How to Handle a Negative Business Review

You and your team work hard everyday to make sure your customers get the best of your product and service. But, despite your best efforts, things are bound to go wrong sometimes and you may find yourself the recipient of a negative online business review. Let’s be clear: this stings. But, it can also be a catalyst for growth and discovery.

Here are some tips to manage a negative review with grace.

Remain Calm

It’s tough to receive (or read) negative feedback about you or your business. Give yourself some time to process and even cool down before you respond. Although you may want to fire off the first response that comes to mind, responding immediately may lead to a regrettable response that can make things worse. Taking a short walk, praying and/or talking with a friend or co-worker can help you decompress before responding. 

After you’ve had a minute to process your feelings, consider the feedback. Ask yourself:

  • Is this feedback actionable?
  • Is the complaint reasonable?
  • What helpful insight can I gather from this situation?
  • Is there an involved team member who I can talk with to get a fuller picture of what happened?

With facts gathered and nerves calmed, you are ready to respond. While responding too quickly can backfire, waiting too long to respond can also backfire. Online comments move quickly, so try to respond in a timely manner. This lets you intervene before the situation spirals to a new level.


Respond Professionally and Politely

The first step is to draft a response that is both professional and polite. Put the first draft into an email or a document instead of the platform where it will ultimately be posted. This lets you think and edit freely without the worry of someone seeing a version that’s not final. Your response should do four things:

  1. Establish your credibility to address the problem.
  2. Acknowledge that you saw the feedback and appreciate it. 
  3. Own the issue and apologize without going into unnecessary detail.
  4. Move the conversation offline to avoid a public spectacle.

Here’s a good base response that you can use:

@JaneSmith I’m the (title) at/of (insert business name). Thank you for your feedback about our service. We continually look for opportunities to improve and your insight helps. We are so sorry that XYZ happened to you. We always try to provide ABC and I’m disappointed to learn that we missed the mark. Please call or PM me so that I can help resolve this issue as soon as possible. 

Once you have a draft, ask someone less involved to review it for tone, accuracy, and clarity.

Tip: Consider hiring a freelance writer to draft a template library of responses to possible complaints. Having pre-drafted responses that you edit as needed can make responding to complaints faster and easier. You can find a writer to help with this on HireMyMom.


Avoid Common Pitfalls

You can avoid common mistakes by following this list of don’ts when you respond.


  • Attack the person who provided the feedback by questioning their motives or asking if the interaction was real. Remember this is not a personal attack, even if it feels like it. 
  • Recount the reviewers actions during the interaction that led to the complaint. For example, don’t say: “You were rude” or dispute what happened.
  • Suggest that the reviewer is wrong or minimize their complaint For example, avoid saying “I’m sorry you didn’t like that product, but everyone else does.”
  • Make comments that could be viewed as defensive. Avoid: “You are wrong. We ALWAYS do XYZ, we never do ABC, like this review states.”
  • Ignore the review. While it may be tempting to ignore a bad review, doing so can make you look out of touch. It’s better to address it in a constructive way.


Learn From the Feedback

Receiving a negative business review is challenging but it also offers a silver lining in the form of growth and improvement. After the passion has ebbed and your response is posted, consider if there are nuggets that can help you or your team improve in the future. Also, consider if your response made sense based on the situation and identify anything you might do differently next time.


Move On Quickly

You pour your heart and soul into your business and it’s never fun to get a negative review. But, it happens to everyone and it’s important not to dwell on the negative feedback. When you get a negative review, hold your head high, follow the tips outlined here, and see what you can learn from the experience. 

I’d love to hear your stories about responding to negative reviews. Drop me a line sharing your experiences.



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