Online reviews on sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Tripadvisor give people a way to share their experiences not only with businesses but with fellow consumers, too.
Consumers rely on these reviews in order to discover great products, services, and brands. This makes it extremely important for companies to learn how to respond to negative reviews, especially in situations where these reviews might damage their brand reputation.
- 94% of consumers say that a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business.
- 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. But 63% say that a business has never responded to their review.
- 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews.
The takeaway: respond to negative reviews before they drive your customers away. Do this and consumer perceptions immediately improve, making it more likely that people will come and visit your business locations.
As for what to do with positive or neutral reviews — yes, they also warrant a response. Think of it as an opportunity to reinforce and spotlight the things customers already love about your company. (Not to mention, it’s the polite thing to do.) For tips on what to do with positive feedback, read our guide on Positive Review Response Examples for Any Brand.
Need help navigating the often treacherous waters of negative online reviews?
To help you respond to reviews better, we looked at 200,000 review responses in the ReviewTrackers database, harnessed our own natural language processing technology, and combined these responses’ best features to come up with powerful examples and templates you can use to respond to negative reviews you may have received.
In addition to the templates, we scoured the Internet for great real-life examples of companies that know how to respond to negative reviews.
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How to Respond to Negative Reviews
Responding to negative reviews is difficult. Bad reviews hurt and sometimes they can be downright cruel.
While it’s natural to get upset about your negative reviews, it’s important not to lose your cool or feel like retaliating. In many cases, it’s wise to step away from the keyboard, so that your emotions don’t dictate what you’re going to write in your response to the review. Be sure to get yourself to a calm mental state first, so that you can respond in a professional manner.
Here’s a template that you can use to learn how to respond to negative reviews:
Dear [NAME OF REVIEWER], thanks for sharing your feedback. We’re sorry your experience didn’t match your expectations. It was an uncommon instance and we’ll do better in the future.
Please feel free to reach out to [INSERT CONTACT INFORMATION] with any further comments, concerns, or suggestions you wish to share. We would love to make things right if you give us another chance.
Obviously, how you respond to negative reviews will vary from situation to situation, but think of the above template as an all-purpose one. It’s a great starting point that can serve as the foundation for a great response.
Let’s break this down further by examining what’s often said when companies respond to negative and positive reviews.
While businesses do apologize, it’s only a relatively small part of the response (13%). Why? Because it can sometimes come across as unprofessional to be overly apologetic.
Instead, brands focus on their commitment to service, customer experience management, and “next steps” (e.g., how a consumer can contact them directly).
The template above applies a number of the best practices in responding to negative reviews.
Best Practice 1: Address the Reviewer
Your customers want to be heard individually and addressed personally. So don’t forget your salutations and, if possible, avoid the generic “Dear guest,” or “Dear customer.”
According to online reviews statistics, 76% of all reviews are either Google reviews or Facebook reviews. This means you can usually get the name of the reviewer and use it as a way to further personalize your response.
Best Practice 2: Say Thank You
Show customers that your company appreciates and values candid unsolicited feedback. Always remember to say thank you in responses to reviews (even the bad ones).
Here are some variations where saying “thank you” goes a long way:
“Thank you for your review. I’m sorry to hear you had a frustrating experience, but I really appreciate you bringing this issue to my attention.”
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’re sorry you had a bad experience. We’ll strive to do better. ”
“Thank you for letting us know about this. Your feedback helps us do better. We are looking into this issue and hope to resolve it promptly and accurately.”
Best Practice 3: Apologize and Sympathize
Saying sorry shows that you care about your customers and that you’re not too proud to own up to your mistakes.
Even if it’s not your fault, say sorry anyway. This is a great opportunity to establish and strengthen trust between your company or brand and the customer. Besides, people often get turned off by brands that are too perfect or too proud to apologize.
Just like the rest of the response, keep your apologies short and sweet:
“We apologize that our service did not satisfy your expectations.”
“We’re so sorry that your experience did not match your expectations. This is on us.”
“We set a high standard for ourselves, and we’re so sorry to hear this was not met in your interaction with our business.”
Best Practice 4: Take Responsibility
Don’t make excuses. Even if what happened was an uncommon instance, an isolated case, an unfortunate incident, an off day — acknowledge the customer’s experience. At the same time, provide reassurance that you hold yourself to high standards.
Some things you can say:
“I’m so sorry. We’re normally known for our exceptional attention to detail, and we regret that we missed the mark.”
“We always aim to deliver a great experience, and we are gutted when we don’t meet expectations. Thanks for taking the time to bring this to our attention. We will use the feedback to make us better and to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
“Thank you for posting a review and we’re sorry to hear that your experience was not up to standards. We would like the opportunity to talk and investigate your feedback further.”
Best Practice 5: Make Things Right
When dealing with negative feedback, try to avoid cookie-cutter responses that do not resolve or address any specific issues raised in the review.
Include details about the customer’s experience in your response (when relevant), and communicate any changes or improvements you have made or will make as a result of their feedback.
If there’s nothing you can do to fix what happened, here’s a compelling way to respond to the reviewer, take ownership, and promise to make things right in the future:
“I apologize on behalf of everyone at [Company Name]. Please know that your situation was an exception. As you can see on other reviews, we are known for taking ownership and caring deeply about our customers. We can’t fix the past but you have my personal commitment to improve the way our staff serves every customer. Until then, please accept my sincerest apologies on behalf of everyone on the team.”
Best Practice 6: Take the Issue Offline
It’s always best for you and your customer to talk directly about the problem they had and take the issue offline. This saves any further embarrassment on your side of the issue and prevents interference from outside sources. For this reason, you should provide direct contact information for customers in your review response.
Here are some things you can say:
“We would like the opportunity to investigate your feedback further. Please could you contact me at [Email Address] or call our team at [Phone Number]? We’ll work with you to resolve any issues as quickly as possible.”
“We are sorry that your experience at [Company Name] didn’t quite match your expectations. We would love to know why, so that we can deliver a better experience next time. You may reach us anytime at [Email Address] or [Phone Number]. Again, thank you for your feedback!”
Best Practice 7: Ask for A Second Chance
Don’t slam the door on negative reviewers. Instead, extend a (digital) hand. Invite them to come back and when they do, welcome them with open arms.
Not only does this create an opportunity for you to change the conversation; it also establishes confidence in your ability to deliver an experience worth raving (instead of ranting) about.
Some things you can say:
“Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. I’m very sorry we failed to meet your expectations. I would appreciate another chance to earn your business. Please call me or ask for me next time you’re at [Company Name].”
Real-World Examples of How to Respond to Negative Reviews
There isn’t one perfect way to respond to a negative review. The fact that numerous brands have found different ways to create great review responses show the opportunities available to winning back unhappy customers. As you read each example, notice that they apply a number of the best practices listed above.
Responding to a Negative Restaurant Review
Restaurateurs know that delicious food doesn’t always guarantee a 5-star review. Take notes from this heartfelt response to a review that commented on other aspects of the dining experience.
Why it works: In the response, the restaurateur acknowledges that the guest’s experience “could’ve been better.” The response also offers ways to deliver a better or more satisfactory experience next time — while keeping the tone polite and professional. Also, by highlighting the upstairs seating, the response not only offers a solution to this diner, but also offers a tip to prospective diners who may be reading this review in the future.
Responding to a Negative Hotel Review
When a loyal customer expressed her disappointment with her anniversary stay at the Stamford Plaza in Brisbane, executive assistant manager Dale John wrote a pitch-perfect response.
Why it works: The response addressed the reviewer and started with a “thank you.” It was also very specific about the customer’s experience and provided detailed information on how the hotel planned to resolve certain issues and maintain its standards.
Responding to a Negative Healthcare Review
For healthcare providers, it’s a little bit trickier to craft responses to negative patient reviews.
With the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which is designed to safeguard patients’ health information, healthcare marketers must be able to respond without referring to any specifics about medical care or the patient’s identity, which could be construed as “patient data.”
You can read more here on how to craft HIPAA-compliant review responses, but here’s a great example in action:
Why it works: The review response addresses specific issues without breaking confidentiality. It also communicates the provider’s concrete plan to make things right. (“We recently hired a consultant…”)
The response also wisely offers to take the conversation offline — demonstrating the provider’s genuine desire to engage with the patient and solve the problem.
Responding to a Negative Financial Services Review
Negative reviews can also hit banks and financial services providers. By replying ASAP, you can minimize the possibility of other potential clients being swayed by the original reviewer’s experience.
Why it works: This review response feels sincere instead of defensive. Sometimes, simply thanking the customer for their unsolicited feedback and apologizing can go a long way. Take note, again, of the offer to take things offline and discuss the issue privately.
Responding to a Negative Review of a Veterinary Clinic
Here’s another example of how to respond to negative reviews. This time, it’s from a veterinary clinic, a business in an industry in which emotions can run high, especially in times of a pet’s health crisis.
Why it works: Pet owners can be extremely vocal and opinionated. There will always be people who are going to be convinced that their vets are just “in it for the money” and don’t really care about the welfare of their animals. In response to the negative Facebook review, Forest Grove Veterinary Clinic posted a classy reply that highlighted the company’s values while also directly addressing the customer’s experience.
Travel and Hospitality Negative Review Response Example
JetBlue Airways’ Twitter account serves as one of the company’s main customer service channels. When a customer named Esaí Vélez complained (politely) about his backseat TV not working, JetBlue responded within minutes.
Why it works: The swiftness with which JetBlue responded is impressive. While it’s a response to a tweet instead of to a review, the short reply effectively displays sympathy while also offering a solution (or at least a genuine attempt to make amends).
Says best-selling author and customer service expert Chip Bell: “In the customer’s mind the clock starts when he or she posts a negative review, and your reputation drops with every hour you delay providing a response. Bad reviews that remain unanswered signal to other customers you are disinterested. It also fuels the perception that the negative report by an angry customer was probably accurate.”
(More) Best Practices When Responding to Negative Reviews
With templates and examples in hand, it’s time to put your own review response plan into action. Before solidifying your own response methodology, it’s important to keep three things in mind.
1. Respond in a Timely Manner
According to customer reviews data: 53.3% of customers who have written reviews expect a response in 7 days or less. That’s a short time frame, especially for busy executives and teams who have a lot on their plate managing other things to keep the business operating.
With a reputation management software platform like ReviewTrackers, you can set up review alerts so you are notified of new reviews as they come in. Also, you definitely don’t want to be manually logging in and out of business review sites — so utilizing a comprehensive review response tool may be useful when handling multiple pieces of feedback.
Remember: the clock begins ticking once reviews are posted, and customers are waiting to hear back from you.
2. Assign Ownership of the Process
It’s important to identify people in your organization who will be directly involved with online review management and with responding to bad reviews. This can be tricky because online reviews live at the intersection of marketing, operations, social media, and customer service: there are plenty of stakeholders at this stage.
Typically speaking, we see that branch or location managers, marketing teams, employees who monitor social reviews, and customer service staff are the people who are put in charge of review responses.
Whoever steps up as the head of your review response program should understand the guidelines of each review site, transform the collected feedback into valuable insights for your company, and — perhaps most important of all — display the right tact needed to address complaints and represent the brand well.
Read more: Brand Management Skills: How to Be a Good Brand Manager
3. Create a Review Response Policy
If your company operates in multiple locations, chances are more than one person will be assigned to respond directly to online reviews.
This makes it crucial to have an organization-wide policy that guides your company on how to respond to negative reviews as well as positive ones.
Your policy should cover things like what language and tone you should use, what the timeline is for getting back to customers, with whom the reviews will be shared in your organization, when do escalations become necessary, what the ideal response rate is, and other items that may affect how your company handles reviews.
How to Respond to Neutral Reviews (3-Star)
As you might expect, neutral reviews usually combine positive comments with negative feedback — which means that you’ll have to take what you can from the sections above and determine review response techniques most applicable to your situation.
Oftentimes, however, neutral reviews are brief and lack details. They happen because customers don’t feel strongly enough either way to describe their experience in great detail.
If that is the case, here’s an appropriate way to respond to neutral reviews:
Dear [CUSTOMER NAME], thanks for your review. We would love to hear more about your experience, so that we can use your valuable feedback to deliver an even better experience next time. Please reach out to [CONTACT INFORMATION] with any further comments or suggestions you wish to share. Again, thank you for taking the time to review our business!
With a template in mind, you should turn your attention to the details that make a great neutral review response in the eyes of the customer.
Best Practice 1: As Always, Say Thank You
Before you write out the rest of your neutral review response, start the right way by showing appreciation for the time the customer took to write the review.
Best Practice 2: Reinforce the Positive
If the 3-star review contains positive feedback, be sure to call attention to it by mentioning it in your response: “We’re glad to hear that the quality of our product matched your expectations.”
Even if the review includes a critical comment, start your response with an affirmation of the review’s positive aspects. (Research shows that readers are more likely to absorb ideas in the first 100 words of a text block.)
Best Practice 3: Address the Negative
If you receive a neutral review with negative feedback, acknowledge the specific issues the customer had with their experience. You may also issue a short apology and provide a brief explanation of what happened.
Best Practice 4: Take It Offline for More Details
If you’re asking the customer for more details, do so with the intention of taking it offline. That way, you can investigate the situation more thoroughly while preventing details of a possible negative experience from becoming public. This is also a great customer experience management tactic.
You can say something to the effect of:
“Your business means a lot to us, so if you ever have additional feedback, please don’t hesitate to reach out via [your contact information].”
Examples of How to Respond to Neutral Reviews
Many brands excel at responding to positive and negative reviews, and there are a select few that we found that proficiently navigated the tightrope of responding to a neutral review.
Take a look below and see why these companies succeeded in their responses.
Responding to a Neutral Review of a Salon
Kréme de la Kréme Nail Lounge is the recipient of numerous positive reviews on Yelp. Angela T., the business owner, takes the time out to thank Yelpers who put in these good words for her.
When this neutral review came along, Angela responded with:
Why it works: Her review response reinforces the positive (“So glad you enjoyed the cupcakes and liked our jewelry…”), while also providing information that’s useful to the customer who wondered about the price, as well as to readers of the review who might be curious why the nail salon’s prices are slightly higher than that of her competitors.
The response also gives an idea of the great lengths the business goes to in order to provide quality services and products.
Responding to a Neutral Restaurant Review
Etta in Chicago received this 3-star review on Yelp, and what followed was an ideal response, penned by general manager Adam Scholten:
Why it works: Like the review itself, the response is short and simple. Adam thanked the customer for his honesty, but also expressed his eagerness to investigate the matter further so that the restaurant can deliver a better dining experience next time.
Read more: Restaurant Reputation Management in 5 Steps
Responding to a Neutral Retail Review
Another good example of how to handle a mixed or neutral review is from Joseph D., the owner of Flowers for Dreams in Chicago.
Why it works: The review response takes responsibility for an uncommon instance in which the flower arrangement ordered by the customer kind of differed from the arrangement delivered.
Joseph was quick to apologize, explaining that the product the customer received was not up to the business’ usual quality standards. His response concluded with an invitation to privately discuss the matter in more detail and an offer to make things right for the customer.
How to Respond to Employee Reviews
Crucial to the success and growth of any organization is its ability to attract and retain the best talent. That’s why it’s so important for your leadership and HR teams to embrace — instead of fear — online reviews and public employee feedback posted online.
It’s also an essential part of every successful employee retention strategy.
Consider these employer brand stats:
- 83% of candidates are likely to check a company’s employee reviews and ratings when deciding on where to apply for a job.
- 84% of job seekers say that the reputation of a company as an employer is very important when making a decision on where to apply for a job.
Companies that respond to employee reviews provide job candidates with an extra measure of reassurance, particularly when they see that you, as an employer, are active on employee review sites.
By responding to employee reviews, you can support your employer brand monitoring strategy, drive engagement with employees, and support efforts to improve the overall employee experience. Here’s how to do it properly.
Best Practice 1: Respond in a Timely and Organized Manner
The first step to responding to reviews posted by employees is developing an organized way to do so. Timeliness is crucial: whether it is once a week or once a month, find a cadence that works for your team’s bandwidth.
Best Practice 2: Show Your Appreciation
When responding to employee reviews, make it a priority to thank the reviewer, regardless of whether they’re singing your praises or highlighting areas for improvement.
Best Practice 3: Respond Professionally and with Authenticity
The strongest responses to employee reviews show respect for the reviewer by addressing feedback in a way that’s professional and authentic.
Best Practice 4: Take Action
Correct any organizational problems discussed in online reviews posted by your employees. By using their reviews to improve the employee experience, you can build not only a strong employer brand but also a happier and more productive workforce.
Best Practice 5: Ask for More Feedback
Asking for more details can be tricky when you’re dealing with employee reviews — which are anonymous on a site like Glassdoor. You’ll want to respect that anonymity and encourage the reviewer to give private feedback to your HR team.
For example, an employee may feel comfortable offering negative feedback about their boss while on Glassdoor, but not in person. Direct them to your HR team so that you can get more details about their experience, but make sure they also feel comfortable.
Real-World Examples of How to Respond to Employee Reviews
The best responses to employee reviews are able to highlight or reinforce the positives, capitalizing on the opportunity to show how strong the employer brand is. Check out this example from Genentech:
As you can see in the response, Genentech elaborates on the positive aspects of the review, noting, “We are delighted to hear that you value the efforts we have put toward creating an environment where everyone at Genentech can thrive.”
The response also addresses the negative concerns, but not before showing appreciation for the positive feedback.
Here’s another example, which comes from DocuSign:
Why it works: It’s a short, simple response that shows appreciation for the time the employee took to write the review. DocuSign actually does this for every review posted on their Glassdoor profile, demonstrating that the company cares about its employees and their experience working there.
The key to responding effectively to negative employee reviews is to acknowledge and try to understand the individual employee experience. Doing so can even benefit your organization, resulting in improved employee satisfaction and plentiful wins for your business.
In the example above, WillowTree doesn’t sweep the rather difficult concerns under the rug by ignoring the employee’s comments. The response specifically addresses problematic areas brought up and discusses what is being done to remedy them.
How to Respond to Reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook
Learning how to respond to negative reviews and taking part in customer conversations can have a very real and measurable effect on your business.
Keep in mind, however, that every single review site will have its own set of rules, terms, or guidelines for review responses. Make sure that the person assigned to respond to your reviews is aware of these rules.
How to Respond to Google Reviews
Reviews on Google show up in two places: Google Search and Google Maps.
You can click on the “Reply” button below each review to formulate a response. Based on the current Google review policy, you can also edit your response if it has a typographical error or inaccurate information, but try to keep those mistakes to a minimum.
Keep in mind that customers are told when a business responds to their online review on Google via email notifications. The business’ response is published immediately and the email notification is sent to the customer 5 minutes later. The 5-minute delay allows the business to edit or make any corrections to their response after initial submission.
Businesses will be notified of any new Google reviews that come in through their GMB notifications. However, it’s important to note that brands with over 100 locations don’t receive Google review alerts.
How to Respond to Yelp Reviews
You can respond to your Yelp Business reviews through the Yelp for Business Owners page. Make sure you have already claimed your business page on the site before getting started with responding to reviews.
To see your Yelp reviews using Yelp for Business Owners, simply log in and click the Reviews tab.
Apart from reading each individual review, you’ll also be able to respond to your Yelp reviews with a public comment or a direct message. Or you can simply press the Thank button to show your appreciation for customers who took the time to review your business on Yelp.
You can find these response options under each individual review.
How to Respond to Facebook Reviews
Facebook reviews are activated by default when you create a business Page.
Any review, whether or not it includes additional text feedback, appears like a post in the Reviews or Recommendations section. You can respond to Facebook reviews and Recommendations the same way you can respond to comments on your Facebook Page or through your Facebook Business Manager account.
Should You Respond to Every Single Review?
What is the ideal response rate? Should your business respond to every single review that comes in?
The short answer is: it depends. There are many factors you should take into consideration.
Think About the Review Sites that Matter to You
Not all business review sites will be highly relevant to your business. Understanding which sites are most impactful given your industry or business category will help you determine the value of the reviews.
Hoteliers and hospitality executives, for example, should definitely have a plan in place for how to respond to Tripadvisor reviews. Restaurants, meanwhile, should respond to Yelp reviews as well as feedback on other popular restaurant review sites. For local businesses of all types, it makes sense to focus on responding to Google reviews.
Do your homework and become familiar with the most popular reviews for your type of business, and make it a priority to respond to those reviews.
Don’t Respond for the Sake of Responding
Don’t respond if you’re only going to write the same generic “Thank you” message for, say, two dozen positive reviews. Take the time to personalize your responses and make them unique.
This also ensures that your responses will meet individual review sites’ guidelines. For instance, some sites (Booking.com, for example) don’t approve of identical responses.
If you’re responding to negative reviews, do so to provide balance and express your viewpoint in a positive way. Don’t respond to blame customers. Remember: how you respond to a negative review says more about your business than the negative review itself.
Take Your Review Volume into Account
If you have only four or five reviews on your profile, it’s best to respond to every single one of them. However, you don’t have to aim for the same 100% response rate if you’re consistently getting dozens or hundreds of reviews across multiple review sites.
Ratings-only reviews or comments that are five or six words long are not likely to make a big impact on your online reputation. When deciding which reviews get a response, choose the detailed feedback that lend themselves to informative, expanded responses. You can use these types of reviews as opportunities to drive customer engagement, as well as highlight the strengths of your business.
Online reviews influence the way customers think about your business.
Keep in mind that your reputation is shaped not only by what you say about the business but also — and probably mostly — by what customers are saying on online review websites.
While this may make you feel like you have little control over how potential customers perceive your brand, you can still actively participate in improving your online reputation. One of the best ways to do so is by responding to your reviews.
By responding to positive, negative, and neutral reviews and by applying the best practices and examples outlined above, you can make a positive impact on your brand reputation and even boost financial outcomes.