For all of the effort you may put into advertising, there's one valuable asset you cannot buy: positive reviews. Did you know that the average customer reads at least ten reviews before deciding to trust a business with their hard-earned money? Even one bad review can make potential customers hesitate or take their business elsewhere.

But sometimes, these reviews aren't always accurate. In fact, they can be downright misleading. And if you don't respond to them, you might miss out on valuable feedback from customers who love your establishment.

Take advantage of these tips to manage your online reputation and learn the right (and wrong) ways of responding to bad reviews. And remember: one negative review doesn't have to be the end of the world. Responding well can still cast your business in a positive light.


1. Answer Swiftly

A quick response is one of your best tools for damage control. The longer a negative review goes unanswered, the longer it signals that you don't care about customer experience. Both disgruntled and potential customers will feel wary about interacting with your business in the future.

Of course, this doesn't mean you should answer with the first off-the-cuff response that comes to mind--choose your words thoughtfully. More on that below.

2. Acknowledge the Feedback

One of the best ways to show customers their value is to make them feel heard. Although knowing that your company didn't reach a customer's standards may sting, negative feedback is invaluable in showing where you can improve. Apologize for any inconvenience caused and find a way to move forward. Finding the value in negative feedback strengthens your business and shows your customers that you're both responsive and caring.

3. Stay Respectful

Unfortunately, some reviewers can get downright nasty when leaving negative feedback. 99.9% of the time, that's more of a reflection on them than it is on your business. As tempting as it may be in the face of an inflammatory review, don't make it personal. With the permanence of screenshots and sharing, even a moment of unprofessionalism can haunt your company indefinitely. Take a deep breath before responding rashly, and respond to the review with the same courtesy you would like to be shown. At the end of the day, some people will be impossible to please. Stay polite, and trust that reasonable customers will see through the drama.

4. Customize Each Response

Have you ever gotten a canned email addressed to someone else? Cringeworthy, right? Run-of-the-mill responses do little to build respect for a brand. When replying to a customer that feels wronged, it's more important than ever to show them that you're putting energy and care into your response. Most of the time, customers don't leave a negative review just to complain--they want to positively impact the future. Show them that you're willing to do that by leaving a customized response. 

5. Act to Correct the Issue

After leaving an empathetic and customized response, it's time to back up your words with your actions. This way, you can respond to reviews with concrete examples of how you've taken the customer's words into account. This shows that your business is constantly evolving and improving.


1. Get Defensive

It's easy for emotions to get out of control in the online world. Unfortunately, people aren't always polite or tactful when leaving negative reviews. It never feels good when someone attacks your hard-built business, especially when you think the complaint is unsupported. Your first instinct might be to respond in anger, but a calm response will show that you are level-headed and professional. Take a moment, gather your thoughts, and respond as you see fit.

2. Ignore It

Out of sight, out of mind doesn't work in the case of negative reviews. Leaving a bad review unanswered may cause potential customers to think that you don't care about improving your business. Failing to address the issue will confirm the reviewer's negative experience. Even if you feel the claim is unfounded, it's best to present your side of the story and show current and future customers that you genuinely care.

3. Indulge Trolls

Unfortunately, trolls are just a part of the online landscape. No matter how polite your initial response, you may run into someone who just wants to pick a fight. Take the wind out of their sails by calmly stating your course of action and then asking them to contact you offline. When their audience is removed, trolls often move on to the next target.

4. Point Fingers at Staff

The quickest way to lose respect as a business owner is to refuse to take responsibility. Mistakes are bound to happen even with the hardest-working of employees. Making staff the scapegoat makes you look like an incompetent owner and shows your team and prospective customers that you have very little loyalty. 

Equip your employees with training on how to engage with upset customers or create a complaint policy. Your business won't last long without the support and goodwill of your employees. In a time where solidarity and transparency are highly valued, it's best to take a negative customer review and solve the problem internally. 


Positive outcomes can come from negative reviews. When you take these proactive steps to respond to a dissatisfied customer, you show that you're a company committed to growth. Be sure to apologize, empathize, and customize your responses. Doing so will reward you and your customers with more clarity and confidence in the future.

C51 is a full-service marketing company that keeps the consumer at the center of everything we do. Leave managing client relations and expectations to us. Contact us to unlock growth today.