Customer Experience Blog

How To Reply To Negative Online Reviews

By Madhulika Mukherjee


88% of customers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business. 

That means 9 out of 10 of your prospective customers will read your online reviews before making their buying decision!

You’re thinking — great! I have nothing to fear, my online ratings are fabulous!

But remember, amongst all those 5 star online reviews, you also have a few 2 stars and 1 star ones that do little to praise you.

Those online reviews which singlehandedly dishonour your entire hard work with spikes of hurtful comments.

So what happens when your prospective customers chance upon them?

Luckily, this is the age of the internet where you get to tell your side of the story too.

Here are few tips. If you follow these, you can not just handle those pesky negative online feedback, but turn the tables around to convert your not-so-well-wishers into your well wishers.

But first, before going onto replying to online reviews, here are three obvious truths you must swear by:

  1. The hurtful review, in all its glory, is most likely written by your a paying customers. What’s your business without paying customers?

  2. The person writing the review had some expectations about your business which obviously have not been met.

  3. Your prospective customers will also read these reviews. this could be your chance to pitch to them!

Now let’s get started


Be prompt in replying to online reviews

be prompt to reply to online reviews


Now is the right time. No, not after that weekly review meet. Now!

Don’t miss out on the golden window of 15–30 minutes after the review has been written.

A prompt response tells the customers that you care.

That’s your chance to impress your customer by making it up to them with your immediate hospitality and your warm, heartfelt response.  

Being 24x7 on your toes monitoring all of the internet is quite a task. But god made some tools to make your life easier. 

Never be defensive — Take ownership



Remember, they are your customers, they chose your business and paid for your service, from so many other options that waved their marketing gimmicks into your customers’ faces!

They are unhappy with you because of something, maybe that something is negligibly small or even totally misjudged.

But do not get all defensive saying you’re not responsible.

Even if it was your supplier’s fault or if some celestial meteor suddenly ripped your kitchen, YOU are responsible for your business.

So pick up the baton and claim ownership.

Own up to the mistake and tell them how you plan on rectifying the mishap, if possible. You know, sometimes your customer just wants to be heard.

Be grateful to the reviewer - Thank them

They took the time out from their busy lives to tell the world about your business.

Remember, 90% of the unhappy customers won’t even tell you what made them unhappy, they’ll just choose to never come back to you.  

So these guys who negatively reviewed you are those rare unicorns who actually care and are most likely to turn into your promoters! Why?

They were vocal about their opinions. Your gratitude is the least they deserve, right? 

Humanize the situation


Nobody is perfect and your customers know that. Remember that you’re also talking to your future customers here.

The last thing you want to do is unleash a robotic template reply upon them.

“We are deeply sorry to hear about your experience at The Batman Resort, hoping to serve you better next time!”
How are you going to make the experience better? What explanation do you have for the cobwebs next to his bed that he talked about? Did Batman really stay at your resort? (Okay maybe leave that one out)

Just humanize the situation, get into his shoes and give him the apology you owe him. Speaking of getting into shoes… 

See the other side of things


Just trying to justify your product or service is not fair.

Try to understand the problem and the cause of it from your customer’s perspective.

Here is our revolutionary two-step formula to doing that -

  1. Think what you would do if you encountered such an issue yourself,

  2. And then rectify the matter.

Keep it simple.


Clarify any mismatched expectation

If there were absolutely no faults from your side and the customer is still unhappy because he likes a blue ceiling instead of white, then this is a case of mismatched expectations.

Your customer was expecting to see a Tom Cruise movie but walked into a Will Smith show. Now even if Will Smith puts up the best performance of his life, your customer won’t be happy because he came to see Tom Cruise.  

In these cases you need to clarify and make sure that in your branding and your communication, you’re sending out the right message.  

Make sure your customers know exactly who you are, what level of service and quality you are selling, and come to you because of exactly that.


Remember, all the online reviews are basically customers telling you what they liked and disliked about your business.

This is a gold mine of data which can solve basically all of your business problems.  

Don’t just read them, understand them and imbibe them in your business.


Topics: Online Reviews

Madhulika Mukherjee

Written by Madhulika Mukherjee