How to Respond to Negative Reviews (with Expert Examples)

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Building a business can be nerve-wracking for many reasons. Brand and online reputation takes a lot out of you, so when you receive a bad or negative review, it often feels personal.

It doesn’t help that reviews are so public either. 92% of customers now read online reviews and 88% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Google and other search engines have taken note with as much as 13% of your business ranking attributed to reviews.

While great reviews offer an amazing opportunity to grow your presence online, leading to more website visitors, leads and customers, negative reviews can be disastrous if not dealt with properly. As much as 54% of Americans who read online reviews indicate that they pay more attention to extremely negative reviews when trying to make decisions.


One thing is certain in business. You and everyone around you will make mistakes.

Richard Branson Quote

At some point, there is bound to be someone who is unhappy enough to leave a less than stellar review, and it might not even have anything to do with you. For example, in August 2017, local Lexus dealerships in Calgary, AB found themselves inadvertently involved in a PR nightmare after Calgary International Airport removed disabled parking stalls to fulfill a deal with Lexus Canada to create Lexus-only designated spots.

Far removed from the decision-making process, local dealerships found themselves the target of public ire, with some customers leaving extremely negative 1-star reviews on Facebook and Google. Rather than shying away, Lexus of Royal Oak took the opportunity to turn a bad situation into one that boosted their reputation even more.

Negative Facebook Review

Here’s how to take advantage of the opportunity and respond to negative reviews:

Lexus of Royal Oak followed a few key steps to turn a situation completely out of their control into one where they shone in the eyes of their customer, and any prospects reading the exchange since then. Here’s what they did so well!

Example response to a negative online review

1. Always consider responding to negative reviews

It’s only on very rare occasions that no response is the best response. For the majority of less than perfect reviews submitted online, the default should be to respond. Even though they were “at arm’s length” from the issue at hand, Lexus of Royal Oak still went about responding to the review and addressed it head-on.

2. Step away from the keyboard before responding

Negative reviews can often feel personal but responding to reviews when angry or tempers are running high is the worst thing you can do. Take some time to simmer down if needed before tackling that review. Lexus of Royal Oak was calm and respectful in their response, while acknowledging the passion the issue had provoked in their customer.

3. Don’t wait too long, though

The sooner you tackle that negative review and respond, the sooner you can turn things around. Having a system to help manage your reviews in one place helps you stay on top of them all. The NiceJob dashboard is perfect for this. Lexus of Royal Oak replied to the review in question on the same day, while the focus was still on them to turn things around.

4. Think ahead

Have a plan on how to deal with negative reviews before they ever make it to Google or Facebook. This way you’re ready to get to work to make things right the minute that review pops up and aren’t left scrambling. It also removes a lot of the emotion from your response. Think about having a script that fits with your brand and style and takes into account how your future prospects will view it. At least have the following components but keep it short and sweet too:

  • An apology for the situation. You might not be in the wrong but this isn’t about assigning blame, it’s about protecting your reputation. Apologise for the situation at hand and having missed the mark with your customer.
  • Include contact information for the customer to reach out to you and offer to make things right. This also has the added benefit of taking the conversation offline.

5. Be genuine in your response

Customer feedback is crucial to any business, and since most business revolves around building relationships with people, negative reviews give you a chance to learn, grow and even strengthen your relationship with your customers. They’re often opportunities in disguise.

Lexus of Royal Oak was able to infuse some of their personality and viewpoints into their response, which made it feel genuine and authentic.

A couple extra points to keep in mind when responding to negative reviews

Don’t mention your business name or location in your reply. This helps keep the review out of search engine results as much as possible.

Follow up with the customer as much as possible and once the situation is resolved, politely ask them to update their review. Then be sure to respond to that too. Although the customer didn’t adjust her 1-star rating, she has updated her original comments to include how quick Lexus of Royal Oak was and how much she appreciated their response.

Start responding to negative reviews

To help you start thinking about how to incorporate each of these pieces into your response, here is are two sample scripts to work from:

Thanks for taking the time to leave a review. I am so sorry to hear that you had a bad experience. My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number / email].

Hi there, thanks for taking the time to give us feedback. We’re usually known for our customer service, so I am sorry to hear we missed the mark here. My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number / email].

Negative reviews are an opportunity

It’s important to realise that people aren’t looking for perfection, they’re looking for confirmation that you’re a real, genuine and authentic business. Showing your future prospects how you deal with both the positive and negative of doing business gives them more confidence that you’re the right person for the job. Lexus of Royal Oak

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 it’s 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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