Business Development

How to Respond to a Negative Review When You’re a Small Business

Finally! You have a notification or email indicating that you’ve just received a review. As you’re taking the steps to open it, you start to think… “I hope it’s a good one!” or “It must be from that customer I just had – she was so happy!”


You open the page, read it, and your heart sinks.


A negative review.




Before you do anything rash, stop. Just stop and follow these steps to (positively) respond to a negative review.

  1.    Recall the experience. A customer has taken the time, and felt motivated enough, to provide a review of your business or service. Take a moment to recall the customer and use this as an opportunity to improve a system, process, or service. While the customer may not be 100% in the right, there is undoubtedly a middle ground where the truth can reveal an opportunity for improvement. Don’t miss out on that opportunity.
  1.    Step back. Now that you’ve considered the situation, take a break. Don’t respond immediately. I’m sure we’ve all had an experience where, in hindsight, our initial reaction to a situation was both inappropriate and exaggerated. Time provides rational insight that you will find incredibly valuable in a situation like this. Take some time to clear your mind and, after reflecting, come back to your response. It will be easier to draft a considerate reply with fresh thoughts and emotions.
  1.    Respond. You most definitely need to respond. Carefully and thoughtfully consider how to balance respecting the experience and feelings of your customer with a “defense” of your organization.

NOTE: your “defense” is not an argument. Instead:

  • Apologize. Let them know you are remorseful because a valued customer had a negative experience. Unequivocally, with no strings attached. You are simply sorry.
  • Highlight your strengths. Communicate a value that your company strives to uphold that is relevant to the situation. Underscore how your goal is to provide a quality experience for each customer and how you work towards accomplishing that goal.
  • Stay positive. Always. You know the old saying, “you catch more bees with honey.” Well, it’s true and it never helps to bring more negativity to a situation. If you take no other piece of advice from this blog, please always stay positive.
  • Be genuine. I’m sure you never set out to provide poor, or less than stellar, service. You can reflect those sentiments in your response to a negative review by being genuine in your efforts to correct a situation.

Wishing you many 5-star reviews!

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