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How to respond to negative reviews featured image-min

13 Ways to Respond to Negative Reviews + 6 Killer Templates!

Do you know how to respond to negative reviews without getting angry or defensive? And did you know that the way you respond can lead to major benefits (or downfalls) to your business?

In today’s article, we’re going to look at some negative review response examples and templates. More specifically, we’ll see how negative online reviews impact your business. Then we’ll give you 13 tips for responding to negative reviews with tact.

Finally, we’ve come up with 6 awesome response templates that you can use to save time as you respond to negative online reviews.

Let’s dive in!

The Impact of Negative Reviews for Your Business

Getting negative online reviews is tough. You get angry, defensive, and annoyed just as if someone were personally attacking you.

Cat-who-looks-annoyed

That’s because you’ve invested so much into your business. All those meetings, early mornings, and late nights can be instantly deflated by just one bad review.

Plus, negative reviews have actual consequences:

  • Only 13% of consumers will consider a business with 1 or 2 stars
  • More than four negative reviews about a company or product may decrease sales by 70%
  • Small businesses with a 1–1.5 rating on Google generate 33% less revenue than the average business

It’s no wonder we get so defensive.

But the good news is that negative reviews don’t necessarily have negative consequences. In fact, sometimes they add a bit of authenticity to your brand.

And this makes a lot of sense when you really think about it.

If all of your reviews are positive, they come off as fake. So when you have a few reasonably negative reviews peppered in there, people tend to trust your brand even more.

In fact, 52% of consumers trust a software product more if it has negative reviews. And, statistics argue that negative reviews can increase conversions by up to 85%.

What your negative review says doesn’t actually matter. What really matters is how you respond. So let’s look at 13 negative review response examples and tips to gain customers rather than lose them.

Note: We have a similar article on how to deal with negative reviews gracefully. You should definitely check that out as it expresses some unique insights that aren’t in this post.

13 Negative Review Response Examples and Tips

1. Respond Quickly

One of the biggest problems companies face is failing to respond to a negative review quickly enough. And it’s totally understandable.

You have an entire business to run. You have employees who get sick, shipments that come in late, and about a million other fires that need to be put out each day. One bad review on Yelp might not be at the top of your radar.

But it should be.

As soon as you’re aware of a negative review, set 5 minutes aside to address it. If you put it off too long, it makes your eventual apology come off as insincere. Since most online reviews are date stamped, customers can see how long it took for you to get back to them:

Respond quickly to negative reviews
Plus, more often than not, putting off a response means the job doesn’t get done at all.

2. Respond Always

This tip may be a bit controversial. Some companies will tell you that the first thing you should do is decide if a response is even necessary.

Their argument is that some bad reviewers are simply “online bullies.” And at the end of the day, there’s nothing you can do to make the situation better.

That’s a fair point in some extreme cases, but we recommend a different approach: hold your head up high and respond always.

Remember, you aren’t simply responding to the negative reviewer. You’re responding to the thousands of potential customers reading the negative review. More often than not, people can tell when a complaint is valid, or the reviewer is being too aggressive.

If the complaint is valid, you look like a company that truly understands the importance of good customer service. If the complaint isn’t valid, you still come out on top by taking the high road.

3. Don’t Take the Negative Review Personally

A bad customer review feels like a personal attack. And in some ways, it is…especially when you’re the business owner.

That’s because the negative review can have real negative consequences for your business’s success.

But even if you are the face of your brand, remember that the customer doesn’t know you personally. They don’t know how great you are, how much you care about their experience with your product, and how badly you want to serve your customers.

Here’s a negative review response example of a business owner likely taking a review too personally:

Bad-example-of-taking-a-negative-review-too-personally-min

This is a funny response to read if you’re not involved in the situation or plan on going to that particular restaurant.

But chances are this reply is actively repelling potential customers away.

Instead, use a negative review as an opportunity to give your audience a glimpse into your personality. And let them get to know your kindness and empathy through that response.

4. Introduce Yourself and Your Connection to the Team

It’s always great to see the owner of a company take the time to respond to a humble customer review. This is what entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk responded to criticism of his book:

gary-personal-response

But sometimes, getting a response from the business owner isn’t realistic.

It’s hard enough for the owner of a small business to respond to every online review they receive. As a business grows, it becomes near impossible.

So sometimes you might find yourself responding to a negative review on your company’s behalf. If that’s the case, make sure you introduce yourself and let the reader know your connection to the team.

That way, they don’t feel like a random stranger is chiming in to smooth things over.

5. Thank the Customer for Taking the Time to Write

The truth is that whenever someone writes anything about your product, they feel strongly about your business. And that goes for both positive and negative reviews.

One of the goals of marketing is just getting people to talk about you. So even when someone says something not so nice, you should thank them for taking the time to do so. This accomplishes a few things:

  • It quickly diffuses the negativity
  • Makes your reviewer feel heard and valued
  • Shows other readers that you aren’t petty

Starting off with a small phrase like, “Hey, thanks so much for taking the time to write” is the perfect introduction for your response to a negative review.

Here’s a great response that shows how to thank customers right off the bat:

Saying-Im-sorry-without-apologizing-min

6. Make Your Response Authentic and Personal

At the end of this article, we’ll be giving you some templates to use so you can respond to negative reviews. However, you’ll want to use those templates as a basic guideline.

Not something to copy/paste 100% verbatim.

People can tell now when you respond with a canned response. Since negative reviews can have such a real impact on your business, you should take the time to make them personal to the reviewer.

Address them by name and introduce yourself. The goal is to humanize this interaction as much as possible. This dentist made his response very personal when someone’s girlfriend was dissatisfied with getting a new crown:

Make-the-response-personal-min

So before you hit “send,” reread your response and ask yourself what makes the message unique to the reviewer. In other words, if you copied and pasted this response for any other negative review, would it still work?

If so, you should definitely try to make it sound more personal.

7. Show Empathy and Understanding

When someone writes a negative review about your product or company, the first response is usually to get defensive. And those feelings are ok! It’s totally normal, and everyone does it.

But that doesn’t make it the best way to handle the situation.

Instead, try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. They were mad enough to write about their experience, and it’s your job to figure out why.

More often than not, that negativity can be chalked up to a bad day and someone needing to blow off steam.

Remind yourself that the author of the review is a human being. Maybe they’re having issues at home or at work. Or maybe they stayed up all week because their kid is sick, and now they’re just trying to get through till Friday.

As you write your message, empathize with the author, and imagine yourself on your worst day. This will help you feel some compassion for them and prevent you from getting overly defensive or overly emotional about the situation.

Check out this response which is beaming with humility, empathy, and understanding:

Show-empathy-min

8. Reinforce Your Company’s Standard Values

In your response, it’s a good idea to let the reviewer (and other readers) know that this negative experience is the exception, not the rule.

To do that, briefly mention what your current standards for customer service are. Let them know that you take your client’s complaints very seriously, and customer service is an integral part of your company’s values.

You don’t need to go on and on about this either.

A simple sentence like “We here at [your business name] take a lot of pride in our customers’ success, which is why…” will reinforce your commitment to providing exceptional service.

Again, this shows the reviewer that you’re taking their problem seriously. But it also shows the many other readers that your business is there to help them when needed.

9. Offer a Discount, Promotion, or Refund for the Inconvenience

This is an optional though highly recommended step. And different marketers have different feelings on the topic. Here’s why:

Offering a discount, a special promotion, or a refund to customers who wrote a negative review can help ease tension. It’s also a great way to prepare yourself to ask for a testimonial after the problem gets solved.

Others, however, are concerned that you’ll train your customers to leave bad reviews so they can get free stuff.

While there is probably some truth to the latter’s opinion, we think it’s a bit too cynical. And if you’re attracting the kind of customers that would do that, you’re probably attracting the wrong kinds of leads, anyway.

Instead, we like to think that most customers are good. And if they have a bad experience with your brand, a small discount or coupon can go a long way in regaining a lifelong customer.

Here’s a negative review response example from JetBlue Airways:

amazing-examples-of-business-owners-responding-to-reviews4-min

But the most famous example of this is from a clothing store called Nordstroms. Back in the mid-’70s, Nordstroms opened a store in Alaska. But 10 years before that, a man had bought tires from the store that had previously occupied Nordstroms’ new space.

And he wanted a refund for those tires.

He took them in on opening day without a receipt (not that a receipt would help), and Nordstroms gave him a full refund. Nordstroms is now known for its legendary customer service.

But guess what?

Today, nobody is lining up to return their tires. Real customers love the brand so much that they don’t dare abuse the retailer’s kindness.

10. Understand the Difference Between “I Apologize” and “I’m Sorry”

Comedian Demetri Martin perfectly demonstrates this difference when he says, “Saying ‘I’m sorry’ and saying ‘I apologize’ are the same thing. Except at a funeral.”

When you say, “I apologize,” you are taking responsibility for something that was your company’s fault. Take this business owner’s response, for example:

Example of I apologize in a negative review-min

When you say, ‘I’m sorry,’ you may be empathizing with your customer without acknowledging that your company was specifically to blame. Here’s a negative review response example of a business doing just that:

how-to-respond-to-negative-yelp-reviews

As a business owner, you have an obligation to give your customers the best service you possibly can. But that doesn’t mean you need to be a punching bag for every critic.

If there is a negative review because of something you are responsible for, then apologize.

If there is a negative review because of something outside of your control, then you have every right to take the “I’m sorry this happened to you” approach.

11. Keep It Short

Again, when we get a bad review, it can feel like a personal attack. Our fingers tingle, and we get eager to write back in self-defense.

But the last thing you want to do in your response to a negative review is to ramble on and on. For a few reasons:

  • Most people will simply ignore reading longer responses
  • Longer replies come off as desperate or defensive
  • There’s simply no need for drawn-out explanations

The bottom line is that your customer is unhappy. If it’s your fault, apologize. If it’s not, show empathy.

Either way, you shouldn’t validate the negative review with a long response. Gracefully reply with the tips we’ve already given. Here’s a negative review response example that shows how powerful a short message can be:

keep-it-short-and-sweet

To go the extra mile, take the conversation offline to express yourself at greater length. Which brings us to our next tip…

12. Take the Conversation Offline

If you use all the tips we described above, you should be able to pacify even the most frustrated customer.

But it’s like they say, “You can’t please everyone.”

So while you should publically respond to any negative reviews on the platform where it was posted, you should also continue the conversation on your own terms.

And that means moving to a private platform.

Whether you decide to work with the customer on a phone call, video chat, or in a direct message on your favorite social media platform, move the conversation somewhere more private.

Here’s a negative review response example from a company responding to someone who was dissatisfied with their meal:

Take-the-conversation-offline-min

Note that it’s short, to the point, and quickly takes the conversation to another platform.

13. Turn the Negative Review Into a Testimonial

We already mentioned that not all negative reviews hurt your business. In fact, sometimes they can help.

But if you really want to turn your lemon reviews into lemonade, you should follow up with the author of your negative review.

More specifically, you should ask if the issue was resolved and, if so, whether or not you can get some public feedback on their experience.

Seeing someone go from being angry enough to write a bad review to give a glowing testimonial will speak volumes about your company values.

Other readers can see that you take customer service seriously and that you care about making clients happy.

In fact, a testimonial from someone who had previously written a bad review is likely to be one of your most powerful lead generating tactics.

Check out this example involving a car dealership. The owner responded to a negative review with this:

Bad-Review-Example-2-copy-min

And the follow-up review came later from the customer:

Bad-Review-Example-2-

This small paragraph is a true testament to the company’s high standards of customer service.

Now that we’ve established 13 ways to respond to negative customer reviews, here are 6 templates to save you time.

These templates can be copy and pasted but, remember, you should personalize some aspects to it. That’s why you’ll notice many areas in [square brackets] indicating where you need to insert personalized information.

6 Negative Review Response Templates

When it comes to responding to negative reviews, you really only have two types of responses:

  • You are responsible for a problem
  • You are NOT responsible for a problem

We’ve written a templated reply for both but added another response in case you also want to offer some discount or promotion.

We also included a template to ask a reviewer for further details about a situation if their negative review was too vague.

Finally, we have a template to follow up with customers to ask for some feedback, another review, or a testimonial.

Let’s dive in!

Negative Review Response Template #1:

When You Are Responsible for the Problem

Hello [Name],

I’m [your name], and I work as [your job title] for [your business]. Thank you for taking the time to write. I wanted to let you know how sorry we are for [“what happened”].

Here at [your business name], we pride ourselves on our excellent customer service. And in this instance, we clearly dropped the ball.

We’ll be reaching out to you personally in the next 24 hours to touch bases. We want to learn more about what happened and how we can make things right.

Gratefully yours,

[Name]

[Title]

[Business Name]

Negative Review Response Template #2:

When You Are Responsible for the Problem + Offering a Discount

Hello [Name],

I’m [your name], and I work as [your job title] for [your business]. Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us. I wanted to let you know how sorry we are for [“what happened”].

Here at [your business name], we pride ourselves on our excellent customer service. And in this instance, we clearly dropped the ball.

Because of that, we want to make things right! Please accept this [insert promotion or offer] as a token of our sincerest apologies. If there is any way we can further assist you, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at [give personal business email].

Gratefully yours,

[Name]

[Title]

[Business Name]

Negative Review Response Template #3:

When You Are NOT Responsible for the Problem

Hello [Name],

I’m [your name], and I work as [your job title] for [your business]. Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us. I wanted to let you know how sorry we are that you went through that difficult experience.

We make it a point to be known for customer service, so this situation caught us off guard and we would love to learn more about what specifically happened.

We’ll be reaching out to you personally in the next 24 hours to touch bases. We want to learn more about the situation and how we can make things right.

Gratefully yours,

[Name]

[Title]

[Business Name]

Negative Review Response Template #4:

When You Are NOT Responsible for the Problem + Offering a Discount

Hello [Name],

I’m [your name] and I work as [your job title] for [your business]. Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us. I wanted to let you know how sorry we are that you went through that difficult experience.

We make it a point to be known for customer service, so this situation caught us off guard and we would love to learn more about what specifically happened.

In the meantime, please enjoy this [insert promotion or discount here] while we get everything sorted. We’ll be reaching out to you personally in the next 24 hours to touch bases. We want to learn more about the situation and how we can make things right.

Gratefully yours,

[Name]

[Title]

[Business Name]

Negative Review Response Template #5:

When You Need Further Clarification on the Issue Before Responding

Hello [Name],

I’m [your name] and I work as [your job title] for [your business]. Thank you so much for taking the time to write to us.

We make it a point to be known for customer service, so this situation caught us a little off guard.

Would you mind reaching out to me at [insert business email] with more details about the situation? Any more light you could shed on what happened would be much appreciated and would help me to find the right solution moving forward.

Thank you so much, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Gratefully yours,

[Name]

[Title]

[Business Name]

Negative Review Response Template #6:

When You Want to Follow up to Ask for a Positive Review, Feedback, or a Testimonial

Hello [Name],

I just wanted to follow up with you to make sure the situation was 100% resolved to your satisfaction.

As you know, it’s important for us to provide our customers with stellar service. That’s why we would love your feedback as to how we handled your negative experience.

And if we did fully resolve the issue, would you mind if we share your words with others? We love letting customers know that if a problem arises, we are totally invested in seeing it fixed for them.

Thank you so much, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Gratefully yours,

[Name]

[Title]

[Business Name]

Final Thoughts

Let’s be honest. Getting bad reviews sucks.

But it really doesn’t have to.

So long as you respond quickly, gracefully, and follow up for a testimonial, you can actually make negative reviews work for (rather than against) you.

If you can convert the author of your negative review into a loyal customer, you have an awesome form of social proof speaking in your favor.

But we should also note that generating online reviews shouldn’t be your only form of social proof. You have other options, too.

One form of using social proof to boost conversions is positive action notification popups.

We at TrustPulse are huge proponents of leveraging social proof and fear of missing out to maximize your conversion rates. Using our positive action notification popups, you can show your website’s visitors when other people make a purchase or sign up to your mailing list.

You’ve likely seen these notifications before. They look something like this:

TrustPulse-shows-users-who-recently-signed-up-min

Plus, this specific type of social proof has been proven to boost conversions up to 15%. So whether you go with TrustPulse or similar software, adding positive action notifications to your page is simply a no brainer.

Did you enjoy this article? We really hope that these negative review response examples will help you communicate with less-than-satisfied customers in the future!

If you did find this information valuable, we’d love for you to share it on Facebook or Twitter. Or, you could dive right in and play around with this social proof software.

Feel free to do so by joining the TrustPulse community today!

Author Photo
Published by Nathan Thompson
Nathan Thompson is a father, a writer, and a lover of travel (in that order). When he’s not wrestling with his kids, you’ll likely find Nathan giving his eyes a much-needed break from screens with a good book or planning a family trip with his awesome wife.

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