Customer Experience

How to Respond To Negative Reviews – with Examples


Bad customer feedback is every small business owner’s worst nightmare. No one likes to hear bad things about their business, especially when it’s online for everyone to see. But it’s very important how you respond to negative reviews.

As scary as they seem, online reviews are really important for your business. Positive reviews help to build trust in your products or services. And how you respond to negative reviews can showcase your fantastic customer service. It can spin a negative thing into a positive.

Be prepared

If you’re going to start encouraging online reviews (and I suggest you do, because they’re great for SEO as well as building trust with potential customers), spend a little bit of time preparing. Figure out a few tactics for helping to deal with both positive and negative reviews.

As well as review sites like TripAdvisor and Trustpilot, and search engines like Google, customers can also leave reviews on your Facebook page or tweet a complaint. So it’s important to have notifications in place that alert you whenever somebody has rated or contacted your small business.

Read more about how you can use customer feedback to grow your small business.

Strategies: How to respond to negative reviews

Even the best businesses will encounter disgruntled customers at some point. It doesn’t matter what their complaint is, e.g. they’re not happy with the service they received or the quality of the product. It’s important to consider each complaint rationally and respond in a way that shows you care about your customers.

Here are few of my top tactics for dealing with negative reviews with some great examples from other small businesses.

1. Have templates ready

To avoid writing something in the heat of the moment, prepare some responses ahead of time. You’ll need to tailor each one slightly when the time comes, but having templates ready helps you to respond to negative reviews in a helpful and positive way.

Additionally, this gives you plenty of time to think about what the best response would be. Find ways to diffuse the situation and how you can offer a solution to the customer. It also allows you to be consistent with your tone of voice and helps to tie everything into your wider marketing strategy.

Photo by michaeljung from Getty Images Pro via Canva Pro

2. Be positive

As disheartening as it can be to read negative reviews, try to always stay positive in your response. Show the customer that you are willing to help and want to do all you can to find a solution to their problem. Remain upbeat and positive, without coming across as insincere.

Being positive will help to build a good relationship with the customer, and will also show anyone else reading the review that you have great customer service skills. Never try and blame the customer or be rude to them, and try to highlight any positive points they left in their review.

3. Always apologise

That old saying “the customer is always right” is as true today as it was 50 years ago. Even if you haven’t done anything wrong or the customer is technically at fault, always put your pride aside and apologise.

People who leave negative reviews have done so because they’re unhappy with your product or service. Don’t give them even more reason to be unhappy. Apologise as soon as possible, let them know that you’ve taken their complaint on board and are trying to find a solution.

Photo by anyaberkut from Getty Images via Canva Pro

4. Take it elsewhere

I have found that a lot of small business owners are scared of negative reviews because they’re visible in such a public space. Traditionally, if a customer made a complaint offline, the only people who would know about it were the staff at the business and any family or friends the customer told by word of mouth. These days, both positive and negative reviews are online for everyone to see.

In order to limit the damage of any negative reviews, try to take it away from the public space as soon as possible. Ask the customer to send you a private message on social media to avoid a long thread of negative comments on their original review. The less interaction a post gets, the fewer people see it! You could also provide an email address or phone number where the customer could get in touch to discuss their complaint further.

5. Never delete negative reviews

Deleting negative reviews is never a good idea. It makes you look untrustworthy and like you’ve got something to hide. It’s likely that the person who left the review will notice you deleted it, then leave an even worse review.

Most customers don’t expect a 100% perfect track record. As long as the vast majority of reviews are positive, people will still feel confident buying from your small business. And any negative reviews they do see will have been replied to in a sensible and helpful way by you, reinforcing your values and the importance of customer service.

Photo by athree23 from Pixabay

Examples: How to respond to negative reviews

Above all, the key is not to panic. Negative reviews happen to everyone from time to time. But the way you respond to them can really change perceptions of your small business.

Here are a few great examples of how to respond to negative reviews.

1. Skyscanner

I think Skyscanner are great at dealing with negative reviews and complaints. In the example below, Sean from Skyscanner has ticked several of the boxes we talked about earlier in this blog post!

In keeping with Skyscanner’s friendly tone of voice, he responded promptly and apologised to the customer. He also provided a link to take the customer away from social media so the help team could find a solution without further negative tweets.

2. Cuckoo’s Bakery

Here, Cuckoo’s Bakery have turned a negative into a positive. Instead of focusing on the negative part of this review, they have highlighted the positive comments of the reviewer at the same time as apologising and offering an explanation for the issue.

An unhelpful response may have put the customer off visiting Cuckoo’s again, but their friendly and helpful reply encouraged the reviewer to remain a happy customer.

cuckoo's bakery dealing with negative reviews

3. Burgers & Beers Restaurant

Getting a negative review on TripAdvisor can be quite nerve-wracking for a restaurant. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of examples of restaurants going viral because of their rude or funny responses to customers on TripAdvisor!

But here, Burgers & Beers Restaurant have stayed calm and offered the customer an explanation for the situation.

Now over to you! Ask your customers and clients for feedback on whichever online platform they prefer. And be ready to show the world that your small business is going from strength to strength.


To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
Customer Reviews: 6 Ways to Use Them for Your Small Business Marketing
7 Steps to Improve Your Customer Experience
How to Get Repeat Business From Existing Customers
At Your Service: Customer-Centric Marketing for Small Businesses



Denise Strohsahl brand and marketing consultant for small businesses

Hello, I’m Denise from sandstonecastles, a brand & marketing consultancy based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I help small business owners like yourself to find the right marketing that’s in line with your brand and values.