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Tips on how to respond to bad reviews

November 25, 2019
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
November 25, 2019 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

This article was updated on December  20, 2021

Just as one positive review won't make your business, one bad online review won't break it either. 

But negative feedback, as with all online reviews, should be on your radar. That's because about 95 percent of people consult review sites before making purchase decisions, according to a Northwestern University report

Responding to online reviews—both good and bad—is a great way to show potential customers that feedback matters to you. It helps show that you consider suggestions and are always looking for ways to provide better products and services. Ultimately, responding to a review can turn a negative experience into a positive one, which is crucial for customer satisfaction.

The upside to negative reviews 

It may feel like unhappy customers are the only ones writing reviews. In fact, research shows that 45 percent of those with bad customer experiences are likely to share on social media compared to 38 percent with positive ones, reports Adweek

While it may be frustrating, you can take comfort in the fact that even the Great Wall of China only has an average star rating of 4.2.

There can even be an upside to negative reviews. Bad feedback can be informative for potential customers. It can help them understand that, say, that your local restaurant gets busy on weekends but is quieter on weeknights. Plus, businesses that receive too many overly positive reviews may appear inauthentic and, in some ways, like they're gaming the system. 

Responding to bad reviews also shows potential customers that you’re attentive to not only customer service but how you represent yourself to customers. Addressing negative reviews lets loyal and prospective customers see what to expect by reading your previous responses, whether they’re in a positive or negative light.

Getting started with online reputation management

Responding to negative reviews is a two-step process. The first step involves getting access to different review platforms so you can respond. If you already have access, you can skip ahead to the second step: The best way to respond to bad customer reviews.

Step one: Get business owner access to respond to reviews

Nextdoor, Google, Facebook, and Yelp are among the most popular online directories that business owners should create (or claim) company profiles and listings for.

If your company doesn't yet have a profile on these sites, each has a section for business owners to start creating their listings. On Nextdoor, your Business Page houses all of your recommendations that past customers have left. These recommendations affect your business's online reputation. To see if you already have recommendations, claim your free Business Page

If your company already has a profile—one you didn't create, you may be wondering, “How did someone create a profile for my company without my involvement?” This type of listing is user-generated. That means anyone could’ve created it, such as a customer, negative reviewer, or an employee, without your knowledge. On Nextdoor, you may find that you already have positive recommendations left by neighbors after claiming your Business Page, but only businesses can create Business Pages on the platform.

Each review platform has its own process for business owners to claim business profiles or create new ones. Follow the steps they provide.

Step two: Respond to bad customer reviews

Keep in mind that you're always writing for two audiences. The first is the customers with complaints who want their bad experiences to be acknowledged (and ideally rectified) — an unhappy customer.

The second is potential customers or clients who will review responses, wanting reassurance that, should they experience any issues, their concerns will be addressed. Here are some tactics for addressing both groups of clientele:

  • Reply in a timely manner. More than half of customers expect businesses to respond within a week, according to one survey.
  • Keep things short and neutral. The worst way to respond to a negative comment is with more negativity. 
  • Acknowledge the concern. The goal is to make any dissatisfied customer feel validated. Above all, people want to feel heard.
  • Share the next steps. Let the original poster (and anyone who reads the review afterward) know that you'll be looking into the issue raised and will be following up.
  • Take the communication offline (or move the conversation to a direct message). That way, you can ask for the reviewer's phone number or email and potentially share other private details.

All in all, your negative review response can impact your overall business reputation.

Here's a sample response that you can modify for responding to a customer complaint of your business:

Dear [first name of reviewer],

I am sorry to hear about your negative experience. We take pride in providing exceptional customer service and will look into the issue you shared with us here. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Your feedback helps us to improve the customer experience for you and future customers. 

Someone from the team will be private messaging (or calling or emailing) you to follow up.


[Your first name and title]

There's no right and wrong way of responding to a bad review or customer’s concern. What matters is you use it as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your customers.

Claim your Business Page

Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting business, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook

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