How to respond to a bad review
Getting reviews from customers is a part of doing business. And because no business is perfect, you might occasionally receive bad reviews.
But you can earn goodwill with customers and safeguard your reputation by responding to reviews, even when your business gets criticized. As a 2022 BrightLocal survey shows, 89% of consumers are either highly or fairly likely to use businesses that respond to all of their online reviews. If you’re wondering how to respond to a bad review professionally, you’ve come to the right place.
In this post, we’ll cover the following topics:
- The dos and don’ts of responding to bad reviews
- Different types of bad reviews
- How poor reviews affect your business
- Should you respond to negative reviews?
- How to respond to a bad review: 8 best practices
- 4 bad-review response templates
- How to address negative reviews on different platforms
- Frequently asked questions
The dos and don’ts of responding to bad reviews
There is no single right way to respond to customer reviews, but there are definitely wrong ways. You shouldn’t respond to customers in anger, attempt to remove real comments, or write a response to complaints without checking into what may have gone wrong on your end first.
Responding to bad reviews the right way requires a professional and strategic approach. Step back and take in their feedback before deciding on any action. When possible, show customers you’re listening by personalizing your response. This takes time, but it goes a much longer way than something that feels dismissive or skeptical.
Handling reviews poorly may affect your reputation. Customers have many purchasing choices at their fingertips. If they believe that you don’t care or don’t take feedback seriously when things go wrong, they may simply choose to take their business elsewhere.
Different types of bad reviews
There are many types of bad reviews, and each one may require a slightly different response strategy. Here are a few negative review types you may encounter:
Spam reviews can come from a variety of sources—typically either bots or a group of people who work together to damage a business. This could happen to any type of business, so you’ll want to know what to look out for. If you suspect that a review might be spam, start by exploring the reviewer’s account. Are you the only business they’ve reviewed? Have they left the same negative review across multiple businesses? Their past behavior can help you identify if the comments are credible. It’s also wise to monitor review volume. If you see an uptick of bad reviews during a short period of time, it’s worth giving the accounts a second look—especially if they’re communicating similar messages. And don’t worry, spam reviews can usually be removed for breaking platform guidelines.
Angry customer reviews
Customers who have a bad experience may turn to the internet or social media to share their thoughts. Sometimes, their comments are founded in a reasonable complaint. Other times, their expectations could not be met but the fault may not fall on your business. For example, if a customer was disappointed because their delivery order was delayed in a traffic jam, there may not be any action you can take to change that.
Some reviews aren’t unreasonable or angry. Sometimes, they come from a customer who sees opportunities for improvement. These reviews may highlight reasonable suggestions based on a customer’s experience and point to interest in your continued success.
Low star ratings may appear on some of your business profiles without any additional comments or context from the customer. These types of reviews can be difficult to respond to, especially if a customer chooses not to include any details about what went wrong.
Unhappy team members or employees who left your business on bad terms may comment publicly about their experience. Generally, these might surface on sites like Glassdoor or sites that your customers frequent more often, like Google, Tripadvisor, or Yelp.
Other businesses in your area may leave reviews about your business. Sometimes, this is not an act of support; it may be a strategy to discourage other patrons. This is another type of review that is against the guidelines of most online platforms, but you’ll usually need to provide proof.
How poor reviews affect your business
Negative reviews might sting a bit as you read them and might influence how customers perceive you, but perception is not where the impact stops. Research shows that negative reviews have noticeable and lasting effects on a business’s visibility and bottom line. This is why it’s particularly important to have an effective response strategy in place. By maintaining a healthy and honest line of communication with your customers, you have the potential to prevent the following negative consequences:
Reviews and rankings affect the algorithm for some search engines like Google. A Semrush study published in 2021 analyzed the tone of visible reviews in local SEO search results. Just 2% of analyzed quotes were negative. This shows that the algorithm tended to favor and surface reviews that describe a positive or acceptable experience with local businesses. Simply put, if your business has garnered a notable number of negative reviews, it may be less discoverable to prospective customers in organic searches.
Reduced customer retention
A study that Oracle published in partnership with Jeanne Bliss in 2019 shows that 43% of consumers have stopped supporting a brand because of a bad experience, so it’s likely that a customer leaving a negative review may not come back. Beyond that, negative reviews read by other existing customers could persuade those customers to leave. If they believe your business has gone downhill, they may choose to go with one of your competitors instead.
Limited new business
Poor reviews can also deter potential customers. BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey shows that only 3% of customers in 2021 said they would consider using a business with an average star rating of 2 or fewer stars. If your business doesn’t respond to and correct the causes of bad reviews, customers will take notice.
How to respond to a bad review: 8 best practices
1. Respond quickly
Speed of response is a big factor in earning favor with customers. According to a 2022 report by ReviewTrackers, more than half of consumers (53%) want a response to a negative review within one week of posting and one-third expect a response within 3 days.
2. Address the reviewer
Personalization shows customers that you’re taking the time to reply to each review individually. Include their name or username at the start of your response. Taking a few extra seconds to do this can make all the difference in the way a customer interprets your reply.
3. Reply with a professional message
Your response can be conversational, but it should still read as professional. This can be difficult if a customer’s review isn’t fair or accurate, but it is critical. Pay attention, choose your words carefully, and use proper grammar.
4. Be specific about the concern
Don’t just acknowledge the commentary. Include details about their unique concern in your response. If applicable, explain how you’ll address the problem. People who leave reviews don’t want copied-and-pasted answers. They want to know that you’ll take action.
5. Thank customers for their honesty
When a customer takes time out of their day to leave a review for your business, you need to acknowledge that. Explain that you value their commentary and willingness to share their thoughts. Showing your gratitude is always appreciated. It also shows potential customers that you take feedback seriously, even if it isn’t in the form of a 5-star review.
6. Apologize for their negative experience
Saying sorry to your customers is powerful. Just like in the rest of our lives, apologizing when something goes wrong can go a long way to restoring your reputation. Don’t overlook this step when you draft your replies.
7. Take responsibility for your part
Everyone makes mistakes. Own up to your role in the situation if it happened on your end. One of the greatest steps you can take to rebuild customer trust after a bad experience is to accept the part you might have played in the problem.
8. Offer to remedy the situation
Making it up to a customer for their bad experience by refunding their purchase or offering a discount on their next order might encourage them to give you another chance. Some platforms, like Uber Eats, will let you give a discount or offer through the platform. Once you share it, the platform will notify the customer by email and automatically apply the appeasement to their next order at your store. It’s important to note that platforms have rules and regulations around incentives like these. Read all the information that platforms provide about discounts, offers, and other incentives to make sure you're complying with their guidelines and any other applicable rule or regulation.
Tying it all together: 4 bad-review response examples
Not sure how to respond to a review your business received? Here are a few templates to help you reply to every customer professionally.
1. Thank customers for their feedback and extend an offer
Customers who leave constructive criticism are vital to the success of your business. After they share their frustration and you confirm the mistakes on your end, thank the customer and include an offer for them.
We understand your disappointment with [business], and we’re sorry that we dropped the ball on [order or experience details].
Thank you for pointing out this growth opportunity. We’re looking into ways we can prevent this from happening in the future.
To make this situation right and as a token of our appreciation, we’d like to offer you a discount on your next order. To redeem it, [details for accessing or redeeming a discount code].
Thank you, [Name]
2. Apologize and follow up
If something goes wrong that requires more than a simple reply, you may need to say sorry and plan to follow up with the customer to get more information.
We want to apologize for your experience with [business name]. We're sorry to hear that you weren’t satisfied with [description of the item/service/problem].
This isn’t in line with our standards, and we’d like to make things right. A discount on your next order will be automatically applied to your cart.
You can expect a [call/email/message] from [name/job title] soon so we can chat with you, get more details, and discuss how we can make things better for you and other customers.
Thank you, [Name]
3. Professionally point out inaccuracies
While you may be able to get a review removed because it’s inaccurate, sometimes the platforms have strict requirements or won’t approve your request. In that case, you’ll still want to connect with the customer and show you’re listening, while gently pointing out errors.
Our apologies for the negative experience you had with [business name].
According to your review, [describe customer’s issue]. Our records, however, show that [respectfully describe the inaccuracies with the customer’s complaint; for example: “your order arrived within the original delivery window we provided”]. Our reputation is extremely important to us, and we’re open to continuing the conversation about this. Please feel free to reach out to us directly at [contact details].
Thank you, [Name]
4. Show disgruntled employees you’re listening
If a former employee leaves a review recounting a negative workplace experience, it’s important to respond, and in a tone that isn’t combative. Prospective employees read reviews about potential companies to work for in the same way prospective customers read reviews about potential places they want to order from or visit.
I’m sorry to hear about the experience you had while employed at [business name].
Your comments about [employee treatment or incident] aren’t going unnoticed. Since you’ve brought this to our attention, we’ve [state the steps you’ve taken to address the problem] to prevent this from happening in the future.
We do appreciate all the work you put in while you were part of our team.
Thank you, [Name]
How to address negative reviews on various platforms
There are nuances to how you address negative reviews on certain platforms. Some allow you to dispute the review entirely or take it down. In other cases, you can only leave a response. Here’s an overview of review processes you might encounter.
Go to your profile and select Reviews. Find the review you’d like to respond to, and select Reply. You may only report reviews that violate Google policies. To report a review, navigate to the reviews section of your profile and select Flag as inappropriate. Google may take several days to evaluate or remove the review.
Open your business profile on Facebook and navigate to the More tab. Then select Reviews. Choose Write a reply to respond to a review. You may report a review if it contains content that’s against Facebook’s Community Standards.
To reply to a review on Yellow Pages, select the Customer feedback option. Click on the review you’d like to respond to, then reply. To remove a review, click on the flag icon. Yellow Pages will remove the review if it’s against their reviews guidance and policy.
This process will vary depending on the specific business directory. You may need to navigate to your profile or to a specific review to be able to respond. Look at the rules for the platform before you move forward with requesting removal. You may need to contact the owner of the directory to discuss your options.
According to Yelp, after you’ve claimed your business page, you can respond to your reviews with a public comment, direct message, or both. You can comment directly under the review you’d like to reply to.
You can only remove a Yelp review if it breaks the platform’s rules. You’ll also need to have evidence supporting your request for removal. To request removal, open a specific review and click on the flag icon. From there, select your reason for flagging the review and submit it. A Yelp moderator will review your request to remove the bad review.
After logging in to your account, click on the Reviews tab and select Respond to reviews. Choose the review you’d like to respond to by clicking on it. Once you craft your reply, click on Submit.
Tripadvisor will only remove reviews that violate its guidelines, are suspicious, or are posted in the wrong location. To request removal, log in and navigate to the Reviews tab. Then select Report a review, choose the reason for your report, and submit.
Uber Eats reviews cannot be deleted by businesses or by Support, but you do have the power to respond to any negative reviews. To do this, log in to your Uber Eats Manager and tap Reviews under the Feedback tab. Choose Reply on the review you’d like to respond to. You can also send an offer code along with your response. Once you complete your response, the customer will be notified.
Improve your response time and replies with Uber Eats
Bad reviews are inevitable, but the right tools and support can turn every review into an opportunity to strengthen customer relationships. Our customer communication tools let you connect with customers quickly and directly. With tools built right into the Uber Eats Manager dashboard, you can easily automate replies for customer reviews that match specific qualities, like star rating or minimum order size.
Looking for more information on how to better manage your business reviews? Take this self-guided lesson about building relationships with your customers on Uber Eats.
Frequently asked questions
- What leads to bad reviews?
Products or experiences of poor quality, customer service issues, or spam are the primary sources of bad reviews. When you sell a product or provide a service, customers expect it to match the quality that was advertised or promised. If they don't get what they were expecting or don't feel like they received good customer service, they're likely to leave negative reviews so that other people know what happened—or to get your attention.
Spam reviews may also happen, especially on popular online platforms or social media. Typically, these reviews are unprovoked and won’t require your attention unless you choose to report them.
- When shouldn't I delete negative reviews from customers?
Deleting negative reviews, especially non-spam reviews, has the potential to make your business look worse in the eyes of prospective customers. It invites scrutiny from other users because no business is perfect. Having only positive reviews may be seen as suspicious. Additionally, responding to negative reviews gives you an opportunity to gain favor with customers. You can reply directly to customers to show that you’re taking their comments seriously. Plus, you can build trust with potential customers who will be able to see how you manage things when they go wrong.
- How do I clean up bad reviews?
It depends. The rules around review removal vary from platform to platform. In most cases, if a review is accurate, you can’t remove it. However, if it’s inaccurate or breaks the platform's rules, you can flag it for possible removal.
If there are several negative reviews about one topic, such as poor customer service or item issues, consider how you may need to change operations. This can help you avoid new bad reviews and encourage new positive reviews to show up first when people search for your business.
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