by Marketing Department December 4, 2017

How to Respond to Negative Customer Reviews

Last Updated: March 1, 2021

You may be familiar with that sinking feeling in your stomach when a one-star review rolls in. Do you waste time arguing with customers over negative feedback while simultaneously hyperventilating into a paper bag? Fret not—here are five steps to handle negative reviews and actually strengthen your company in the long run.

Step 1: Take a Deep Breath

Before you do anything, pause and take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay. Your company will actually benefit when you take a moment to cool off so you can respond with a clear head.

Step 2: Determine Why Your Customer is Upset

Get clear on why the customer is displeased, and honestly ask yourself and your team if it’s something the company should work on.

There are three main reasons a customer has a negative experience with a business:

  1. Your business is not the right fit for the customer
  2. Your business did not deliver
  3. The customer is having a bad day

If your business is not right for that customer, you’ll never meet their expectations of service. Moving forward, make sure to clearly communicate who you are and what products or services you provide to avoid confusing potential clients.

The second reason is the most difficult to address. Take an honest inventory of the customer’s feedback and where you may have slipped up. Did your business underperform and fail to deliver a positive experience to your customer? Perhaps an employee made a mistake, or maybe there’s a larger systemic issue at play.

Lastly, you have no control over your customers’ moods or lives. If a customer reacts strongly and negatively to their experience with you and you find very little fault at your end, don’t take it personally.

Just remember that if your customer reacts volatilely to an actual mistake your company made, then that mistake is still your responsibility. However, you get to choose whether or not unkind words affect the morale of your team.

Step 3: Claim Responsibility for the Issue

If your customer highlighted a mistake or a valid problem within your company, own it. Be clear on what you could have done better so you can fully address your customer’s complaint. Also, start thinking about what you’ve learned from their feedback and how you can improve.

If you’ve looked honestly at the issue and don’t think you’re at fault, great. No need to get defensive or upset at the customer—people make mistakes. Just move on to the next step.

Step 4: Respond and Resolve

Now that you’ve taken an honest, hard look at the issue, it’s time to respond to your customer’s review. Make sure to respond within seven days, and preferably sooner.

If you know you messed up, apologize for not providing the amazing customer experience your company prides itself on.

Connect with your customer and where they’re coming from so you can give an empathetic and genuine response. Listen—don’t just respond in a way you think will look good. There’s another person behind that review—a person who feels like they missed out on fully receiving what your company has to offer. Tell them exactly how you’re going to turn their negative customer experience into a positive one, and follow through with delivering on your promise as soon as possible.

If your customer’s frustration seems out of proportion or misplaced, don’t debate the details or get defensive. Apologize for their unsatisfactory experience, offer them some form of compensation if it feels appropriate, and move on. It looks a lot classier when you diffuse a negative review with kindness and accommodation instead of responding defensively.

Gary Vaynerchuk often takes a direct and sincere approach when handling criticism and negative reviews, as seen in this Amazon review of one of his books.

How to Respond to Negative Customer Reviews

He doesn’t deny the reviewer’s claims or defend himself. He gives a heartfelt apology then quickly moves on to a solution.

When reviewers are particularly inflammatory or combative, it’s often best not to engage at all. There’s no benefit in getting drawn into a public discussion with someone who’s just looking to cause drama. Don’t feed the trolls, as the kids say.

Step 5: Improve

You’ve taken the time to identify the issue and to make it right with your customer. What changes need to be made to solve this issue from here on out?

Maybe it’s a simple conversation with an employee who made an error. What can they do to prevent it from happening again, and how can you support them in that process? If there’s a larger issue at play, take steps to resolve the issue and be consistent in your efforts.

In a recent positive review, our customer gave us some helpful constructive feedback. After thanking the customer, we scheduled a meeting with the appropriate departments to work on the issue they brought to our attention.

How to Respond to Negative Customer Reviews


Remember, no one is perfect. How you handle your mistakes will set you apart in the minds of your customers, so use a negative review as an opportunity to shine and show your willingness to improve. Your customers will love you more for it.

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