Customer Experience

How to respond to negative online reviews

If you’ve been in business long enough, you’ve probably had at least a few negative reviews. As a business owner, this is painful, but even the most customer-centric companies make mistakes or don’t meet customer expectations every once in a while. This is normal — in fact, consumers are less trusting of brands with only 5 star reviews online as it raises questions about their authenticity.

Even if you’ve only had a few negative reviews, it’s still worth putting time into managing your online reputation. 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%.

These stats are nothing to baulk at and part of improving your online reputation is responding to negative reviews. Here are the steps to tackle negative reviews and provide excellent customer service.

Acknowledge the review

The most important thing you can do when you receive a negative review is to acknowledge it. This means responding to every single review. Even if you know you’re right, you should thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention and let him know you’ll help him find a solution. Many business owners respond to good reviews, but they brush off the negative ones. In reality, 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.


Thank you for contacting us. We value your business and would like to make it right. Please send an email to <your email address> with a copy of this message and we will be in touch. Thank you again for reaching out.

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.


Respond quickly

When a customer is angry or had a bad experience with your brand, it’s imperative that you respond as quickly as possible to mitigate the damages and keep them as a customer. It’s best to respond within 24 hours because the encounter is still fresh on the customer’s mind.

Example (within an hour of original response):

Thank you for contacting us. I’m sorry you didn’t love our product. Please send an email to <insert email> or <phone number> and we’ll look into the issue.

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


Apologize for not meeting customer expectations

Every customer wants to believe they’re right, and apologizing let’s them know you understand their pain. You’ll want to apologize for not meeting their expectations, even if you believe it’s not your fault. You can also reiterate the problem, so they know you hear them, and tell them you’d like to resolve the issue.


Thank you for contacting us. We apologize that our product did not meet your standards. It’s very disappointing when our customers don’t feel like they’ve gotten value from our products. We will be reaching out to you personally. Look for an email from us. Thank you.

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.


Move the conversation offline

It’s important to acknowledge the customer experienced your brand negatively and then offer to take the conversation offline. You never want to carry on a public conversation with a dissatisfied customer, but you always want to close the loop. The best way to do this is to ask for their contact information or let them know you’ll be reaching out if you already have it.


Hi Tom. I’m sorry you weren’t completely satisfied with our service. I would love to have a conversation with you and see how we can make it right. Please reach out to me at <insert email> and you’ll receive a prompt response from us. I’m looking forward to speaking to you!

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.


Keep it short and simple

Responding to a negative online review doesn’t have to be more than two or three sentences. You only need to write enough to acknowledge the issue, apologize, and take the conversation offline. In fact, long explanations and excuses will only make the problem worse. It’s best to tackle the problem and move on quickly.


Hi Cari. Thank you for reaching out and I apologize that you weren’t satisfied with our product. Please contact <insert mail> with a copy of this message so we can help you out. Thank you!

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.


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. To learn more about Qualtrics Reputation Management Software, contact us today.

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Diana Kaemingk

Diana Kaemingk is a contributor to the Qualtrics blog.

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