How to Address Negative Reviews Directly

Smilie IconsThe internet is – for many brands – an area of opportunity and or risk. On one hand, brands are able to freely reach new audiences beyond the realm of what mere brick and mortar institutions can reach. On the other hand, a whole new series of potential problems and complaints suddenly becomes possible. Negative reviews left by disgruntled customers can be a huge ding on the reputation of growing brands, particularly considering that search engines like Google and Bing are increasingly taking their assessments into account. In order to mitigate as much of the damage as possible with other prospective customers, we’ve put together a quick guide on how to respond to these negative reviews directly and in a productive fashion.

Read Their Complaints

It’s a bad idea to merely gaze at a negative review and then proceed to respond. Not only will reading a negative review give you the full scoop into what has bothered the customer, but it will also give you time to cool down after seeing its presence. Be sure to take notes on relevant information, such as the date and/or time at which it occurred, the location (if dealing with a physical presence), specific phrasings of what occurred, and even the tone of the review itself. This will allow you to determine in large part whether the review should be responded to as a rational defence of the brand or as a message to refute the criticism entirely.

Explore Internally

In order to further prepare a response, looking into the criticism from within the brand is important. Start pinging users involved with the review for more information if they have not already reached out to you personally. With this information, explore where things went wrong on your end. Was there a processing delay for a product? Did the postal service have shipping delays? Being able to isolate where things went wrong will help you to more accurately respond to the claims being made.

Learn More About the Writer

Depending on the review platform and whether or not anonymity is allowed, you may be able to find some more information about the writer. Is the writer prone to writing negative reviews often? Do they heap praise on your competitors while criticizing you? Is this a new account and the only complaint made? Pinging users on review sites for this information when possible is instrumental in helping to determine whether this is a legitimate complaint, the anger of a persistently unhappy individual, or a smear job from a competitor.


If the review in question appears to be a legitimate one and you are at fault, then it is important to apologize. Even if some elements were out of your control, customers expect brands to take ownership of issues and rectify them. At this point, you will also want to explain how the situation that occurred will be fixed in the future so that other customers do not experience the same problems. An active and apologetic presence in these issues can help reduce the amount of harm done to your brand in the eyes of future and potential customers.

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