Today, most consumers need to see a healthy average star rating and a few of your most recent reviews to be convinced of a company’s credibility. In fact, 88% of consumers form an opinion by reading 1-10 reviews. With that said, it’s incredibly important to ensure you have positive reviews and a lot of them. This helps increase your average star rating and decrease the odds of potential customers fixating on a single negative review.

But, it’s not always that simple. Negative reviews are, at times, inevitable. Every day, businesses that don’t deserve negative reviews, receive them. Sure, there are businesses that deserve negative reviews, and there are times when companies with good intentions slip.

If and when your company comes to that point, it’s crucial to know when those reviews surface and how to properly respond. That’s why we’ve put together a 5-minute, 3 step guide to responding to negative reviews.

Step #1: Know when a negative review goes live

This step may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses aren’t aware of new reviews they receive, or aware that they have any reviews, at all.

Also, it’s important to know when these reviews go live so that you can respond and alter your business processes to ensure the mistake doesn’t happen again.

The easiest way to ensure you’re aware of new reviews when they go live, is to employ an online review management platform. For example, Podium (our review platform), aggregates reviews in real-time from sites across the internet, making you aware the second a new review goes live.

This is, undisputedly, the first step in combating and responding to negative reviews. Afterall, if you don’t know the negative review exists, how can you respond?

Step #2: Respond to the negative review as fast as you possibly can

Now that you’re aware of the negative review, let’s discuss how you should carefully craft a response to that, and any other negative review you might receive.

First and foremost, it’s important to ensure that the person responding from your business is disconnected from the situation of that particular negative review. For example, if it’s a negative review regarding one of your salespeople, that particular sales person should not respond to the review.

We suggest this because the response you craft to any given negative review should be cool-headed and collected. When someone with an emotional investment to the situation responses, the response will generally come off as defensive. Also, important to note, we know that not every business is in a position where someone disconnected from the situation can respond. If this is the case for your business, respond as calm and collected as possible (here are a few calming techniques).

Next, follow these few steps:

  • Apologize (“We’re sorry to hear…”)
  • Approach the review with a calm and collected response (cushioned-defense)
  • Offer a proactive way to right their wrong (“We’d like to do what we can to change that”)
  • Ask to continue the conversation privately. (“Please contact our Customer Service Manager…”)

That should yield a response similar to this one:

“We’re so sorry to hear that your experience was a negative one. We’d like to do what we can to right any wrong. Please contact our Customer Service Manager so we can resolve your issues. We’ll also reach out to you in the next day or two to discuss how we can resolve your issue.”

Make sure you get a response, similar to this one, posted as quickly as possible. This will decrease the time the negative review, for all to see, sits without a response.

Last of all, respond to every single negative review in a calm, collective tone. This goes for every single negative review, even if you feel that the negative review isn’t truly representative.

Step #3: Rinse and repeat – learn from that negative review

Step #3 is one of the most valuable, long-term steps you can follow. It’s the step that provides valuable insights into your business and allows you to make data-driven decisions about your business’ processes.

This step can also be applied to positive reviews as well as negative reviews.

We call this step the Customer Experience Feedback Loop and it’s a process that has the potential to transform your business like it has for hundreds of our customers.


customer feedback loop for reviews.

The process is simple, really.

  1. The transaction takes place and an online review is left for the business.
  2. The business takes note of the online review (positive or negative) and responds if needed.
  3. If the online review is positive, the business reinforces existing processes or performs optimization. If the online review is negative, the business alters existing processes to improve customer experience.

From that point, the Customer Experience Feedback Loop continues to provide insights and the business owner continues to alter or optimize processes.

Many savvy business owners take heed to the Customer Experience Feedback Loop due to the inexpensive alternative to paying tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for Net promoter score (NPS) or survey software that provides constrained and static data. Also, those same surveys tend to bring decision makers dated information since the business doesn’t get to the data for weeks or months after the incident.

So, kill two birds with one stone (pardon the idiom) and increase your online presence while gathering inexpensive data that can be invaluable to your business.

Conclusion on responding to negative reviews

Responding to negative reviews is one of the most important things your business can do when it comes to your online reputation. In fact, many potential customers can change their mind after reading a response to a negative review.

Follow the steps, stay calm and collected, and improve your business based on the feedback your business gets from both positive and negative reviews.

If you have any other questions, get your eBook: Negative Reviews–A how-to guide for turning a negative into a positive

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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