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How Should Your Business Respond to Negative Customer Feedback?

How Should Your Business Respond to Negative Customer Feedback?

How Should Your Business Respond to Negative Customer Feedback?

Some of the top places to find online business reviews are Google, Yelp and Facebook. Reviews are one of the most important parts of the beginning of a customer’s journey when finding you. Studies show that 76% of customers read online reviews, doing their research on companies regularly.

Part of the risk of customer service is that we cannot please everyone. If you’ve had amazing reviews from customers, chances are you’ve had some bad ones too. It can be difficult not to take a bad review personally, especially when someone acts aggressively or lets all their anger out with strong accusations.

So how do you take this criticism, and what should you do about it?

First of all, no one is perfect. Nope, not even you! We’re all human, and every day we have the chance to learn something new, even in our field of expertise. A bad review is an opportunity to learn from this mistake, even if it comes in the form of a verbal attack.

Not only that, but a bad review is also an opportunity to display your character and integrity as a company. Your relationship with the customer doesn’t end at this review, but it has the potential to continue based on your response. It’s important to put your relationship with the customer before your pride—or—your side of the story. (There’s always two sides.)

Let’s talk about the important ingredients for a successful response to bad feedback.


If you want to preserve this relationship with your customer, it’s important to be engaged and communicate that you care. This can be communicated in both actions AND words.  We all know what it’s like to angrily brew over something for a long period of time. Responding in a timely manner to someone’s negative feedback can de-escalate those emotions. The less time they have to brew on it, the less engrained the experience will become in their minds.


Again, your goal is to preserve the relationship with your customer. Customers don’t want to feel like just another number in the books. State their name in your response, and maybe even describe what they came in for, to show that you remember the interaction. You can also restate the problem they’re describing in their review, to acknowledge that you have taken the time to read it.

Acknowledge and Apologize

If you haven’t been to couple’s therapy yet, this is the bread and butter to a successful relationship! Think of it this way: whoever apologizes first, wins. It doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships—everyone wants their emotions to be acknowledged. When you take ownership for something you did, even if the other person is mostly to blame, you open a door for connection.

Even if the customer is completely wrong, there’s got to be something you can take ownership for. The customer may not understand your process, or they might just be having an off-day. But before defending your case, take the time to acknowledge their bad experience with you. If you really can’t find anything to apologize for, try something like this:

“Thank you for providing feedback and letting me know about this issue. I sincerely apologize for the frustrating experience you had at (business name) and that we did not meet your expectations. We set a high standard for ourselves at (business name) and your satisfaction is our number one priority.”

This apology acknowledges your customer’s frustration, and communicates your standards of excellence. Also note, it’s important to humanize yourself in the response. While it’s tempting to respond using “we”, using “I” makes things appear more personal and non-templated.

Ask for More Detail

Sometimes bad reviews are a rant of emotions that don’t make much sense. You’ll need to take the time to understand exactly what happened. In some cases, companies will direct customers to a separate conversation over email, phone call or a ticketing system to collect more feedback. This can help get the conversation out of the public eye.

Explain, if Necessary

Sometimes an apology is enough to address a situation. Yet there may be times when you need to provide more information to clear up a misunderstanding. However, don’t use an explanation as an excuse. For example, if your team had trouble with scheduling appointments because your software was down that day, this might be helpful to share.

Share Your Action Plan

Communication is key here, so sharing your action plan for how you will solve this problem is helpful. Sometimes the problem cannot be resolved and there is nothing else to do, but it is important to continue trying to solve the problem. If the issue is a bigger one that takes time, simply communicating your plan of action will help, even if the situation is not immediately resolved.

Offer Compensation

Since this interaction has cost your customer their time and money, be willing to go above and beyond to make up for the inconvenience. You can offer a significant discount for a future visit, a free product, or even a refund. Going this extra mile could save you from losing their business and any other readers who are following the saga online.

Reiterate Your Vision

In some cases, customer feedback can be random and unrelated to a real issue. To make that kind of change would go against your company’s mission and the way it operates. However, it’s still important to acknowledge them and take the time to better explain who you are and what you do. So when someone doesn’t like the color you painted the bathrooms, invite them to check out your latest products on your website, or tell them about a special deal that is going on. You can do this while also explaining that you have constructed your offices with the customer in mind, and they are your highest priority.

How Not to Respond to Negative Feedback

Here are a few things we don’t advise, that could potentially ruin your relationship with a customer and potentially your reputation as a business:

No Response

Customer engagement builds trust. It’s important to take the time to engage with your customers.

Long, Rambling Responses

This is not the time to go on about how hard it is to be a business owner and over-explain or defend your side of the story.

Demeaning Responses

Sure, it’s tempting to tell Karen what you really think, but even a passive aggressive tone is easy for people to pick up on. Don’t go for the bait. Just apologize!

If you’re looking for better ways to communicate to customers, represent your brand and retain clients, our marketing team at The Dock Line is here to help! Reach out to us at thedockline.com for a consultation!

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