How to Handle Negative Reviews

Regardless of the circumstances, negative reviews are never easy to receive. They come in many forms and it can be hard to know exactly how to respond to them (especially when you don’t believe the review is warranted).

The following are common negative review scenarios and ways you can approach them to make the most of the situations.

Keep in mind as you’re reading these that every situation is different and, above all, we recommend using your best judgment for each situation you come across.

Scenario #1: Positive Reviews with Low Ratings

What Happens

If we’re talking about negative reviews, we have to bring up the common “positive review with a low rating” scenario. We’ve all seen it. Someone writes a review about their phenomenal experience with your business and how outstanding your team is. Great. Unfortunately, when leaving you that oh-so-important star review, they select one star instead of five.

What to Do About It

Remember that it happens: A lot. More often than not the reviewer simply did not understand the rating system and flipped the ratings on accident.

Give Consumers Some Credit: Keep this in mind and have confidence that consumers also understand that this happens. Reviews play such a large role in online users’ experiences today that they know how important it is to read the details around a rating.


Whenever possible, make sure things are absolutely clear for online users to keep avoidable mistakes like this from happening.

If you have a first-party review system on your website, make sure it’s clear to visitors which ends of the scale are the highest and lowest possible ratings.

Scenario #2: Warranted Negative Reviews

What Happens

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, reviews come through that aren’t positive, but ultimately end up being true.

What to Do About It

Stay Calm: The last thing you want to do in this case is come across as hostile. This is your opportunity to share with the reviewer (as well as anyone looking for reviews on your business) how you handle situations like this. If a company’s response to a customer’s negative experience is met with hostility and defensiveness, prospects will be that much less likely to want to work with them.

Apologize and Make Things Right: Take ownership of the issue in a calm and empathetic way, apologize, and move the conversation into a private space. Once you’re no longer in a public discussion, offer a solution to make things right, if possible.

This scenario, while challenging, can provide great opportunities for organizational reflection and ways to make a great impression and increase customer loyalty with current and prospective customers.


If a prospect sees that a company is proactive, apologetic, and makes an effort to make things right when issues occur (and eventually they always do), they’ll see the company as more trusting and credible, which every business should strive for.

Scenario #3: Unwarranted Negative Reviews

What Happens

These reviews are often the hardest to handle. You’ve completed a number of projects that you think went well when, out of the blue, a customer leaves a negative review you didn’t expect. This scenario can take a few different shapes, including:

1. A customer seeming happy during service and never bringing up any concerns, but four days later they end up leaving a negative review about the service they received.

2. A customer, whether satisfied or not with the work that was done, disagrees with a subjective area of your business (pricing, hours, etc.), so they leave your business a negative review, focusing on those areas and leaving out mention of their service and experience.

3. Your business is open Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm. The reviewer is upset that you did not speak with them and that you did not solve their problem on Sunday at 7am. Negative review left Sunday at 7:15am.

What to Do About It

Be Proactive: Sometimes these scenarios can be avoided through proactive communication, which is why, when possible, it’s important to be as proactive with customers as you can. Unfortunately, customers and reviewers don’t always reach out and sometimes you don’t have the opportunity to speak with them at all before they leave reviews like this.

Get to the Point: In these cases, there’s no need for lengthy excuses or defenses. Simply address the situations, much like in the second scenario, and calmly explain your policies and your company’s approach to proactively allowing customers the opportunity to share their concerns during the service process.


Negative reviews certainly need to be addressed, but make sure that you consider and learn from them as well. Often negative reviews can provide you with great insight into ways you can better serve your audience and stand out from the competition.

While it’s not a good idea to implement every suggestion from every review, find out if there are some things that you’re doing that your customers would rather see change across the board that makes sense for your business and consider making small changes here and there.

In All

Like mentioned before, most online users today recognize situations like these for what they are. Being proactive with negative reviews of all types come down to communication and honesty.

Acknowledging reviewers’ concerns while offering to discuss ways to provide a solution in more detail in private can turn a seemingly negative situation into a golden opportunity for your company, and it might even get these negative reviewers to change their ratings.

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