10 Clever Ways to Respond to Negative Reviews

Every business has experienced the blunt end of negative reviews. Those who have gotten one know they can really sting. Although there are different types of “negative” reviews, many of them are intentionally snubbing your business. In some cases, you can’t even take them down!

There are a few things that employers can do once they see that negative review: they can choose to ignore the review or to respond. We recommend the latter. Although negative reviews can sometimes be a good thing, it’s more often viewed as a bad thing. Regardless, one of the best things that you can do for the reputation of your business is to RESPOND! How your business responds to those reviews will set the tone of your business to online shoppers. It also proves to your customers and search engines that you are committed to customer satisfaction.

The safest and most professional way to respond to a negative review is to apologize and offer a discount to make up for the problem. Although this technique often settles the fire, fast-food giants have made a name for themselves by responding to negative reviews with a witty comeback. In fact, this genius tactic has drawn more attention to those businesses and has generated even more revenue by doing so! You’ve seen Wendy’s Twitter account, right? You might also see this on Taco Bell’s social media, as well as Burger King and many others! Though, just because fast-food giants respond with humor does not mean that you also need to respond the same way.

Before you go out on a limb and respond with a snarky remark, think about how you want your business or brand to be viewed by the online community. Smaller businesses may have better luck showing more professionalism, unlike fast-food giants who earn more money through their quick-witted responses on social media. Regardless of the situation that you are in, you’ll need these tools to learn how to respond. Here are 10 clever ways you can respond to negative reviews.

  1. Acknowledge the issue 

One of the most widely known and accepted ways to respond to a negative review is to acknowledge the customer’s problem. This does not mean to interpret the problem the way you think it’s being presented. This means to really understand why the customer is upset and attempt to resolve the issue. An example of what you could say is: 

“ Thank you for letting us know about the issue” 

Acknowledging the issue will show the upset customer (and other prospective customers) that you care about what they have to say. It also shows your blatant professionalism and investment in great customer experience.

2. Apologize…even if you think the customer is wrong 

Acknowledging the issue and apologizing go hand in hand. You cannot apologize for what happened without acknowledging the issue. Whether the customer had a bad experience with your staff or they didn’t like your product, you should still apologize for the problem that occurred. You’d be surprised how effective a little sympathy can be. Not only does an apology appease the customer, but it also shows that you care about providing great service.

An example of this would be to say: 

“We apologize that our service did not exceed your expectations.” 


“We apologize for what happened. The service you received does not align with our standards or mission.”

3. Explain the problem

In some cases, you may want to provide additional information about the problem. Every business makes mistakes and sometimes things happen that are out of your control. Adding an explanation might help your customers gain some insight into what happened on your end which resulted in less than satisfactory service. An example of this might be:

“We apologize for the inconvenience. We experienced some technical difficulties with our system, which prevented you from making a purchase. As a result, we were unable to fulfill some orders.” 

Sometimes merely explaining what happened is enough to show customers and other online shoppers that you are taking responsibility for the issue and communicating the problem.

4. Offer Compensation

A bad review should motivate you to make things right, even if you think the customer is wrong. There is always a chance that the upset reviewer may never return to your business. According to statistics, returning customers spend three times more money at a business than first-time customers. For that reason, it is very important to get that customer to come back. You could start by giving the customer a discount for their next visit. You could also offer to give them their money back, a coupon code, free or discounted shipping, or priority scheduling for their next visit. You have the opportunity to take that extra step to keep a customer coming back. For example, you could say: 

“We apologize that we did not exceed your expectations. Allow us to make up for it by providing you with a 50% coupon for any size pizza, along with a free appetizer. Please contact me at (this email) or at (this phone number) to further discuss what happened and to make up for it by providing you with a coupon code.” 

5. Offer to discuss the matter offline 

Another way that you can solve the problem is by offering to discuss the problem offline. We used this tactic as an example in the previous paragraph. Suggesting to further discuss the issue in person or over a call will be much more efficient than attempting to discuss the problem online. This allows the customer to express their thoughts about the situation and allows you to resolve the problem quicker. Following an apology, you could say:

“I would be happy to discuss this problem with you further. Please reach out to me personally via phone or email at your earliest convenience at (this email) or (this phone number).” 


“I apologize that you did not have a great experience with us. Please email me at X@email.com to resolve this issue.” 

Be sure to provide your direct name, business title, and contact information. 

The first five responses are safe and professional options for businesses that are aiming to build a respected brand. As a business owner, you have an obligation to provide your customers with the best service possible. That’s why always responding with care and professionalism will help make your customers feel like you are invested in their experience. Earlier in this article, I mentioned fast-food giants who earn more money by responding to negative reviews with a witty comeback. 

You certainly don’t have to respond safely, but it would show the angry customer and other online shoppers that your business takes ownership of the problem and will take action to resolve it. You could choose to be more expressive with your responses as some fast-food chains have done.

6. Re-negotiate the complaint, with FACTS

Sometimes, the review you’re reading just isn’t true. It might even be a fake review from a person that has never been a customer. In a situation like this, you may feel like you can’t respond with an apology or offer compensation because your business did nothing to deserve that review. The “customer is always right” doesn’t ring true in all situations. That negative review could also greatly hurt your business’s reputation unless you respond and straighten things out. If your reviewer is making false claims, combat them with facts! One example of this would be a conversation between a restaurant owner and a customer. 

A Customer gave a 1 Star review..

“Had a carrot starter dish that must’ve had an entire pot of it and was inedible, second visit had a kale salad which was dry kale and nothing else. Not a nice experience, very disappointed.” 

Restaurant owner: 

“Hello, we are sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your visit. We will point out that both food dishes you describe do not resemble anything currently or historically on our menu. Thank you.”

As you can see, the customer made a false claim and the restaurant owner responded quickly and politely with the facts. 

7. Set the tone! Turn a negative response into a positive response

As a business, you have an opportunity to steer an online conversation in a positive direction. Instead of replying to that review with anger or intent, approach the situation with a lighthearted spirit! Who says you can’t laugh at your mistakes? Use those negative reviews as a chance to own up to your mistake and laugh about it with your audience! This is also a great way to show your audience that your brand is true and authentic. There are many ways that you can do this, though your approach depends on your personality!

8. Show that you’re passionate about your business 

Think about something that a customer could say about your business that would strike a nerve. Let’s say that a customer wrote a negative review about that one thing that would bother you the most. How would you feel? You would feel pretty fired up, right? Due to the nature of the problem, your response would probably evoke some major emotion, passion, and thought.

This is what a Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis thought when they received a complaint that their restaurant had “too many gay people”. The restaurant owner’s response was clearly passionate and unapologetic in their beliefs. 

The Minneapolis Hell’s Kitchen staff owner decided to put out the fire by saying:

“We’re writing in response to a review you posted on Yelp a few minutes ago. It simply said “ too many gay people… 

We ask that you not return to Hell’s Kitchen again. All of us who work here, whether straight or gay, view Hell’s Kitchen as our home. We open our doors each morning and do our best to make every person kind enough to dine with us feel as if it is their home too. We do our best to make every guest feel welcome. We do our best to create an environment that gives them a chance to enjoy the company of their friends. We do our best to create an environment that is blind to any form of prejudice and we do our best to create an environment that is safe. These aren’t “business goals”… they’re just naturally in the DNA of every one of the 166 members of our Hell’s Kitchen family. 

While you’re certainly free to post any comment you want about us, we’re equally free to say you cannot enter our home again. 


Cyn, Pat and the staff at Hell’s Kitchen” 

Showing some passion for your beliefs may speak to potential customers who feel the same way!

9. Be Authentic- Don’t try to fit the mold of another brand

Customers would much rather know that they are talking to a human being rather than a bot! Think about it. Let’s say that you wrote a negative review about a business and you later saw the response was some generic and impersonal attempt to “right the wrongs”. How would that make you feel? It would make you feel like the brand just responded to you to show other online shoppers that they look at their reviews. Regardless of whether or not they respond, they did not actually fix anything. Be a bona fide conversationalist!

One of the most important things that you can do for your business is to be authentic! Part of that requirement is to decide how you want your business to be viewed by the public. Do your best to make sure that your responses do not seem like you’re trying to market your business or try to sell them something. You’ll be much better off by being authentic. Use your response as an opportunity to show your real authentic, genuine brand.

10. Stake your ground and exact vengeance 

Although getting “revenge” on somebody is never the answer, it can prove beneficial in extreme situations (at least it did for one restaurant owner). We recently released an article that explained how negative reviews can sometimes be a good thing. If they are not handled properly, they can also be very damaging to your brand reputation. 

Depending on your business brand and reputation, it might be worth your while to tell a customer that he or she is wrong! It worked for this specific restaurant owner. 

A customer left a 1-star review of Vito’s Italian Restaurant and said: 

“ Went here on a date, for starters was served raw garlic bread that fell to pieces as you picked it up, tasted discusting, for the main we had two freezing cold steaks with sauce on top that turned into skin. The veg that came with it was so raw that it nearly broke my teeth. Vito does not have any idea how to cook! How this place is still open, I have no idea! It probably is the worst but most expensive place to eat in Sheffield. Warning to all don’t go there”. 

The business owner recognized the review was written by the same guest who “dined and dashed” in his restaurant earlier that year. He decided to seek revenge in his review by destroying the guest’s credibility. The restaurant owner replied: 

“You fail to mention that after eating all of your meal you subsequently did a “runner” and did not pay for the food you ate. Luckily, your antics were captured by my CCTV system. I would, therefore, invite anyone reading this review to take a look at my restaurant page (Facebook) and view the CCTV footage to witness your disgraceful behavior. You simply came for a meal at my restaurant when you knew from the word off you had no intentions of paying. After finishing your meal, you did not complain about anything. You merely said you were popping outside for a cigarette (as some customers do). However, you then decided along with your delightful “date” (the one hiding behind the skip on the CCTV camera footage) that you would not pay the bill – what a nice way to impress a woman!” 

The kicker in this response is that the restaurant owner not only proved the reviewer wrong, but he invited others reading the review to check out a video of the guest’s behavior. We don’t recommend trying to prove the reviewer wrong or to get revenge in some way. In an extreme case like this one, those otherwise “frowned upon” responses might help you at least discredit the reviewer. As a victim of two different dine and dash instances, the business owner might have had a right to call the guest out for his behavior! 

Before you respond to that negative review, decide how you want your business to be seen by the public. Responding to the review is the first step in maintaining the reputation of your business and keeping those customers coming back! The review you received might be unfair or it may be well deserved. Regardless of what was said, choose your words wisely. 

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