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How to respond to negative reviews online

Easily respond to negative reviews online in five steps, to show your business in a positive light, impress your customers and strengthen your brand image.

Why is responding to a negative review important?

Does a negative review really matter? Yes - Even if you’ve only had a few negative reviews, it’s still worth putting time into managing your online reputation. So does responding to negative reviews - because it’s a key part of a continuous cycle of improving the customer experience.

Negative reviews can have real consequences to your potential sales, as customers often use online reviews to form their opinion ahead of purchasing. It’s true that an average customer will read 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business.

Online reviews can influence a potential customer’s perception of your company. In fact, 97% of people read reviews for local businesses and 93% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions. Furthermore, a one-star improvement can increase revenue by as much as 39%.

Here are five steps to tackle negative reviews and provide excellent customer service.

5 step plan to respond to negative reviews effectively

1. Acknowledge the review and thank the reviewer

Not responding to the review is actually a response in itself. It says, “I don’t care enough about your negative experience to even acknowledge it.” It’s also important to not get angry in your negative review response.

If a current or past customer has written a review, thank them for dedicating their time to make the effort and do it

“Thank you for your review and for reaching out to us today.”

It creates a positive first impression in the initial stage of the response, and is a sign of respecting the time they’ve taken.


JetBlue is great at responding to negative comments on Twitter. During a recent outage that affected many airlines, they promptly responded to a disgruntled passenger and offered an explanation, even though the outage was with a third-party software and was not their fault:


2. Respond quickly to the review

53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. Regularly check review sites and where there is a review, answer it within a good amount of time.

“I wanted to get back to your review quickly.”

This will help show that you find the review important and want to address the feedback with a high level of care.


Chobani responded to a customer’s complaint almost immediately, as you can see by the time stamps on this Facebook post in the example below. A quick response shows the customer that you care about their business and want to provide excellent customer service.


3. Apologize

There may be fault on your side, or there may not. Apologize where appropriate, and acknowledge the issue at hand.

“We’re very sorry that you found that your experience did not meet your expectations. We try to make sure our customers are happy the first-time, because we value your business, so we apologize for any inconvenience or distress caused.”

Taking the high road can show you are an organization that doesn’t shy away from responsibility.


On this review from the hotel’s website, the Courtyard Marriott in Lake Buena Vista Florida first acknowledges the review and then apologizes. They acknowledge that the cleanliness of the room doesn’t meet the Marriott standards or the hotel’s standards, and they take responsibility for the condition of the room. In this review, Marriott hears the customer’s pain.


4. Indicate action and move the conversation offline

How can you move the conversation from words to actions? Let the customer know what you’re going to do to rectify the problem.

“I would like to see how I can help resolve [Issue] and take this forward for you. Can you please send me an email at [contact details] so I can follow up with you on this directly?”

This can reassure the customer and show that you’re interested in making the situation better, and help begin to change their opinion of the brand or product/service.

In this TripAdvisor review, National Car Rental acknowledges the feedback and then promptly asks the customer to email their corporate office so they can address the conversation privately.


5. Be personal in your sign-off

People will be more forgiving when the company is personable and shows they care, rather than coming across as cold. Tell them who you are, and make sure you adopt a human approach. This can improve the relationship that follows when you continue the conversation.

“I look forward to speaking to you soon. With best wishes, Sam from Customer Service.”

Once you have received the customer’s details, contact them directly - and quickly - and aim to get a full picture of the situation. Use this information to follow-up on the issue and resolve the issue, to prevent making a poor experience even worse.

Zappos is known for their excellent customer service and this includes responding to online negative reviews and customer complaints, even on social media. In this example, they respond to a Facebook review with a short message that lets the customer know they hear the problem and would like to investigate it further.


Extra tips for responding the right way

  • Consider what tone is being portrayed in your response. Among consumers that read reviews, 97% also read the businesses’ responses to reviews, to see how the company representatives treat customers just like them.
  • Remember that a small percentage of reviews may be fake. Research suggested in one survey, 58% of businesses have received fake reviews. But you can't be sure which is which, so it’s best to respond to all equally and politely. Do consider reporting negative reviews that seem false or offensive to the platform administrators.
  • Encourage the practice of asking for reviews from customers following particularly good experiences, for example, after a sale transaction. If the reviews are negative, balance this by encouraging reviews that could even out the balance. You could also help this along by directing customers to your own review sites on Google, Facebook business, TripAdvisor or the Yellow Pages.
  • Check-in regularly for reviews so you can act fast. 48% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written within the past 2 weeks, so you want to make sure the review has been addressed quickly.
  • Don’t engage in long conversations back and forth online. Your message reply should be short, but clear on what action you would like the customer to take (contact you) and that you will discuss the situation offline. This prevents the potential for misunderstandings or crossed lines.
  • Use this opportunity to try and earn a past customer’s business back. This could be by incentivizing them with a free trial, providing a reward or a discount on your product or service.

Use reputation management software to monitor reviews

With numerous review sites, it can be difficult to understand where customers have left reviews and if they’re positive. If you don’t do a comprehensive check, you could have a 4-star rating on one site and a 2-star rating on another, and not even know it.

These negative online reviews that you don’t know about could be hurting your revenue.

It’s hard to manually check for new reviews on every site, but online reputation management software can automatically do it for you. In fact, Qualtrics Online Reputation Management Software helps you identify trends in your brand’s online reputation by pulling in social data from key sites automatically, proactively soliciting positive reviews, and publicly closing the loop with detractors.

It gives you actionable insights among all channels and helps you get positive reviews by designing feedback surveys in a way that prompts users to post a review on social channels.

Your online reputation is important and shouldn’t be left to chance.

Learn more about Qualtrics Reputation Management