How to Respond to Negative Reviews (with Expert Examples)
Your online reviews are more important than you think. 52% of potential customers would be deterred from using a home service business if they had poor online reviews.
Customer reviews are that important. Potential clients read them when deciding whether or not to choose a service business.
A healthy volume of positive reviews generally means more business for you. On the flipside, one negative review can have disastrous effects with clients going to your competition.
The reality is that no matter how on your game you are, a bad review is bound to find its way online. This raises a few questions:
- Should you reply to these negative reviews?
- How do you respond?
- What is the best response?
This article will show you how to respond to negative reviews and provide positive and negative review response examples.
Should you reply to negative reviews?
The short answer: Yes. The slightly longer answer:
Responding to negative reviews presents an opportunity to:
- Turn an unhappy customer into a loyal one who buys from you often
- Change their negative review into a glowing recommendation
- Fix the customer problem by turning a bad situation into a positive one
- Demonstrate you genuinely care about your customers
All of this builds your reputation and drives more business through your doors.
Now that you understand why it’s important to respond to these negative reviews, let’s look at how to do it.
Think of this section as a step-by-step process or best practices to keep in mind to help you deliver your best response to upset customers.
At the end, you’ll receive a template that puts these best practices to work.
1. Respond quickly to negative reviews to show customers their problem is a priority
Not responding quickly to customers who have taken the time to write a bad review will only reinforce how they feel about you. So, the sooner you respond, the better.
This will show customers that their problem is a priority, you care about their business, and you want to make things right. As a general rule, respond within 24–48 hours.
2. Address the reviewer by name, say “thank you,” and acknowledge their complaint
Don’t view a negative review as a personal attack or a chance to figure out who is at fault. Instead, see it as a chance to learn, grow, strengthen relationships with your customers, and turn a negative situation into a positive one.
One of the best ways to do this is to personalize your responses, so customers don’t feel like just another number.
- Addressing the reviewer by name.
- Thank them for the response. It shows customers you truly value any feedback.
- Acknowledge their complaint (even if it may seem like it’s unfounded). Often customers just want you to admit there’s an issue. There’s nothing worse than feeling like the company is sidestepping the issue.
3. Apologize and empathize without assigning blame
Next, apologize for the situation. There may be instances when you’re not in the wrong, but this isn’t about assigning blame. It’s about empathizing with your customers and protecting your reputation.
4. Own the problem
Don’t get defensive or make excuses. Instead, take ownership for the mishap and reinforce that you hold yourself to the highest standards. For example, you could say something like:
“We take full ownership of this issue. This experience is not what we are about as we hold ourselves to the highest customer service standards. And this includes making sure our team doesn’t [mention what they did wrong].”
This shows customers you’re customer-centric and want to solve their problem.
5. Make things right by taking things offline
Now that you’ve acknowledged the problem, apologized, and taken ownership, it’s time to make things right.
How you respond will depend on the situation, but the idea here is to try and make things right to keep a customer’s business and/or get them to update their review.
A few things you can do to make things right include:
- Mentioning you will use the negative feedback to improve (and then following up to show how you did exactly that).
- Telling them you would like to talk to them directly to resolve the issue and asking if you could call them. Taking things offline helps you better connect with the customer to solve the problem and protects your reputation as other potential clients can’t read the entire conversation.
6. Ask the customer to update their review
If you’ve carefully followed all the previous steps, you’re ready to ask a customer to update their negative review.
To do this, send an email that tells them what was resolved, the systems you now have to prevent this issue from happening again, and ask if they would update their review to reflect the new situation.
READ MORE: Can a company sue over a bad review?
Negative review response template
Use this template as a starting point when responding to negative reviews.
Just remember that a template is precisely that—a starting point! You still want to personalize and customize it to each situation. Customers won’t appreciate generic, cookie-cutter responses.
Hi [client name],
Thank you for sharing your experience so we can improve.
We’re sorry that [insert negative experience, e.g., the quality of work was poor, the team left a mess on-site, or the team didn’t communicate properly].
We take full ownership of this issue.
This experience is not what we are about as we hold ourselves to the highest service standards. This includes making sure our team doesn’t [mention what they did again].
We would like to make things right by you.
Can we please contact you to make arrangements to have this sorted?
[your name and company name]
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You can’t always apply the same template to every bad review. In fact, the responses below highlight that there are multiple ways to respond to a negative review.
That’s why we provided various real-world responses that use some or all of the best practices mentioned.
Example 1: Responding to poor customer service
You can’t always be on your A-game—and this bad review highlights this:
But the response from the small business owner more than makes up for it, embodying all the best practices of any good response.
The owner responded promptly, thanked the reviewer for their feedback, apologized for the poor service, and acknowledged the customer’s complaint.
She also empathized with the person by mentioning that they may be frustrated and took ownership of the issue by reinforcing that this is not what good service looks like.
Finally, she attempted to make things right by encouraging the reviewer to private message her offline.
The owner made zero excuses—it’s just a genuine attempt to address the problem and help the customer.
Example 2: Responding to an appointment no-show
Small errors can quickly snowball into bigger problems in your business if they’re not handled with care.
In this example, the potential client was disgruntled by the employee not showing up for an arranged appointment (side note: you can avoid these mistakes when you use your CRM to track client history and attach notes to every job).
The owner handled it tactfully with a professional response. The response might be a little long but it does explain what went wrong from the business’s point of view.
You could argue this long, thoughtful response shows potential customers this business owner cares about customer satisfaction.
Not only did he apologize for the mistake, but he remained professional and transparent about what happened (Wouldn’t you want to work with an honest company?).
Perhaps the most crucial detail about this review is how much effort the owner put into getting to the root of the problem by sitting down with his employee, Joshua.
READ MORE: 12 responses to negative Yelp reviews
They also discussed what to do to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
The owner ended off by making a genuine attempt to resolve the issue. He mentions how he already called the customer and offered a snow removal credit.
The best part? This response eventually led to a five-star review.
Example 3: Responding to a negative review that isn’t from your business
These don’t happen often, but chances are it will likely happen at some point.
So how exactly do you respond to negative reviews that aren’t meant for your business? Denise from Peak Roofing Contractors shows us how:
As you’ll notice, Denise didn’t become defensive or go on the attack.
Instead, she remained polite and professional by simply listing the facts and stating why it is unlikely that this review was meant for their company.
For instance, the work was done in an area they don’t serve, and their appointments are not two hours like the reviewer described.
She ended off professionally, asking the person to update the review and thanking them for their time.
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Example 4: Responding to a neutral review (or why you should respond to all reviews)
This one isn’t technically a negative review but a neutral one. We’ve included it to show how easy it is to turn things around and reinforce why you should respond to all reviews.
The customer gave the company a three-star Google review because the technician wouldn’t enter the basement as requested.
The owner provided a brief personalized reply, addressing the customers by name, apologizing, and explaining that they’ve taken action to ensure it doesn’t happen again. This already ticks many of the best practices!
The owner also provided a clear resolution, scheduling a revisit to get things sorted. The response was closed off by acknowledging the inconvenience caused and reaffirming that the company values a customer who’s been with them since 2014.
Simply mentioning this last bit should tell anybody reading the review three years later that they have loyal customers and they’re a company worth using.
Finally, the response, backed up by Tyler’s visit to get things sorted, led to the customer updating their review.
READ MORE: How to delete a Google review
Should you respond to positive reviews?
Many business owners think that responding to positive reviews is a waste of time. But besides being the polite thing to do, there are actually many business benefits to responding:
- It increases the exposure of that review online, which is free advertising for anyone who stumbles across it.
- It shows customers you appreciate them, which positively impacts your online reputation and makes more people want to do business with you.
- It’s an opportunity to turn a first-time customer into a loyal one who uses your services repeatedly.
- It can boost your rankings in search results. Google likes companies that respond to all reviews because it shows them you actively engage with your customers. You’re also able to include certain keywords in your response that help you get found in search engines. For example, the types of services you offer.
Here is another step-by-step process to help you deliver your best response to happy customers.
1. Personalize the review response
Address the person by name, refer back to their specific customer experience (e.g., be specific when thanking them) and write the review in a friendly and conversational tone. You want to avoid a generic response that sounds too formal.
2. Thank the customer for the positive review
Your customer just gave you a stamp of credibility, so thanking them is the polite thing to do. It also shows customers you value their feedback which can improve your reputation.
Don’t be afraid to go to town here to express the joy and happiness that the review gave you and your team. Tell them that the review made your day. Literally say: “This review made our day!”
Then, thank them for the review, tell them you’re grateful, be specific, and reinforce the positive.
3. Be specific and reinforce the positive
When you thank a customer, be specific and mention something they said to reinforce that you appreciate their feedback.
For example, you could say: “Thanks so much for your positive feedback about our technician Paul. You’re right; he does always go the extra mile for our customers. We really appreciate him for that.”
4. Tell customers you want to work with them again
By extending a warm invitation to customers to return to use your services, you make them feel appreciated and you encourage repeat business.
5. Mention other products or services
Replying to a review is the perfect opportunity to mention other products and services you offer. But be careful—you don’t want to come across as too salesy.
Instead, try to mention the product naturally by ensuring it’s relevant to what they just bought. For example, “We’re glad you were happy with our team’s lawn mowing services. Next time you need us, you may want to consider our hedge trimming and landscaping offerings.”
6. Share the review with the world
Share the review with your team to make them feel special, so they repeat the excellent work. Also, handpick a few of your best reviews and display them prominently on your website, social media, and other marketing channels.
Positive review response template
Now let’s put it all together!
Use this positive review response template as a starting point when responding to positive reviews, making sure you personalize and customize it to each situation.
Hi [client name],
Thank you so much for your glowing review and your kind words about [insert what it’s about, e.g., an employee, the service, or quality of work].
You’re absolutely right [repeat what the client said to reinforce the positive, e.g., a smile goes a long way, service is essential, following up is crucial, etc.].
*Optional extra to show you value the feedback: Customer feedback like this makes all this hard work worthwhile. We will be sure to pass this message on to [insert name of technician/person].
We’re looking forward to [insert service you provided, e.g., cleaning your house, mowing the lawn, pressure washing the driveway, etc.] again soon.
Also, don’t forget that we have a few other services that may benefit you: [list services that would complement the ones you mentioned].
Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have. We’re always happy to help.
And, again, thanks so much for all the love!
[your name and business name]
Here are a few examples of companies responding to positive reviews that you can use as inspiration when responding to yours.
Remember: Not all responses will embody all the best practices above. Different situations will demand slightly different responses.
Example 1: Responding to a glowing 4-star Google HVAC review
In the example below, this business owner shows you exactly how to respond to a 4-star Google review.
Not only was the response concise, but it ticked all the boxes: it was personalized, included a “thank you,” reinforced the positive by mentioning something specific (the misunderstanding), and stated that they’d love to work with the client again in the future.
Example 2: Responding to a five-star Facebook tree-service review
We’ve spoken a lot about being polite and specific.
Brian Field perfectly captures both these elements in a concise response to a glowing recommendation on Facebook. Not only did he thank the customer, but he added a sublime personal touch by mentioning the sumacs. It’s clear he listens and pays attention to his customers.
It’s the perfect example of how you can come across as friendly and professional by just paying attention. Clients remember service professionals who pick up on the little things.
Example 3: Responding to a positive pest control review
In response to a positive review, the owner of EcoChoice Termite & Pest Control also managed to keep things short while adding personalization, thanking the customer, acknowledging the issue, and showing how they planned to resolve the issue in a follow-up visit.
This response also highlighted the company’s commitment to constantly improving. Even though they got a 4-star review, they still want to improve. That’s a good signal for any potential client.
Negative and positive reviews are an opportunity
Clients aren’t looking for perfection; they’re looking for confirmation that you’re an authentic business.
Showing your future prospects how you deal with both the positives and negatives of doing business gives them more confidence that you’re the right person for the job.
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), but also in responding to the customers who take the time to leave a negative review.
After all, a bad review is really just a second chance to turn an unhappy customer into a fan.
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Originally published October 2017. Last updated on November 23, 2021.