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How to respond to negative reviews

When it comes to social media, it’s negative comments and reviews that cause the greatest concern to small and medium business owners according to the 2020 Yellow Social Media Report.

Negative reviews can have a significant impact on your business, not to mention the frustration and anxiety they can cause. Fortunately, like complaints made in person, negative online reviews don’t have to result in lost business. Instead, with a little forward thinking you can turn them into an opportunity to attract more customers.

Respond privately

A number of businesses prefer to respond to negative reviews offline, and out of public view. On social media, you should be able to send a response via private message. Use this message as an opportunity to:

  • say hello and introduce yourself
  • thank them for visiting your business and taking the time to provide feedback
  • apologise for the fact their experience didn’t live up to their expectation.

The rest of the message depends on the situation. You could offer some kind of compensation (eg. we’d love to offer you a free burger the next time you visit, to make up for your experience) or let them know you have adjusted the product (eg. in response to your feedback we’ve increased the size of our burger patties).

Respond publicly

Once you’ve sent a private response, make sure you also respond publicly. Any readers, or potential customers, who come across the exchange will see you have acknowledged the complaint and are working to rectify the situation. This will help to build your reputation, assuring potential customers that you listen and act on feedback.

Your public response could read along the lines of, ‘We’re sorry to hear you were unhappy with our product. It’s our goal to make sure every customer enjoys their experience. We’ve messaged you privately for additional feedback, and can assure you we’ll do everything we can to resolve the situation.’

Prepare responses

In the moment, when you’re feeling frustrated, you may not have time to craft the best response. Drafting responses ahead of time can help you respond quickly and in the best possible way. While some of the details can change, having a few dot points to start with could make your life much easier.

We’ve included a private message template below to get you started.

Hello <name>,
We're sorry that your experience didn’t live up to expectations. We appreciate your feedback and wanted to let you know problems with our customer service are rare. If you read our other reviews, you’ll see we pride ourselves in providing great customer service and we'd like to do the same for you. We can't change your previous experience, however we’d like to offer you a complimentary <item/service> to make it up to you. We hope this does some way to winning you back as a customer.
Yours sincerely
<name>

Can I have negative online reviews removed?

There are very few circumstances in which you can have a review removed from your Facebook page or Google My Business profile.

If you can provide evidence that the negative review:

  • is false (eg. the person has never been a customer of your business)
  • was motivated by a personal dislike
  • was left by a competitor (eg. you can provide screenshots that the same person left negative reviews for similar businesses in your area, when it is unlikely they were a customer of all of them).

Then you are more likely to have the comments reviewed and potentially removed. Platforms like Facebook and Google My Business will not remove reviews you simply don’t want to appear on your profile.

Tip: Leaving fake negative reviews or providing incentives for positive online reviews is a breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and can result in a fine. Visit the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission website to find out more.

Looking for more help with your digital marketing

For more digital marketing tips and advice, attend one of our digital skills or sales and marketing workshops.

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