How-to Guide

A 5-Step Guide to Responding to Negative Reviews

Never underestimate the power of a dissatisfied customer. 4 out of 5 of your prospects will change their mind about purchasing your product or service because they read a negative review online.1 While no one expects your brand to be perfect, everyone expects you to address issues brought to your attention. If you don’t, you very likely won’t get a second chance to win back a buyer’s business.

71% of consumers will stop using your brand when treated badly, even if they love your product.
The Path to Happy Customers

Since choosing to ignore complaints is not an option, here are five steps to take when planning your strategy for responding to negative reviews.


Step 1: Don’t Delay

The first step to dealing with a negative review is to respond immediately and publicly.2 According to customer-centric strategist Chip Bell, “In the customer’s mind, the clock starts when he or she posts a negative review and your reputation drops with every hour you delay in providing a response.”3 At a minimum, you should be replying within 24 hours. The quicker you react, the more likely the reviewer will take down their comment or bump up their rating.4 Inc. also recommends that you send a private message along with your public response since many customers won’t communicate publicly, especially about sensitive matters.


Step 2: Find Them First

Missing a mention, especially a negative one, is likely to lose you a valuable customer quickly. This is where social media monitoring tools can help. They can listen to not just the social platforms on which you’re active, but also other social channels and review sites for questions and conversations about your brand. Take a lesson from the customer service fanatics at Rackspace who have a system in place that alerts them to negative feedback before customers contact them directly. They get to work in the background and solve customers’ problems immediately, then they reach out directly once they’ve fixed the problem. Complaining customers are so pleasantly surprised by this level of service that they actually spend more than customers who never complain.


Step 3: Get Personal

“Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” says customer care guru Damon Richards.5 The best way to show how much you care is to show you value your customer by sending a personalized reply.

Start by apologizing and acknowledging the validity of the complaint with a short, non-confrontational reply, showing that you've read and understood the issue(s) raised (even if they appear unfounded).6 Then pick up on individual keywords within their review to formulate a more personal response. Be specific and acknowledge the customer's concerns; show sympathy that they have had a bad experience.7


Step 4: Highlight the Positive

To practice exceptional customer care, it’s time to start thinking of responding to negative reviews as positive opportunities to engage as well as improve. Thank the customer for providing feedback, and determine how you can address the issue for them and future customers. Tell the customer how you will implement a strategy to ensure that they do not have the same experience again, and then follow through.8


Step 5: Harness the Power of Peers

Sometimes the key is not what you say to them, but what your customers say to each other about you. When making new purchases, consumers trust reviews from friends and family. They also value peer reviews and recommendations from people in communities. In fact, among millennials, 84% say that user-generated content influences their purchasing decisions.9 You need positive peer reviews to influence people to buy your products. To inspire more reviews, actively ask your consumers to share or review their experiences, then post those reviews everywhere you can—online, in-store, and at every touchpoint.


Instead of reacting to frustrated or angry customers, play offense by quickly and seamlessly providing information at the moment your customer needs it, on the channel of their choice. Download The High Performing Community Handbook to learn how.


1 Business. com - "So You Had a Bad Day: How to Handle Negative Online Reviews"

2 Inc. - "5 Strategies for Dealing with Negative Reviews"

3 Review Trackers - "Do Customers Expect Responses to Negative Reviews?"

4 Inc. - "5 Strategies for Dealing with Negative Reviews"

5 Forbes - "40 Eye-Opening Customer Service Quotes"

6 Business. com - "So You Had a Bad Day: How to Handle Negative Online Reviews"

7 Social Media Today - "How to Respond to Negative Reviews on Facebook to Win Back Angry Customers"

8 Business. com - "So You Had a Bad Day: How to Handle Negative Online Reviews"

9 BazaarVoiceTM. Report: Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People over Brands, January 2012.

Get Lithium insights and best practices delivered to you.

Thank you for signing up!

Keep your eye on your inbox for insights and best practices from us.

Don’t miss out on key insights and best practices.