Responding to Bad Reviews: The Dos and Don’ts

In the wild world of online reviews, we get it—a single not-so-good comment can really put a damper on even the best of us. But don’t worry, because we’ve got your back!

Join us as we explore the ins and outs of responding to bad reviews and ways of turning them into opportunities for growth.

The Power of a Thoughtful Response

Let’s kick things off by talking about the magic of a well-thought-out reply. Bad reviews really sting, but a carefully crafted response can help turn things around for the better. People truly value honesty and transparency.

When you choose to try to make things right for a disgruntled customer, you have the opportunity to rebuild the relationship and showcase publicly to potential customers that you care and value their business. 

Crafting the Perfect Response

How can you do this for yourself? We have compiled a list of important things to keep in mind before you start responding to bad reviews:

  1. Say No to Stock Replies and Yes to Personalization: Show them you care with a response that’s as unique as your business.
  2. Thank Them for the Review: A little gratitude goes a long way in building bridges.
  3. Respond ASAP—The Sooner, the Better: Speedy replies show you’re on the ball and ready to make things right. Make an effort to respond to bad reviews within an hour of receiving it.
  4. Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes: Seeing the situation from their perspective helps them feel validated—let them know you’re listening and there to help.
  5. Apologize Effectively Without Taking the Blame: It is perfectly okay to apologize for a mistake you made, but never take the blame for things that aren’t your fault or are outside of your control.
  6. Offer Solutions and Show Proactivity: Prove you’re not just all talk—suggest fixes and show you’re committed to improvement.

The Dos and Don’ts of Responding to Bad Reviews


Acknowledge the Issue

Don’t put things off and avoid the problem; let your customers know you’ve heard their concerns loud and clear.

Keep it Professional

Stay level-headed when writing your response, even if the review’s got you seeing red. If you are struggling with this, it’s ok to take a moment, walk away, and reassess your approach once you’re more calm. Trust us, it’s worth it.

Take Things Offline 

Some things are better discussed privately, such as account details and other sensitive customer information. To avoid public escalations and to protect your customers’ private information, invite them to connect with you over a phone call or via email.


Ignore or Delete

Deleting a bad review is like sweeping dust under the rug—not a good look. Believe it or not, it is better to have a few bad reviews than none at all. With all the fake businesses popping up on places like Instagram and TikTok with hundreds of illegitimate 5-star reviews, buyers are weary about who they should trust (NBC Chicago). Make the answer easy for them by owning up to your flaws and keeping bad reviews public.

When you see a bad review, don’t delete or ignore it; instead, do the right thing and reply with a thoughtful and professional response.

Emotional Responses 

We’ve all been there, but keep it cool when representing your business online. It is a lot easier to deliver a clear and professional response when you’re feeling more level-headed. When in doubt, ask a team member or business partner for their opinion on your first draft to make sure you are coming across in a way that best reflects your brand.

Generic Apologies 

We’ve all seen it before, you check out the comments about a product, and every bad review is met with the same copy and pasted response. It feels ingenuine and makes the business look like they don’t really care. That’s why you need to keep things personal if you want to win back the hearts of your unhappy customers.

Proactive Reputation Management

Alright, let’s talk about going on the offense with your reputation. Proactive Reputation Management is like having a protective umbrella over your business on a dreary day.

When negative comments start to rain down on you, your large collection of positive feedback is there to soften the blows and back up your integrity. Here’s a game plan for a strong proactive reputation management strategy:

1. Encourage Positive Reviews

Why: Positive feedback is your best protection from bad reviews. They boost your credibility and drown out the negativity.

How: Politely ask satisfied customers to share their experience, either through email, text message, or in person, when they visit your establishment. Consider incentives like discounts or exclusive offers to sweeten the deal to get them clicking.

2. Use the Good to Counter the Bad

Why: Ever heard of fighting fire with fire? Well, in this case, it’s fighting bad reviews with good ones to maintain your business’s online star power.

How: When you get a shining review, showcase it! Post your positive feedback on social media, embed it on your website, and link these great reviews to Google to make sure every potential customer knows about the positive experiences others have had doing business with you.

3. Monitor and Address Common Complaints

Why: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Identifying patterns can help you fix issues before they become recurring problems.

How: Regularly monitor reviews and look for common themes, phrases, or keywords. If you spot a trend, take action to address the root cause before things can get worse. 

Don’t be afraid to let people know you are working on a fix, and update your community once a solution has been found. People feel empowered when they know their feedback was taken into consideration and are more inclined to do business with you again.

Training Your Team for Effective Responses to Bad Reviews

Your team is the heart and soul of your business, and turning them into reputation rockstars is the key to a stronger online reputation. Here’s how to make it happen:

1. Ongoing Customer Service Training

Why: Your team is on the front lines of every customer interaction. Equip them with the skills to handle it like pros and be your strongest asset in brand advocacy.

How: Regularly provide training sessions on effective communication, conflict resolution, and customer-centric practices. There are many great online resources available to you and your team.

2. Create a Playbook for Review Responses

Why: Consistency is key. Having a playbook ensures that every response aligns with your brand voice and values.

How: Develop guidelines for responding to different types of reviews, be it good, bad, or neutral. Not quite sure what those responses should look like? Research real-life examples for inspiration.

3. Companies with Well-Prepared Customer Support Teams

It’s always a good idea to learn from the success stories of others. Here’s an example of a business that turned negative situations into positive outcomes through effective team responses:

Reputation Management Pro: Chewy

Chewy, the online pet supply store, really knows how to handle things when customers are going through a tough time, especially when they’ve lost a furry friend. They step up and show some real empathy, making their reputation management strategy stand out in a good way.

Take this one situation featured in a People Magazine article. A customer had to cancel their auto-shipment of pet food because their beloved pet, Zeo, had passed away. Now, instead of just handling the cancellation, the Chewy rep took the time to let the customer share memories of Zeo.

What’s even more heartwarming is that Chewy goes the extra mile by sending handwritten cards and flowers to folks who’ve lost a pet. It’s not just about making cancellations and refunds easy; it’s about being there with kindness during a tough time.

Realizing the Positive Side of Negative Feedback

Negative feedback can be hard to swallow at times, but it’s also a goldmine of opportunities. Let’s flip the script on criticism and see it for what it really is:

1. Using Criticism for Continuous Improvement and Growth

Why: Criticism can oftentimes be feedback in disguise. Embrace it, and you’ll find areas for improvement you might have overlooked.

How: Analyze negative comments for constructive insights. Use them as a roadmap for making meaningful changes. For example, if you notice people mentioning that the services page or pricing is hard to understand, take the time to clean things up to make the customer experience more enjoyable.

2. Transforming Unhappy Customers into Loyal Advocates

Why: Believe it or not, a customer who is passionate enough to leave detailed feedback about their experience might also be willing to give your business a second chance. Going the extra mile to fix your customer’s problems can turn them into your biggest fans.

How: Respond promptly, apologize sincerely, and offer clear solutions with an expected turnaround time. Be transparent, compassionate, and professional, and your once-unhappy customer may soon be singing your praises.

As the world of online reviews keeps evolving, so does your chance to shine. Responding to bad reviews isn’t just damage control—it’s your chance to build a brand that bounces back stronger.

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