marketing industry and strives to learn and apply new trends and methods as relevant to her client’s business goals. With a Bachelor’s degree in Management, Traci uses charismatic and creative leadership techniques to drive her team to reach for new heights each day. When Traci is not working, you will find her enjoying the daily adventures of life with a big family!