Like Last Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Responding to Negative Reviews: Do I Have To?

Why do I have to respond to negative reviews?

Oh, no! Another negative review!

What do I do?

Maybe it’s best if I just ignore it. After all, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” So…I’ll just pretend I never saw this negative review and move on. After all, how much can it really hurt me?

Why We Fear Them

We see a negative review. Usually our first response is one of anger or fear.  Why?

  • Some (most?) of us have difficulty as to how to handle or react to criticism.
  • The negative review contains dubious information that you know isn’t true.
  • The claims are exaggerated.
  • Our entire livelihood could be at stake depending on how far the review reaches in both the online world and by “word of mouth”.

Once we’ve acknowledged why we’re angry and/or afraid, we are not only able to move on, we also have to respond.

Why You Have Respond

Whether the negative review appears on Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc., it’s critical for you to respond – and do so as soon as possible – once you’re no longer angry or “afraid”, that is. Whether positive or negative, reviews generate interest in your company and influences visibility in Google’s as well as Yelp’s local search results and internal rankings according to Miriam Ellis. If you’re still not convinced, Adrienne Weissman sites the following statistics:

  • “A total of 70% of Americans look at reviews before they make a purchase according to an American Lifestyles report…even the negative ones.”
  • “In fact, buyers who seek out negative reviews are 67% more likely to convert to a purchase than an average customer, according to a Revoo study.”
  • “You might not think that’s the kind of attention you want to share. However, 68% of people trust a company’s reviews more when they see bad ones mixed in with the good. That expresses the reality of most products – not every product is good for everyone.”

In addition to your rankings, responding to negative reviews gives you the opportunity to improve your reputation by demonstrating your ability to resolve complaints successfully. In turn, this can increase your revenue by influencing those 70% potential customers who make their purchases contingent on what they read in the reviews. Finally, if you don’t respond at all, you give the perception that you just don’t care.

How To Respond

Of course, how you respond is going to be based on the mistakes, problem, and/or issues that the customer is referring to. In spite of whether the customer is right or wrong (remember the old adage that “The customer is always right.”), make the offer as to how you can best rectify their particular complaint. Usually, most rational people understand and recognize that “no one’s perfect”. Once a problem has been solved, follow up as to whether they are now satisfied. If their response is positive, ask them if they would consider either editing what they had written previously or remove it altogether. The following are just some of the ways to respond.

  • Respond immediately (once you’ve calmed down) with a polite apology.
  • Listen, and then ask how you correct the problem.
  • Acknowledge genuine mistakes, and then explain how you’re going to resolve the issues.
  • When appropriate, have supporting content ready to verify your response.
  • Always respond professionally, calmly, and courteously.
  • Make your answers “short and “sweet”.
  • Even if they get personal, don’t respond the same way.
  • Be consistent in how you respond.
  • Sometimes…there’s just not a good response so just thank the customer for their input.
  • Always keep in mind that your response will be read by your current and future customers.
  • Have someone review your response before posting it.
  • Follow up once the issue has been resolved, and then ask them to change or remove the negative review.
  • It’s simply the polite thing to do.
  • But…always respond.

How NOT to Respond

On the other hand, there are several ways in which you shouldn’t respond.

  • Don’t be defensive.
  • Don’t answer while you’re still angry or upset.
  • Don’t try to make a joke out of the situation.
  • Don’t use sarcasm.
  • Don’t debate the issue online or in public.
  • Don’t post or make argumentative comments.
  • Don’t ignore or not respond.

How Negative Reviews Can Be GOOD

As paradoxical as it sounds, negative reviews can be good. As we noted above, these reviews can increase the authenticity of your business as well as your trustworthiness. Additionally, they give you more insight about your customers as well as an opportunity to learn more about your business. This can be valuable input that you can turn into an advantage.

  • Increases the authenticity of your company.
  • Maintains your trustworthiness.
  • Gives additional insight about your customers.
  • Offers you an opportunity to access your weaknesses and address them.
  • Provides valuable information about your company.

We know you hate it, but you’ve got to do it.


Negative reviews will hurt you if you don’t.


“Fearless Review Management: Defining a Dominant Yelp User”, Miriam Ellis

“How to Respond to Positive and Negative Reviews”, Joshua Baker

“The Positive Side of a Negative Review”, Adrienne Weissman