How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Everyone loves receiving positive reviews commending us for outstanding service, but what do you do when your business gets a negative review? In this era of transparency and consumer empowerment, it can happen to even the best business. But there are proven ways to minimise the negative consequences, and even use bad reviews to help your business. Here are our top tips for dealing with negative reviews…

1) Don't Panic!

The moment you first become aware of a negative review is not the time to respond. Yes, you should respond and address their feedback quickly, but you need to make sure you're in the right mindset. For business owners, it's very easy to take any criticism personally as it can feel like a personal attack. Keep the review in perspective and don't take it to heart. Remember that it's only one person's experience and everyone understands that things can go wrong (even for the best businesses).

2) Respond Publicly

Even if you know the customer, responding publically is a great idea as it gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your business' values and showcase your concern for customers. You should comment on (or reply to) the review and apologise unconditionally, while still showing others the best sides of your business. Remember that potential customers will be reading your response and forming opinions based on what you do when things go wrong.

3) Be Gracious and Keep Your Cool

This can be tricky so take a deep breath and think carefully about what you're going to say. Even if the reviewer seems to be making unfounded claims, don't lash out, get personal or argue against their review. Remember, this is one of your paying customers! Instead, aim to;

  • Thank the reviewer for their feedback
  • Acknowledge their dissatisfaction (and anything you are doing to avoid the same situation from happening again)
  • Point out some of the positive aspects of your business
  • Invite them back (preferably encouraging them to contact you personally)

Most negative reviews offer constructive criticism, but occasionally you can strike someone on a rant: someone that seems to have an attitude problem, unreasonable expectations, illogical arguments, or is impossible to please. Don't stoop to their level – instead apologise, correct any factual errors, and invite them back.

4) Offer to Make Amends

While you can allude to this publically, we suggest that where possible, you contact the customer directly with some sort of offer to resolve their issue or compensate them for having a bad experience (whether you think their grievances are legitimate or not). This could be in the form of a refund, a free service / product, or some type of special treatment on their next visit. Unless the review has been submitted anonymously, you can send the reviewer a private message through the website. With proper handling, often an unhappy customer can turn out to become one of your most loyal fans. We know of lots of examples where, for a very small cost, a business has managed to turn a bad situation into a great one (and yes, the reviewers usually amend their review stating how happy they are with the business).

5) Take Feedback Onboard

No, the customer isn't always right, but if you get a similar complaint several times, chances are you should do something about it. If something's broken, you need to fix it! So get your head out of the sand and work out what it would take to address the problem. Is it staff training, a change to your marketing/communications, a new fit-out, an improved process, a different supplier, or what? Customer reviews are basically cheap market research so use them to your advantage.

6) Address Dubious Reviews

If you doubt that a review is from a real customer of yours, or believe it to be factually inaccurate, don't make this public as you'll only sound bitter. Instead, flag the review as "Inappropriate or Suspect". Explain the reason for your suspicions and WOMO will investigate by contacting the reviewer directly.

7) Encourage Other Reviews

The more positive reviews you have, the less impact each negative review has. Rather than let one negative review attract all the attention, ask some of your happy customers to share their experiences online (believe us, this really works!) You can mention WOMO directly to your customers, send them an email with a link to your WOMO listing, or if you join our Happy Customers Program, we'll send you as many "Review-this-Business Flyers" as you need. These explain that you're a business that cares about customer service and gives easy instructions on how to post a review. Once you have several good reviews, the odd negative review can actually add more weight and credibility to those positive reviews.

Sample responses to negative reviews:

"Thanks very much for your feedback. I'm very sorry to hear that you weren't completely happy with your experience with us. We pride ourselves on providing fair prices and would never recommend works that were not required. Whether an error was made on our part or some miscommunication, I'm not sure. I'd really like the opportunity to discuss this with you further so we can get to the bottom of it. Please contact me and I'll personally make sure that you're looked after. Regards, Bob"

"Thank you for taking the time to let us know about your experience. We strive to provide a really high level of service and especially pride ourselves on providing haircuts that suit each customer so I was devastated to hear that you weren't completely happy with your new hairstyle. I'd love you to give us a second chance, so please come back and give us another try. Dianne."

Sample private messages:

"Hi again, Further to my public comment, I know you feel let down by our service but I'd really like the opportunity to show you the kind of service we normally provide. We'd therefore like to invite you back for a complimentary full service anytime in the next 6 months (with this car or another). Please just mention this email when booking. I know you won't be disappointed! Look forward to hearing from you soon. Bob."

"Hi there, As I mentioned in my response online, I was very sorry to hear that you were disappointed in our service. I assure you that we strive to take utmost care to ensure new hairstyles are done to our customers' expectations – but for some reason this has obviously gone wrong in this instance. I'd really like the chance to rectify this and if you contact me directly, I'll book you in with one of our senior stylists for a free re-styling. Hope to hear from you soon, Dianne."


When you respond to negative review properly, it shows that you're a business that actually cares about your customers. Be genuine and personable and you'll soon see that most bad situations can be turned around to everyone's advantage.



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