How to Publicly Handle a Negative Review of Your Business (In 5 Steps)

How to Handle a Review_PrettyLinks

Negative reviews happen – even to the best of us. However, you may be concerned about how a bad review might impact your business (and rightly so). After all, studies show that just one negative review can cost you 22% of your potential customers.

The good news is, receiving a couple of negative reviews isn’t the end of the world, as long as you do some damage control. You can largely mitigate the negative impact by publicly responding to the bad review quickly and strategically. The tricky part is making sure you respond the right way.

With that in mind, we’re going to show you how to effectively handle a negative review of your business in five simple steps. Let’s get started!

Why It’s Important to Respond to Negative Reviews

If you've just received a negative review, it can be tempting to ignore it and move on. However, it's usually a better idea to respond:

An example of how to Publicly Handle a Negative Review with an apologetic response

Aside from being the right thing to do, there are many other reasons that make responding worth the effort, such as:

  • It shows other customers that you care. Responding publicly shows other customers that your company values their feedback. 41% of customers say they feel that companies that reply to reviews care about their customers.
  • It’s a chance to explain yourself. Some negative reviews are misleading and don’t tell the whole story, but 89% of customers will read your reply. Your response is your opportunity to share your side of the story.
  • You can turn it into a marketing opportunity. For example, you can subtly mention a new discount or even include a promotional link within your response. Bonus tip: Use Pretty Links to shorten your URLs and set up link tracking.
  • You can convince the customer to revise their review. 70% of customers change their opinion about a company after they reply. By going out of your way to address the customer’s concerns and put things right, you can turn them into a brand advocate and convince them to change their negative review into a positive one.

With that being said, it’s important to take special care in how you word your response. If you mishandle a negative review, it can show your business in a bad light and make things even worse.

How to Publicly Handle a Negative Review for Your Business (In 5 Steps)

With that in mind, let’s look at the best way to respond. Here’s how we’d recommend that you publicly handle a negative customer review.

Step 1: Consider Having the Review Removed

The first step is to read through the negative review and decide whether it’s best to remove it or respond to it. Not all negative reviews are justified. In some cases, reviews can be dishonest, misleading, or downright false.

These kinds of fake negative reviews aren’t worth dignifying with a response, so consider having them removed instead:

Google My Business message explaining that a review has been removed

Different platforms have different policies regarding removing reviews. For example, Google forbids reviews that are fake or include personal attacks. Yelp has similar guidelines on what kind of reviews are inappropriate and how to report them.

Just be aware that reporting a review doesn’t guarantee that it will be removed. If you can’t get a false negative review removed, the next best option is to respond so other customers are aware that it’s not a true representation of your business. Don’t be afraid to point out falsehoods, but stick to the facts and be professional.

Step 2: Apologize Promptly, Politely, and Professionally

If the negative review is genuine, the next step is to apologize for the customer’s poor experience. You should always apologize, even if you don’t think you’re at fault. If the customer’s expectations weren’t met, apologizing is the right thing to do.

We'd recommend sticking to the three P's of effective customer communication in your apology, by being prompt, polite, and professional. Here’s a great example of what that looks like:

How to Publicly Handle a Negative Review by being prompt, polite, and professional

Bonus tip: Keep the response short and sweet, and don’t include your business name or any relevant keywords in your response. This can minimize the chances that the negative review will rank highly in search engines.

Step 3: Explain Yourself and Highlight the Positives

It’s usually possible to put a positive spin on a bad review by focusing on the positives within your response. For example, let’s imagine you run a hotel and a customer has just left a negative review about your hotel's restaurant. They said their overall experience was satisfactory, but their food took way too long to arrive.

Here’s how you might respond:

“Hi [customer],

Thank you for the constructive feedback. We’re glad to hear you enjoyed your stay here at [hotel name], and that you felt the staff were attentive and welcoming.

We’re sorry to hear that although you felt the food was excellent, you weren’t satisfied with the service you received at the restaurant. I’d like to offer my sincerest apologies for this…”

As you can see, we’ve spent most of the response talking about the positive aspects of the customer experience and only briefly mentioned the complaint, while also offering an apology.

Step 4: Offer to Make it Right

Most customers who leave a negative review just want a resolution to their complaints. That’s why step number four is to offer to make amends for their poor experience:

Image of a business owner's response to a negative review apologizing and offering to make amends

There are a few different ways you can make it right. For example, you can assure them that you’ll look into their complaint. Many customers just want to feel heard. Acknowledging their complaints and assuring them you’ll find out what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again might be all it takes to turn things around.

You can also offer a freebie. This might be a free meal at your restaurant or a discounted stay at your hotel. Not only can this potentially turn the negative review into a positive one, but it can also help you to earn repeat business.

Step 5: Take the Conversation Off the Platform

Finally, it’s a good idea to sign off your response by proving contact information and inviting the customer to get in touch if they’d like to discuss the issue further. This is important for two reasons:

  1. Many review platforms don’t allow customers to respond to a response. Therefore, the only way they can continue to communicate with you is off the platform
  2. Even if they can respond again, it’s better to continue the discussion privately. It’s difficult to discuss specifics on a public forum without divulging the customer’s personal information.
Review response from hospital asking the patient to continue the conversation over private message

The review response above offers a great example of how to politely offer to take the conversation offline.


If you don’t want bad reviews to negatively impact your business, it’s important to be very careful about how you respond publicly. Stick to the five steps above and you should be fine!

Here’s a quick recap of how to handle these tricky situations:

  1. Consider having the review removed.
  2. Apologize promptly, politely, and professionally.
  3. Explain yourself and highlight the positives.
  4. Offer to make it right.
  5. Take the conversation off the platform.

How do you publicly deal with negative business reviews? Let us know in the comments section below!

If you liked this article, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn! And don't forget to subscribe in the box below.

Affiliate Link Disclosure

Categories: How Tos Advice Lists
About John Hughes

John is a blogging addict, WordPress fanatic, and staff writer.