Responding to Negative Online Reviews – Small Business Tips PART 2


How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online

Bad reviews can feel very personal when you know that you have a great product or that your business provides good service. In truth, a negative review can simply be the result of a customer (or an employee) having a bad day.

A Bad Review Can Drive You Insane

A Bad Review Can Drive You Insane

Receiving a negative review on a site like Yelp or means that people who utilize your services or products are active on that site. So you need to be active as well and not ignore the issue. That bad review will be there as long as the site is there.

Know that in most instances you are not helpless. We would all prefer five-star, glowing reviews, but negative reviews give you a chance to learn about the most important side of the customer experience while showing your compassionate, customer-centered professionalism by how you handle a dissatisfied customer.

PART 1 – Do This and Not That click to view

PART 2 – COMPOSE YOUR RESPONSE – Responding to Negative Reviews Online

1. Script Your Response: A negative review can feel like a mean and unearned attack but you cannot react emotionally. To help ensure you are creating a response based on the situation and not your feelings of being targeted with unfair or untrue reviews, create a standard fill-in-the-blank response template beforehand (as in now).

You can write this yourself, or have a professional draft one, if writing is not your thing. You just need at least one well-crafted paragraph that clearly states your caring response to customer dissatisfaction and has space to fill in the specifics of each situation. This keeps you on track when responding to negative comments online, through customer service or in person and it should flow like this:

  • First show your empathy and apologize for the less than satisfactory customer experience.
  • The meat of the response will have space to fill in where you own the issue or (unequivocally repute it if they say something very damaging that is an outright lie like your establishment has roaches or your delivery man stole their garden gnome), address how other customers would or will not have the same issue, and the steps taken address the issue.
  • End with another apology and a way to make it better for that customer (if possible)
  • Keep in mind that you can do this without admitting wrong doing and don’t make statements or promises you won’t back up for the online life cycle of the review (forever).

2. Respond with Prospects in Mind: The real purpose of your response is not to address the reviewer who gave the negative review. It is to reassure everyone who reads that negative review that this one bad review does not reflect what they can expect from your business.

Note facts when disputing false accusations (such as your business not being handicap compliant when in fact your building is or someone being denied service because of their looks when in fact they were denied service because they refused to comply with the “no shoes, no shirt, no service” sign at the front door) but stick to the facts and not your opinion of the facts or the review.

3. Get a Second Opinion: Who is the least emotional, most level headed person you know? If they are not emotionally invested in the review, that is who should review your response to receive honest feedback on whether or not your words are professional and effective or aggressive and antagonizing. We don’t want to start a fight! We want to show future reviewers that you believe in your business is not the one portrayed in the review and that they can trust you and not the reviewer.

Almost all local review sites give the owner a space to publicly respond to reviews. Google Places, Yahoo Local, Trip Advisor, Yelp, Insider Pages, Merchant Circle, and SuperPages all allow responses and most of these will allow owners to edit and delete reviews (except for Yelp which seems to stay in litigation about this very issue) so reach out to customer service on these sites and see what exactly they can do to help you with a negative review.


In PART 3 we address POSTING your response to negative reviews online.

In PART 4 we discuss how to COMBAT negative reviews.


How have you responded to a negative review? Let us know in the comments.



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