Responding to Negative Reviews

Online complaints can hurt your business. Negative ratings and reviews may turn up in search engine results when people are looking for information about your products and services. No reply to a complaint about your business implies that you aren’t willing to engage or just don’t care. An incorrect reply could spark a larger public argument, which is definitely worse. Here is a simplified response formula that we’ve found effective for our clients to use when replying to online complaints:

  1. Apologize

    Acknowledge that the client is unhappy enough to complain, regardless if you are right or wrong:
    “We’re sorry that your experience with our company was not a good one.”

  2. Empathize

    Put yourself on their side, never argue in public view:
    “We know that it’s disappointing when an experience doesn’t meet expectations.”

  3. Respond with a statement

    Defend positive actions, rather than the complaint:
    “We strive for 100% customer satisfaction on every job.”

  4. Offer resolution

    Provide a solution of assistance, in a different forum:
    “We invite you to contact us directly if you’d like to discuss the matter further.”


Unless you’re the victim of very obviously false or misleading comments – and even if you are – it can be difficult to have these complaints removed. Some people try to negate the effect of negative reviews by padding the forum with “false positive” statements, but search engines are fairly sensitive to review propaganda from account owners, and this tactic can actually make things worse. The only realistic options are to ignore bad reviews or respond to them in a positive manner.

Ignoring bad reviews is better than responding in a negative way. Never argue in response to a complaint in a public forum, even in honest defense. Never say anything online that you wouldn’t say to a customer’s face in a room surrounded by all the customers you’ve ever dealt with, and all the customers that you will ever deal with in the future.

Not every bad review requires a response. Slightly negative reviews about an aspect of your product or service are to be expected. Nobody is perfect, mistakes and accidents happen. Responding using this simplified approach hopefully shows that you are aware, responsible, and professional in your business dealings.

We hope that helps. Please let us know if you have questions or comments on any of the above.