Whether you’re brand new to operating your business online or a multi-year veteran of your industry, it’s never a pleasant experience to receive a negative review from a customer. One of the most common responses to criticism of any kind is to become defensive, to want to push back and explain that you (in your opinion) have done nothing wrong. This is quite a natural response as our brains are wired to react to negative feedback as a kind of threat, so we naturally want to spring to our own defence.

However, in the professional sphere and the world of online reviews, pushing back against your customer and trying to defend against negative feedback is the exact opposite of what you should be doing! We’re here to help though and guide you in the right direction with four negative review response examples you can use as a starting point for a response whenever you receive negative feedback.

First though, it’s important to keep in mind that responding to negative feedback is wrapped up in your strategy for managing the overall customer experience. We’ve gone into more detail here on the steps you can take to manage the customer experience, but it’s important to bear in mind how useful negative feedback can be in helping to understand your customers.

Responding to negative feedback is a very public demonstration of the quality of your customer experience as your response will often be online for all to see via social media or online review sites. People will be able to see exactly how much value you place in your customers when something goes wrong.

So before we look at some negative review response examples, we’ve pulled together some general guidelines outlining how you should behave when responding that will help you improve the overall customer experience. (Not measuring your customer experience yet? Try Trustmary for free!)

Some dos and don’ts when responding to negative feedback

1. Never take negative feedback personally

Stay detached from the feedback and look at it objectively, separating yourself personally from the issue. This will allow you to see the problem without clouding your judgment on a solution. If negative feedback relates to a particular member of staff, keep them at arms length from any response, again, this is so you’re able to provide an objective response.

Where you have made a genuine mistake, it’s also helpful to be transparent and acknowledge it. Don’t see it as criticism but as an opportunity to learn.

2. Never argue with the customer and always apologize

Even if you don’t think you did anything wrong, or if it seems obvious to you at first glance that the customer is actually in the wrong, you should never argue back to them. You can’t second guess the experience the customer had, and not only can it be difficult to get the full facts of a situation from just a short review, it also looks very unprofessional to start a slanging match with your customers online.

You risk alienating other customers who will be watching your behaviour who may then decide you’re not the nicest of organizations to be dealing with and move swiftly on to one of your competitors.

Instead apologize straight away. This lets the customer know you’re willing to take their complaint seriously and gives you a chance to pull together all of the facts before providing a tailored solution to their problem.

Even if you find out later that the complaint wasn’t legitimate or was the result of trolling, at least you’ve done the professional and courteous thing and tried to help where you could.

3. Acknowledge the issue quickly

Responding to negative feedback can be a bit of a race against time given we’re in an increasingly technology reliant and fast paced world. A survey found that 78% of people who complained via social expected a response within just one hour and those complaining via other avenues usually expect a quick turnaround time of about 24-48 hours.

The consequences of ignoring negative feedback can be to give the impression that you simply don’t care or are just too busy to notice. Either way, your customers will take note and move on to a competitor who has better engagement with their customers.

4. Keep the response short then take it offline

You don’t want to go into too much detail in your initial response. Given the first response is often public in nature, either via social media or review aggregation sites, you don’t want to air all of the details for the whole world to see.

Once you’ve given your initial response (ideally using one of our negative review response examples below), guide the customer into other avenues for final resolution of their complaint. It’s going to be a very rare event when you can reach a satisfactory conclusion from that first response. Offer the customer the option of a direct message, email or phone call to follow up and investigate the complaint in more detail.

This also has the added bonus of adding a personal touch to your response, giving the customer the chance to chat with an actual human being instead of (what can often be perceived as) a faceless corporation.

5. Always personalize your response

Always address the customer by name and be varied in your responses. Customers can easily spot when you have a generic response that’s just cut and pasted from one complaint to the next.

So while we definitely recommend using one of our negative review response examples as a starting point, try not to copy them verbatim for every single complaint. Look at what the customer is saying and try and make reference to their specific issue.

6. Follow up with your customers after you’ve provided a solution

Try and stay in touch with the customer after you’ve resolved their complaint. Following up with them a couple of weeks after you’ve dealt with their complaint can add some additional impact to the original resolution. Customers often don’t even expect any response to their feedback at all, so it can often be a welcome surprise when someone checks in on them to see how they’re doing.

When done right, good follow up could lead the customer to end up actually promoting you online, championing you as an outstanding example of how to respond to complaints and negative feedback.

7. Keep the response targeted to the customer and cut certain phrases

Don’t use phrases like “I think” or “I feel” in your response. As we learned above, it’s impossible for you to know the exact experience the customer has just had so you can’t start giving opinions or making your own assumptions your response. Make it all about the customer and acknowledge they have an issue.

Four negative reviews response examples

1. Hi [Name],

Thank you for leaving your feedback, we strive incredibly hard here to make every customer experience enjoyable and we’re really sorry we’ve not been able to meet your expectations this time.

We’d love to resolve this as quickly as possible and find a solution that works for you. Please drop us a message directly via this email [email address] and we’d love to talk more!

[Name – optional]

2. Hi [Name],

I’m [Name], and I’m the head of customer service here. We’re ordinarily known for our exemplary customer experience here which is why I truly apologize for your recent experience with us.

We have your details and will be in touch as soon as possible to try and make things right. Although if it’s more convenient for you, please get in touch with me personally at [phone/email] and I’ll do my utmost to resolve your issues.

Sincerely

[Name}

3. Hi [Name],

Thank you for your review, all feedback is important to us and we’re sorry to hear you’ve had such a frustrating experience.

As you can hopefully see from our other reviews, your situation is the exception and far from our usual high standards. This makes us all the more keen to make sure this gets resolved and doesn’t happen again.

Drop our customer services team a message at [email/phone] to let them know all the details and we promise you we’ll tailor a satisfactory resolution for you.

Sincerely

[Name – optional]

4. Hi [Name],

Thanks so much for bringing this issue to our attention and please let me apologize for the unacceptable way in which you’ve been treated.

Keeping our customers happy is our number one priority and I’d like to ask you for another chance to retain your custom.

Please give me a call at [phone number] or we can reach out to you if you prefer at a time convenient for you.

Sincerely

[Name]

Final thoughts

Remember, these are just some samples to get you started. Each complaint is going to be slightly different depending on the circumstances, so you’ll have to make a judgement call on a case by case basis on exactly what to write. We’d also recommend not signing off your response with your company name, there’s a chance Google could pick this up and the complaint ends up in search engine results.

Amazingly, 72% of customers won’t take action on a product or service until they’ve read a review. If they see a long list of negative reviews with no responses at all, they’ll definitely start to lose trust. This is why it’s essential to respond to all of your negative feedback, every single one can potentially be retained, presents the opportunity to improve and your responses tell the world exactly how you treat your customers.