How to Respond to a Negative Review in 5 Steps

February 24, 2023

You work hard to offer your customers the best products in your niche, so seeing a negative review come about is heart-crushing. Don't fret, though—negative reviews can actually be your greatest business improvement tool if you know how to leverage them.

Here are five methods to utilize when learning how to respond to a negative review.

1. Read or watch it with a clear state of mind

The moment you see a negative review, especially a negative user-generated video review, it’s hard not to react emotionally. You may be the type of person who struggles to hold the tears back, or maybe the type who stays up worrying about the feedback all night long. 

Such reactions are often valid, but they’ll do nothing to assuage your customer’s disappointment or make your business more likely to succeed. In order to get the most out of what unhappy customers are telling you, it helps to be in a clear state of mind so you can process the information without bias. 

One of the best ways to do this is to take a moment before opening a negative review so you can get into the right mindset. Designate a specific time once or twice a week, at the end of the workday to watch or listen to negative reviews. The point is to see the review for what it is – feedback. Scheduling the time and space for negative reviews helps to keep a healthy emotional relationship with customers and your business. No matter how challenging the review is, it is important not to take any toxic reviews home with you. 

2. Understand the customer's core complaint

The second method is allowing yourself the opportunity to understand the customer’s core complaint. If you can’t address what made them sad or angry no matter how much it may irritate you, you may have a permanent blind spot in your business. If this is the case and the problem persists, you are sure to have more complaints in the future.

What exactly did they not like about your product or their experience associated with it? Were you out of stock for a popular item? Did you take too long to ship the products? Perhaps the product showed up defective? No matter what happened, remember that for each customer, what your brand delivers (or fails to deliver) is their experience. 

Once you’ve seen exactly what they’re dealing with, put yourself in their shoes. No matter how insignificant one customer’s experience may seem to you, it’s currently the main thing they think about in regard to your business and it’s what they will share with the world. These are comments on your brand you simply cannot ignore.

3. Respond professionally and thoughtfully

By this point, you have enough information to respond professionally and thoughtfully to your customer’s negative review, especially if it was a video.

With video, you can see and hear exactly how a customer feels instead of trying to imagine the voice behind the words. Plus, video reviews offer loads of additional details that aren’t always included in written reviews, because people are talking through and showing you their issues instead of summarizing their ideas in writing.  That doesn’t mean you should copy and paste a generic response or reply too quickly. It helps to give it some space and to think about how to address it with grace and diplomacy.

There are a few principles to employ when you’re ready to respond.

Compose your draft offline and review it

Filming or writing your response offline and double-checking it before posting is smart because you’ll catch any errors. Unhappy customers often watch company responses with an eagle eye because they’re determined to see if you care or not. Give them every opportunity to see how important they are to you.

For example: Don’t write your reply directly in the comments. Draft your response in an editor like Google Docs and use Grammar checking tools, like Grammarly, to ensure accuracy and correctness. Read it out loud to make sure it sounds positive and sincere. It might be easier to reply from a computer, as cell phones could complicate editing. The main objective is to demonstrate the time, thought, and energy that went into your reply.

Express sincere understanding

Always begin your response with an authentic statement of understanding. As the quote often attributed to former President Theodore Roosevelt goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s important to speak human-to-human.

For example: Validate their feelings and let them know you’d feel the same way if you were in their shoes. Show the customers you hear where they’re coming from and are not trying to downplay their experience. Make sure you address the frustrating part of the experience before trying to solve the problem. 

Keep your response concise

Disgruntled customers aren’t looking for a monologue about you or your business, or your thoughts about their feedback; they just want their problems solved. The more concise your response is, the easier it is for you to regain their trust. Without trust, you will have no customers.

For example: Avoid diving into your personal stories or experiences on the matter. Remind them your goal is to take responsibility for their issues and use their experience to improve the way you do business with every customer moving forward.

4. Offer a solution that the customer prefers

The most important aspect of an effective response to a negative video review is to offer the solution your customer wants. Many business owners make the mistake of taking a defensive position and proposing a solution that only benefits the business. This can leave a customer feeling unsupported and only exacerbates the issue. 

Some customers want a replacement product because theirs turned out defective. Other customers are unhappy with your product in general and want a full and prompt refund. Still, other customers got their product and enjoyed it, but your shipping time was three times longer than what was mentioned on your website. 

Rather than taking things personally, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you experienced what they went through, would you want what they’re asking for?

Adopt this mindset for all of the reviews you respond to. Before you know it, you’ll be a pro at handling negative reviews and it will feel no different than any of your normal customer service interactions.

5. Reply within 48 business hours

The final principle to leverage with responding to negative reviews is doing so within 48 hours. 

It’s a bit of a tall order at first because it means you need a system in place for responding to reviews. It’s not difficult in the long run because A) you end up in the driver’s seat for all negative interactions and B) both the unhappy customers and public observers see how quickly and professionally you respond. 

A business that responds thoughtfully and swiftly to bad reviews demonstrates the following:

  • They see their customers as real people. A business that recognizes each customer as a real human being and not just another dollar amount in its quarterly spreadsheet is doing well.
  • They value the input their customers provide. It’s easy to unintentionally adopt an insular mindset in business, leading people to believe they always have the right answer. Business owners who recognize that their customers are their greatest learning opportunity are already one step ahead of the curve. 
  • They have a continuous improvement mindset. A business that wants to get a little better every single day is going to be successful in the long term. Smart business owners love constructive criticism because they know that information can be used against their competitors. 

So what does 48 business hours actually mean? It means you respond within two working days of when the customer left their negative review. This allows you enough time to prepare your response and reply in a timely fashion. If you don’t give yourself a timeline to respond, you may get busy and allow customer feedback to get buried beneath other tasks. 

Bonus: template for responding to negative feedback

Need an example of how to structure your review response? Check out this template:

“Hi [NAME],

Thank you for letting us know, I’m truly sorry to hear this has been your experience with us. I can completely understand how [THE ISSUE THEY EXPERIENCED] would leave you feeling [ANY EMOTION THEY MENTIONED / SAD / ANGRY / DISAPPOINTED].

We want to make this right in the way that you prefer. Please contact our team at [CONTACT INFO] and we’ll have things set straight quickly. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.



It’s good to respond to negative reviews

Negative reviews can actually be a valuable tool for improving your business if you're open to constructive feedback.

You can turn a negative experience into an opportunity for growth by approaching them with a clear state of mind, understanding the customer's core complaint, responding professionally and thoughtfully, offering a solution that the customer prefers, and following up to ensure that the problem is resolved.

Remember, responding to unhappy customers is a wonderful opportunity to show everyone just how much you truly care and your desire to regain their trust. Don't let negative reviews bring you down, use them to improve your business instead.

Finding negative reviews is easier than ever with Vyrill's best-in-class video search tools. Take control of your strategy for responding to negative reviews by finding them as soon as they're published and networking with influencers in an easy and convenient way. The sooner you act, the faster you'll improve trust and diplomacy with your customers.

Try Vyrill for free for 14 days and start rebuilding relationships with dissatisfied shoppers. Book a demo and we'll show you how much easier it is to find and respond to negative reviews using Vyrill.

About the Author

Katy boasts two decades in B2B technology & services, spearheading growth and brand evolution. A former Adobe marketing maven for 9 years, she’s since built growth teams for 5 tech startups that have all been acquired. With a stellar record in operational excellence and creating demand, she excels at leading successful cross-functional initiatives that enable companies to scale up.

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