How to Deal With Negative Reviews as a Small & Medium-Sized Business

Many businesses avoid negative reviews like the plague. After all, they can damage your reputation, right? It depends whether you respond or pretend they don’t exist.

Compared to the staggering 95% of people who leave positive reviews, only 5 out of 100 clients are likely to make negative comments about your product or service online. And, instead of racing to delete those negative reviews, you can use that opportunity to respond and set the record straight.


It turns out consumers ONLY care that you respond to your online reviews. They don’t care if those reviews were positive or negative. According to BrightLocal’s 2020 Local Consumer Review Survey, 69% of consumers say they are more likely to hire a business that responds to positive reviews, and 70% say they would use a company that responds to negative reviews. As you can see, the common denominator is simple: no matter the type of feedback, customers want to see that you care.

Why You Need to Respond to Negative Reviews & Not Delete Them

For starters, 45% of consumers say that they are more likely to use a business that responds to negative reviews. More data shows the benefits for companies that deal with negative feedback.

A 2018 Harvard Business Review study focused on the connection between replying to customer reviews and improving business ratings discovered that companies could improve their rankings regardless of whether they were responding to positive or negative feedback. As long as they responded, they saw more than a 12% increase in the number of reviews and their star rating.

By now, you are probably asking yourself, “Do people really care enough to read review responses?”

Yes, they do.

In fact, a 2020 Local Consumer Review Survey by BrightLocal found that:

  • 40% of consumers always read review responses
  • 33% do it regularly
  • 23% occasionally look for review responses
  • … and only 4% aren’t interested in seeing whether a business responds to its reviews or not.

As you can see, 73% of consumers are actively interested in reading businesses’ responses to their online reviews, and that is an important factor when they are researching local businesses.

The first step to ensuring all customers, both past and future, feel listened to is to closely monitor your reviews across all platforms and respond to as many as possible as soon as possible.

Recommended article

The Importance of Online Reviews

Did you know that 93% of your future customers will decide if they want to contact you based on the online customer reviews they find of your business? Read More

How to Respond to Negative Reviews: A 5-Step Bulletproof Process

Now that we have proven the importance of responding to negative feedback, here is how to approach these reviews.

  1. Personalize your response
    When you’re struggling with review responses, start with the name. If the reviewer has given their name, be sure to use it. It will instantly personalize your response and show that you aren’t just using a copy-paste answer.
  2. Thank the reviewer
    Even if you disagree with their opinion, you need to thank the reviewer for sharing their feedback and taking the time to reach out to you. It shows people that you care about the customer’s experience with your company, and it allows you to make amends. It also quickly diffuses the negativity and will enable you to start a more positive conversation.
  3. Acknowledge their problem
    Ignoring their problem in your response is like ignoring the elephant in the room. The reviewer will expect you to address the issue and offer a solution. Take responsibility for what happened, even if you don’t entirely agree with the customer’s side of the story.
  4. Show empathy and apologize
    By apologizing for the inconvenience the customer has experienced, you are validating their feelings. This, of course, doesn’t mean you’re going to do what they’re asking you to do. At the very least, it shows that you care about them and are owning up to your mistake (if there was one).
  5. Try to offer a solution if possible
    Even if the problem is the customer’s fault, it’s still important to offer as many solutions as possible. That way, you’re taking control of the narrative. You’re also proving you’re not “just talk and no action,” but rather a company that is invested in helping its customers. If you’ve wronged the reviewers, offer compensation or an incentive to give you another chance. In these situations, it’s best to take things offline and offer the unhappy customer a direct line of contact with you to solve the problem effectively. This will show everyone that you don’t take negative feedback lightly.


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A Few Great Examples of Dealing With Negative Reviews

This response has everything. It is personalized, empathetic, and it offers a solution. The business offers to take things offline and directly contact them to resolve the situation. Well done, Honda of Thousand Oaks.

Two things stand out here: the promptness of the reply and the actionable solution to the problem. This is clearly not a copy-paste response. It shows that the company is ready to compensate the customer and investigate the situation further.

The Bottom Line

The most important part of dealing with negative reviews is to keep things professional. Don’t blast off an angry reply no matter how insulted you may feel. Remember, you’re not just replying to one person’s comment. Hundreds of people are also likely to read your response and will decide whether they want to hire you based on that.

Responding within the first 24 hours of receiving a negative review is crucial. When you don’t immediately respond to a negative review, more people researching your business will see that you’re ignoring that feedback. It will also irritate the unhappy reviewer who will be expecting a response from you.

Fortunately for you, there are review management apps that make it quick and easy to track and deal with customer feedback at the touch of a button. At 411 Locals, we specialize in helping small and medium-sized businesses thrive and handle customer reviews like champs. Schedule a call with our team, or click here to learn more about our Online Review Management App!

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