| May 8, 2023 | | 12 min read

Master the art of responding to negative reviews (with examples and templates)


Online reviews are critical to the success of a local business's reputation, and to providing excellent customer service. Over 93% of consumers say online business reviews will impact their purchasing decisions, and that the minimum rating they'll engage with is 3.3 stars (Podium).

Get FREE templates for responding to online reviews and give a boost to the online presence of any brand today.

How does a business respond online to negative customer reviews anyway? Do positive online reviews need to be responded to at all? How do you respond to a negative online review? All these questions and more are covered here so you can leverage your online reputation to grow your business.

How to respond to online reviews [Video]

Responding to positive and negative reviews well is another critical piece in not only building a positive online presence but also in encouraging other consumers to leave their feedback and engage with your business.

This three-minute introduction video will offer some ideas for managing reviews online, both good and bad, and earning more business in the process.

By following these guidelines, you'll too be able to take charge of those reviews that a whopping 73 percent of consumers form their opinion on and earn more business in the process (BrightLocal).

Regardless of where the review is—be it Google, Yelp, Facebook, Bing, Foursquare, Amazon or a top directory—you can capitalize on a good review, and minimize the damage of a bad review. Let's see how!

Why respond to negative reviews?

Unfortunately, you can't just ignore a bad review until it goes away.  In fact, ignoring an unpleasant review can make things worse.


  • You're not just replying to just one reviewer. You're speaking to everyone who reads this review, including potential future customers.
  • Replying is your opportunity to make things right. If a customer brought a complaint to you in person, you would try to make it right. The same goes for online reviews—despite the impersonal nature of online reviews, it's not over just yet. You can turn this thing around!
  • Replying shows other readers you are not shady or neglectful to feedback, and have taken steps to ensure this problem won't happen to the next customer.

The best thing to do when you receive a bad review is to react quickly and strategically. Here's how every business owner should respond to negative reviews, and make the most out of a less-than-pleasant situation.

How to respond to negative reviews in 4 steps

Step 1: Apologize and sympathize with your customer.

Acknowledge the customer's concerns. Even if they are unfounded, show sympathy that they had a bad experience. “I'm sorry to hear about your bad experience.” Often when a customer is reaching out to post a negative review it's because they didn't reach the outcome they were hoping for when they first began their relationship with the business.

Whether the customer found a hair in their spaghetti, experienced a bad interaction with a staff member or reality didn't quite match up with the marketing images they browsed in advance online. It's your job as a responder to acknowledge that something did not go well, and you are jumping in to help resolve their issues.

Step 2: Insert a little marketing in your response to the negative review.

Explain what your customers usually experience. “We're normally known for our exceptional attention to detail, and we regret that we missed the mark.”

Not only will this signal to other consumers who may read the review, that the poster's experience is out of the norm, this type of response could create an opening to bring that dissatisfied customer back and have them experience what it's like to interact with the brand on a more positive note.

Step 3: Move the conversation offline.

Provide contact info to someone at the business so they can discuss the problem in person. “My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you'd like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number/email].”

By moving the resolution offline, and out of the public eye you can reach a resolution privately without all the business's dirty laundry being aired out publicly for all to read.

You will also have the opportunity once the complaint is resolved to ask that the customer remove the negative review altogether. By requesting the negative review responses to be removed, you improve your overall review score and eliminate the chance that a new potential customer will come across the remarks and decide not to purchase with the business because of it.

Step 4: Keep your response simple, short, and sweet.

When responding to a bad review don't go into too much detail or ask any questions. This will prevent saying something that might cause the upset customer to add more negative feedback by replying to the bad customer review. Three sentences for your whole reply is a good rule of thumb.

Negative review response examples

The best thing you can hope for when responding to negative reviews is to have that unhappy consumer revise their initial review when their complaint is dealt with.

Here, this dealership is handling this scathing review in the best way possible.


Below, a customer updated his review to four stars after the general manager/sales manager contacted him and resolved the problem.


That just goes to show that you should never ignore any reviews—as each one presents a possibility for not only some good brand marketing, but also an opportunity for receiving more positive feedback after the customer's issues are resolved!

Negative review response examples across different industries

Now, let's explore some tactics you can use to respond quickly to reviews in specific sectors.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews in the Fitness Industry

Fitness Negative review example

In this example, the respondent acknowledges the inconvenience to the client and efforts to move the conversation with the customer offline to resolve their negative impression of the business.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews in the Financial Industry

Financial Negative review example

The respondent does a great job of highlighting how the financial institution typically handles business in a professional and timely manner, they apologize to the client and offer to take the conversation offline to resolve the issue.

The respondent avoids using the business name or any keywords to make the review less likely to appear in a search for those terms.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews in the Legal Industry

Legal Negative review example

This detailed response for a law firm covers all the basic steps. The respondent highlights how the firm typically operates, they apologize and move to make take the conversation offline, thanking the reviewer for their feedback.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews in the Hospitality Industry

Hospitality negative review example

The respondent highlights their typical level of service and offers to follow up offline with the guest to find out more about their recent stay.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews for a Car Dealership

Dealership Negative review example

The respondent to this review for a car dealership takes great care to apologize for the reviewer's recent experience and they provide an example of the typical level of care for customer experience.

The respondent provides contact info to move the resolution offline and avoids using any keywords that could cause negative reviews to appear in search results for the dealership.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews for the Insurance Industry

Insurance Negative review example

This is a great example of how you can respond to a bad star rating with no detailed description of where the customer's experience went wrong. You can thank the customer for taking the time to leave a review and have them reach out to the business so they can find out more about what went wrong and effort to resolve it.

If the business is able to reach a resolution with the reviewer you can even request that they remove the bad star rating.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews for the Medical Industry (Doctors, Dentists, etc.)

It can be a sensitive topic when you're dealing with a negative review about someone's healthcare. The respondent in this example keeps the response concise while still apologizing and asking the negative reviewer to get in touch with them directly.

Negative review response templates you can use

As we covered, responding to all of your online reviews and customer feedback is important for your business. It's time to take charge of your business's online reputation by skillfully responding to your negative reviews. While it may be time-consuming, it's worth it. Plus, with the right tactics and steps, it can be easily done at scale.

Here's just a sample of a few negative review response templates you can use for some common instances your clients may come across with their various review sites and platforms.

When you are responsible for the problem:

Dear [Reviewer Name],

We sincerely apologize for the issue you experienced with our [product/service]. At [Business Name], we aim to provide our customers with the best possible experience, but it seems like we clearly fell short.

We take your concerns seriously and would love to make things right. Please reach out to us at [Business's contact info], so we can find a way to resolve the matter as best as we can.

Thank you for your feedback and for bringing this to our attention. We're hopeful we can make things right and improve our services.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

When the problem is not your fault:

Dear [Reviewer Name],

Thanks for taking the time to provide valuable feedback, on your most recent experience with our [product/service]. We're sorry to hear things fell short of your expectations, but we also want to clarify that the issue you described is not within our control. This is due to [Explain why the issue is not your responsibility but don't shift the blame.]

However, we still appreciate your feedback and hope to provide you with a more positive experience in the near future. Please don't hesitate to contact us for any other questions or concerns.


[Your Name]

When the review is fake or malicious:

Dear [Reviewer Name],

We're sorry to hear you had a negative experience with our [product/service]. However, we have reason to believe that your review is fake or malicious. [Explain why you think the review is not genuine, e.g. suspicious activity on the account, no record of the reviewer in your customer database.]

We're more than happy to address any genuine concerns or issues you may have, but we only engage in dialogue that prompts the opportunity to rectify any negative experiences or improve our services.

Thank you for understanding.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

When the review is vague or unclear:

Dear [Reviewer Name],

Thank you for leaving us feedback on our [product/service]. We're sorry to hear you didn't have a positive experience, but based on the review you've written, we're a bit unclear about the issue at hand.

Please provide us with more information about what went wrong, and we'd be more than happy to see if there's anything we can do to make things right with you. We value your business and want to ensure you have the best possible experience with us.

Please don't hesitate to contact us at [Business's contact info] for any further feedback or concerns.


[Your Name]

When the review is about a specific employee:

Dear [Reviewer Name],

Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback with us. We're sorry to hear that you had a negative experience with [employee name], and want to assure you we take all complaints seriously—especially regarding employee conduct.

Please know that we will investigate the matter thoroughly and take the appropriate actions to address any issues that may have contributed to your negative experience.

If you have other feedback or concerns in the meantime, please contact us at [Business's contact info].

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Start offering reputation management to your clients

Offering review management to local businesses is also a great way to help your local businesses succeed online, and a great way to get into the marketing services game. We've made it easy for you to start helping businesses respond to their online reviews by providing these review response templates.

If you want to take the next step in offering reputation and review management services, be sure to check out our Reputation Management Software —a white-label reputation tool you can rebrand and sell to local businesses to empower them to take control of their online presence! Here are a few reasons why you should get started:

  1. Client-facing Reputation App: Vendasta's reputation management tool provides a client-facing app that allows your clients to monitor and manage their online reputation. This feature helps clients to stay informed about their online reputation and take necessary actions to improve it.
  2. White-label Reputation Management Software: Vendasta's reputation management tool is a white-label software that can be customized and branded with the agency's logo and colors. This feature provides a personalized experience to your clients and helps them build their brand.
  3. Review Monitoring and Management: You can easily monitor and manage every aspect of a local business' online reputation. Vendasta's review monitoring and management features help you to stay on top of your client's online reputation and respond to reviews in a timely and professional manner.
  4. AI-generated Responses: Vendasta's reputation management tool leverages AI-generated responses to reply to more reviews in less time. This feature helps agencies to save time and respond to reviews more efficiently.
  5. Sales Intelligence Tools: You can easily leverage the sales intelligence tools in Reputation Management to identify new opportunities and grow your client's business. This feature helps to increase their revenue and expand your client base.

Frequently asked questions

How do you prevent negative reviews in the first place?

Preventing negative reviews starts with providing excellent customer service and a high-quality product or service. Your business should also encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews and address any issues or concerns proactively before they have the chance to leave negative reviews.

What should I avoid when responding to negative reviews?

While responding to negative reviews, keep your response professional and empathetic while avoiding getting defensive, making excuses, or attacking the reviewer. Your primary focus should be finding a solution to the issue raised by the customer.

About the Author

Filled to the brim with talent, Vendasta's Marketing Team is always looking for ways to create thought-provoking content, eye-catching media and data reports that can help you sell digital solutions to local businesses.

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