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How to Respond to Negative Reviews (With Examples and Templates)

Profile picture of Brittany Foster, freelance author for Jobber Academy.
Brittany Foster
May 10, 2024 16 min. read

Even if you strive to make customer satisfaction a priority, chances are you’re going to get a negative review eventually. And while having a 1-star review doesn’t feel great, it’s important to do what you can to turn it into a positive. 

In fact, how you respond to a negative review can help you to solve customer problems, boost customer loyalty, and show potential clients that you care about providing the best customer service you can.

But that means responding to negative reviews with care and tact, which isn’t always easy. In this guide, we’ll use examples and templates to show you how to craft thoughtful responses that will turn unhappy customers into long-term clients.

Why responding to negative reviews is important

You may be wondering why you should bother responding to a negative review at all. Especially when it’s rude, inaccurate, or untrue. But answering negative reviews comes with a lot of positives that are worth considering. 

For example, it shows that you’re committed to customer satisfaction and it helps to minimize any potential damage to your business’s reputation by responding to and resolving concerns publicly. 

Here’s how responding to negative reviews can help your service business:

  1. It showcases your customer service. Responding to negative reviews shows potential customers that you care about their business and are committed to providing the best service possible.
  2. It helps you to learn from your mistakes. No business is perfect. Responding to negative customer feedback gives you the chance to learn from your mistakes, make improvements or changes to your business, and grow.
  3. It gives you a chance to retain customers. By addressing the concerns of unsatisfied customers, you have an opportunity to make the situation right, rebuild trust, and possibly even keep the customer.
  4. It improves your online visibility. Responding to reviews online (both negative and positive) can improve your positioning on search results pages when prospective customers are searching for local services.
  5. It helps you manage your brand’s reputation. More than 99.9% of consumers read online reviews when considering a business—so ignoring negative reviews can affect how potential customers see you. 

Showing a commitment to resolving issues or mistakes tells potential clients that you run a professional business and values your customers.

On the other hand, not responding to negative reviews at all, or responding to them in the wrong way can make it seem like you don’t value your clients and that customer service isn’t high on your priority list. 

When you address online customer concerns in a polite, helpful, and timely way, you have an opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a fan, and attract new business as well. 

See how arborist Kurt Stenberg (Cochrane Tree Care) handles negative customer reviews:

Best practices for responding to negative reviews

Before you respond to a negative review on Google, Yelp, or Facebook, it’s important to take some time to craft a thoughtful, polite, and productive response. Here’s how to get started: 

1. Don’t take it personally

A negative review can feel like a slap in the face, but it’s not a personal attack. Think of it as a chance to learn, grow, build relationships, and turn a negative situation into a positive one. 

2. Respond quickly

Answer a negative review within 24-48 hours to show customers that you take their complaint seriously, care about their business, and are committed to making things right.

3. Personalize the message

You can use templates to help you respond to reviews, but personalize them with details from their review so customers feel seen and heard. 

4. Apologize (and mean it)

Responding to a review isn’t your chance to point the blame elsewhere or dismiss concerns. It’s an opportunity to show empathy and acknowledge the customer’s poor experience. Say sorry, and be sincere.

5. Own the problem

Don’t get defensive or make excuses. Take ownership of what happened, explain what went wrong, and describe how you’re planning to prevent the mistake from happening again.

Remember, no one is looking for a perfect response or solution. They just want their concerns to be heard, understood, and addressed.

6. Take the conversation offline

Ask the customer if you can call or email them to resolve the issue. This helps you personally connect with the customer and moves the conversation to a less public format.

7. Sign your name

Make it clear that a real person read their review and is making an effort to fix the problem. This also holds you personally accountable for solving the issue.

Pro Tip: After you resolve the customer issue, you might be able to ask the customer to update their negative review. This can be just as effective as a positive review because it shows other customers that you work hard to keep them happy.

Take a look at these negative review response tips from a service business expert for more:

Negative review response templates and examples

Now that you know how and why to respond to negative reviews, let’s take a look at some real-life examples to see how different service businesses responded. 

Here are the types of negative reviews we’ll cover:

Poor communication

It’s not easy to keep track of every client interaction. Unfortunately, sometimes customers fall through the cracks. And when that happens, it may only come to your attention when the customer complains. 

Here’s an example of a negative review about poor communication along with the company’s (Revive Services) response:

negative review response examples - screenshot of review about poor communication

What Revive Services did well:

Revive Services owned up to the problem and took complete responsibility for it. David’s response shows that he learned from the mistake and is going to try hard to earn the customer’s future business.

He also offers several options for making it right, as well as his own personal phone number. That goes a long way in showing how important this customer is to him.

If your business gets a similar review, try this negative review response template to reply to a customer complaint about communication skills:

Appointment no-shows

Understandably, customers get frustrated when they spend time waiting for a home service provider who never shows up. But the truth is, it can happen, and all you can do when it does is try to make it better. 

Just look at how Lathered Cleaning Co responded to this negative review about a no-show:

negative review response examples - screenshot of review about appointment no-shows

What Lathered did well:

The team at Lathered apologized for not showing up, explained why it may have happened, and invited the reviewer to try their services again in the future.

Pro Tip: It’s tough to keep track of your schedule if you’re relying on spreadsheets or a pen and paper. Scheduling software can help you organize service calls and send on-my-way texts so customers know exactly when to expect you.

If you miss an appointment with a client who complains online, use this template to respond:

Misinformation or misunderstanding

The customer isn’t always right. They might exaggerate a problem or forget crucial details, but others who read the review won’t know that. All they’ll see is a customer’s bad experience.

Here’s an example of a review that doesn’t include all the facts, and how Adair Tree Care handled it:

negative review response examples - screenshot of review with misinformation or misunderstanding

What Adair Tree Care did well:

The business owner was polite and clear about what happened. In this case, the person leaving the review wasn’t the one who ordered the work, and were verbally abusive towards the team during the service call.

This response provides a full picture to anyone who reads the review and shows how the business owner maintained their professionalism in a difficult situation, which may help them win future work.

If you get a negative review that includes misinformation or misunderstandings, try this template out when you respond:

Poor product or service quality

Customers get frustrated if they don’t receive the product or service quality they were expecting. 

The client in this review ordered products to maintain her yard but didn’t receive the correct items.

negative review response examples - screenshot of review about poor product or service quality

What TurFresh did well:

TurFresh responded with an order update and an apology for the delay. A quick response can make a customer feel heard and provide the necessary information at the same time.

Use this response template to address any customer complaints about the service you provided:

Pricing issues

Pricing is a touchy subject for many customers, especially when it changes over the course of a job. But when the scope of a job changes, or the cost of materials goes up, it’s hard to avoid. 

Here’s how Park Lane Plumbing responded to a customer complaint about pricing:

negative review response examples - screenshot of review about pricing issues

What Park Lane Plumbing did well:

Although their response is long, the extra details explain why their prices changed over the course of the job. Park Lane Plumbing serves condos and apartments, so this situation is relevant to similar customers.

You might think that giving this kind of context to a negative review is the same as giving excuses, but it’s not. Sometimes it’s the only way to explain where the feedback is coming from.

If you get a negative review about pricing, use this template to draft a response:

Poor customer service

You hold yourself and your employees to high standards of service, but it’s almost impossible to meet those standards every day. And while most customers are understanding, not all of them will be as forgiving when you make a mistake.

Here’s a 1-star review example where the customer wasn’t satisfied with the customer service they received along with a polite response from the company, Lathered:

negative review response examples - screenshot of review about poor customer service 1
negative review response examples - screenshot of review about poor customer service 2

What Lathered did well:

Lathered responded quickly, thanked the customer for their feedback, acknowledged the complaint, and apologized for the poor service. 

They also offered an explanation and mentioned how they handle these kinds of mistakes when they happen, showing potential customers that their satisfaction is a priority.

Here’s how to how to respond to negative reviews about your customer service:

Employee mistakes

Your employees are the face of your company, and everything they do reflects back on you. When your employees make a mistake, customers are watching to see what you’ll do to fix it to determine whether they want to work with you again in the future.

Here’s a negative review response example from Pad Pal related to a mistake made by an employee:

negative review response examples - screenshot of review about employee mistakes

What PadPal did well:

Pad Pal visited the customer not once, but twice—and the first time was just to apologize for their mistake. From there, the team went on to fix the problem and satisfy the customer.

They also thanked the customer for the learning experience. Any future customers who read this review will see how the company fixed their mistake and improved as a result.

If one of your employee’s makes a mistake while on a job and the customer leaves a negative review, use this template to respond:

Questionable reviews

Every so often, you may get a negative review that makes you scratch your head. Maybe it isn’t meant for your business at all, or maybe it was left by someone you have no record of working for.

In some cases, these reviews may come from a dissatisfied customer who wants to remain anonymous or even a competitor looking to badmouth your business.

Here’s how Best Handyman Boston addressed a 1-star review from a questionable source:

negative review response examples - screenshot of a questionable review

What Best Handyman Boston did well:

The owner, Ryaan, couldn’t find proof that this reviewer ever contacted his company, but he still responded as though they did. Then, he offered free service and an open line of communication, just in case the reviewer wants it.

If you happen to get a negative review from a questionable customer, use this template to respond:

Mixed reviews

Negative reviews don’t always have to be completely terrible. Sometimes customers will leave an “OK” review, but include negative comments that reflect poorly on your business. 

In this case, the customer gave the company a three-star Google review because their work was good, but it may have led to possible property damage.

negative review response examples - screenshot of neutral review

What Best Handyman Boston did well:

The team provided a brief personalized reply, addressing the customer by name, apologizing, and explaining that they’ve taken action to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again.

If you get a mixed 2, 3, or 4-star review, here’s a template you can use to respond:

Negative reviews turned positive

Negative reviews don’t have to stay that way forever. By addressing the complaint early and in a thoughtful and helpful manner, you have a chance to make the client change their mind about their experience. 

Take a look at how Park Lane Plumbing did just that for a frustrated customer:

negative review response examples - screenshot showing how to turn a negative review into a positive

What Park Lane Plumbing did well:

Park Lane Plumbing responded to the customer complaint politely and honestly. They were able to provide great service experience and left the customer with a much better impression of their business on top of an updated five-star review.

Not all customers will be willing to change their reviews, but by asking for an opportunity to right your mistake, it opens up an opportunity to change their opinion of you. 

If you think there’s a chance you could change an unhappy customer’s mind,  use this template to respond to them.

How to respond to negative customer reviews on Google, Yelp, and Facebook

Now that you know how to create a thoughtful and productive response to a negative review, it’s time to reply to your customer. But how exactly do you actually post your carefully crafted message? 

Follow these steps to post negative review replies on Google, Yelp, and Facebook.

How to respond to a negative review on Google

To read and reply to reviews on Google:

  1. Login to your Google Business Profile account
  2. Navigate to the “Reviews” tab on the left hand sidebar
  3. Scroll through the list of reviews to find the one you want to address
  4. Click on the “Reply” button under the review, write or paste in your response, and click “Submit”.

READ MORE: How to delete a Google review and protect your business’s reputation

How to respond to a negative review on Yelp

To respond to reviews on Yelp:

  1. Login to Yelp for Business
  2. Click on the “Reviews” tab on the sidebar
  3. Find the review you want to respond to
  4. Decide whether you want to respond publicly or send a direct message to the reviewer
  5. For public replies, click “Add Public Comment”
  6. Type your response and click “Post”

How to respond to negative reviews on Facebook

To respond to Facebook reviews:

  1. Login to your Facebook and go to your business page
  2. Click “Reviews” on the left sidebar
  3. Choose the review you want to reply to 
  4. Click “Reply” beneath the review and type your response in the comment box
  5. Click the “Post” button to submit your response

READ MORE: How to remove reviews from Facebook

Navigating negative reviews

Mistakes happen. And when they do, customers are likely to notice, often leaving a negative review to voice their dissatisfaction. But that doesn’t mean it has to hurt your reputation, or even cause you to lose business. 

When responding to negative online reviews, remember to: 

  • Respond quickly
  • Follow negative review response best practices
  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Prioritize customer satisfaction

That way, not only do you have a chance to keep the customer, but they may even be willing to update their review, turning a negative into a major positive.

Originally published November 2021. Last updated on May 15, 2024.

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