Teach Businesses How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Every business is likely to receive the odd bad review — we just can’t all be on our game all the time. The important thing to teach small and medium businesses, SMBs, is that the review, and the response, are seen by a much larger audience than ever before.

People read reviews, and they’re reading them more than ever — 85% of consumers say they read online reviews for local businesses — up from 76% in 2012 (2013 Local Consumer Review Survey). Almost 70% of people read six reviews or less (the number of reviews people read is on the decline year over year), which means the most recent reviews (and responses) are the most heavily weighted.

Here’s an example of how not to respond to a negative review:

Bad Review Response

Here’s what businesses should do:

 good review response


5 Tips and Tricks for SMBs Responding to Negative Reviews


Take some time to respond. Not a lot of time, you want people to be able to rely on your quick response, but make sure you don’t react purely on emotion. If you are the business owner, it is hard not to take a bad review as a personal attack. While you want to ensure you don’t let your emotions take charge, it’s important to write with sincerity. Responders can make the situation worse by sounding sarcastic or disingenuous.

Be kind and genuine. While you are responding to one person, and your response should come across that way, remember that the audience is potentially much larger and far-reaching. Not only will other people who visit the review site see the response, but it’s possible those people could share the review and response with their own networks.

Be specific. If a customer mentions something in particular about the business, use that in your reply. Not only does this demonstrate that you are not a robot, but it makes the complainant feel heard and understood.

Remember that feedback and criticism can be helpful. This reviewer has taken the time to invest in the business in an attempt to make it better — thank them. Business owners are always looking for a way to understand the customer experience, and there is no better way than a review. The reviewer may have a relevant point about the business, so it’s important to consider the content without going on the defensive.

Offer to take the conversation private. You would never want to have a less than pleasant dialogue with an unhappy customer in your physical store with other customers around, so why would you do it in front of more watching eyes online? Offering a phone number and a way to connect privately ensures the reviewer that you want to fix the situation for them, not just for the digital audience. Also, if you decide to offer a free or discounted service to make up for the bad experience, it’s best not to do this in front of other customers and potential customers — that might encourage bad reviews to get free stuff.


Remember that the reviewer came into the business to give it a shot. If your clients respond using the tips and tricks above, it’s possible to turn a naysayer into a brand ambassador. People don’t need your business/brand to be perfect — they want to see how you engage with people.

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The comprehensive report analyzes over 100,000 SMBs across North America and covers online local listings, online reviews, social media marketing and website marketing trends across different industry verticals.


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About the Author

Nykea is the Director of Brand + Experience at Vendasta, where she leads the charge on brand storytelling and data driven marketing.

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