Executive Education

How to respond to negative reviews

By Amber Williamson, Founder of Digital Media & Marketing company, Digital Willow
Executive Education
Published: 5 September 2017

Negative reviews of your business can be painful, both emotionally and financially, and must be dealt with in the correct way.

Here we explore the best steps to turn the situation around for your business, and create a valuable opportunity.

When a business gets negative reviews, their first course of action is often to try and get the review removed. This is a TERRIBLE approach.

A bad review isn’t the problem. A bad review is the RESULT of a problem. The real problem lies in what happened between your customer and your businesses that created that result.

According to a study by Lee Resource Int’l, for every customer who complains, 26 others remain silent. So if we flip that around, this means that a BAD review from a VALUABLE customer is also a generous gift, an opportunity for you to make changes in your business that will ultimately make a lot more customers happy.

Do’s and Don’ts checklist

  • Respond quickly – within 24 hours (ideally within 4 hours)
  • Keep your response brief
  • Own up to whatever the complaint is about
  • Apologise. Even if it wasn`t your fault, apologise
  • Offer to fix the problem
  • Follow up to check the solution was to your customers’ satisfaction


  • Ignore it
  • Write a lengthy monologue full of excuses
  • Deny your company did anything wrong
  • Write a defensive response or blame the reviewer
  • Threaten to sue or take action
  • Leave fake good reviews

Best practice rules to live by

Negative reviews are a part of any growing customer facing business. They will occur and you need to be prepared. Do this by getting a policy in place.

You can drastically cut down the chance of an online review meltdown by having a policy in place for how to respond to negative comments or criticism online. If you have a predetermined method for responding to customers in person, it’s easy enough to extend that same rule set to the Internet.

Instead, take the time to cool down, assess the negative review and do some research. If possible, view the customer’s purchase history, so you are familiar with the situation. Don’t get defensive.

No one is immune from criticism so we suggest sitting down and mapping a process for how you as a company will approach your negative reviews and ensure that every customer-facing person is across it.

Identify the scenarios where it is possible to obtain negative reviews and design possible answers.

It is advisable to respond to all authentic negative reviews, as long as they actually serve a purpose. On the odd occasions, some reviews are best left unanswered or even removed. Those are the ones that are clearly “trolling,” i.e. leaving reviews or comments that are intentional attempts to incite anger or frustration.

It’s important to keep your answer short and simple, explaining to the customer in clear terms your plan of action to set things right. Use the diagram below to steer your game plan and ensure you diffuse the situation effectively.

Given 80% of consumers changed their minds before purchasing a product due to a bad review, this issue is not to be taken lightly, and could cost your business its reputation. Be sure to follow the steps listed and sense-check yourself against our list of do’s and don’ts, and you will find having a process in place will alleviate anxiety and help the team to collaborate and respond effectively.

For more information please visit www.digitalwillow.biz