How to respond to negative reviews

By Ilana Davis

In a previous article, I talked about how negative reviews can actually increase sales.

Now comes the hard part.

Responding to negative reviews

Sometimes responding to negative reviews is harder than hearing them.

The goal of your response is two-fold.

  1. to possibly rectify a bad experience and
  2. to show potential customers how you’d handle their situation if they too had a poor experience.

You’re going to have negative reviews. It’s a fact. Here’s how to respond to them without causing more trouble for your store and maybe, turning a negative into a positive.

Respond within 24-48 hours

Responding quickly shows that you are an active participant in your business and you recognize that if the customer cared enough to provide a review, you care enough to acknowledge their feedback. Responding with urgency also helps to turn a negative into a positive. More on that.

Remain positive

It’s difficult to stay positive when you feel attacked. Do not attack them. You’ll be the one who looks bad. If they completely berate you, remain positive.


Even if it’s not your fault or you didn’t do anything wrong, apologize. Their experience is their experience and you can’t convince them otherwise. Acknowledging and apologizing with genuine sympathy can de-escalate an upset customer. A simple “I’m sorry” can go a long way.

Offer to make it right

Again, even if it’s not your fault, you may be able to turn a negative into a positive. Offer to replace the product or contact them directly if they are upset at poor customer service. They may not accept the offer but what’s important is that others who see the negative review, see that you handled it by going the extra mile.

Avoid arguing the facts

They may have their own version of truth or their perceived chain of events. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. Arguing the facts only makes you look combative. You can speak briefly to their main concern to show you hear them and you care enough to give a genuine response instead of a templated version.

This may be a good opportunity to share your company policy or a typical experience as a way to combat a negative experience. “We’re usually recognized as having extraordinary support and we sincerely regret that we didn’t live up to those expectations.”

Keep it short

Again, it’s easy for us to want to defend our case to show others who see the negative review that this customer is wrong. Resit the urge to defend every point. You are not in a court of law and you do not need to prove your case.

Most reasonable people can tell when it’s a user issue and when it’s a company issue. Saying anything else that could further upset the customer and cause them to respond with more negativity, only keeps their blood boiling. Avoid asking more questions and dragging the conversation on any further. Keep your responses short and to the point is forever in your favor.

If you’re wondering if you’re Shopify or Squarespace website is set up to get you the best reviews possible, you might consider buying my Website Rescues. I fix stores so that the customers’ experience is the top priority.


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