How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Businesses that respond to reviews perform better than their competitors who don’t. Learn how to respond to negative reviews in this guide.
Written by:
George Swetlitz
Published on:
March 7, 2024
Our analysis of over 100000 restaurant review

Table of contents

About The Author

George Swetlitz
Co founder
George is a co-founder of RightResponse AI and a former CEO of a healthcare clinic group with 200+ locations. His experience using customer reviews to drive organic growth and internal improvement led to the creation of RightResponse AI.

Most people search through reviews of your business before deciding to engage. Many will sort by negative reviews first, and Google’s default order is by relevance, which often means an older, negative review is at the top of the list. In a recent study we conducted, we found that 19% of reviews of a restaurant were negative (which we define as star ratings of 1, 2, and 3). Of those negative reviews, 80% had comments from the reviewer! But only 43% of those comments were responded to by the restaurant. 

A proven tactic to manage these negative reviews is to reply. In a survey we did of restaurant diners, 58% said that a restaurant's response to a negative review could make them feel less worried about a negative review. However, In an analysis of over 100,000 restaurant reviews, we found that only 50% of reviews of studied restaurants were responded to.

Responding to negative reviews is challenging, so how do we do it, especially at scale? Let’s talk about how to respond to negative reviews in a way that not only builds your reputation but increases your customer loyalty and acquisition.

Why Are Reviews Important for Businesses? 

There’s a good reason many location-based businesses request reviews. Reviews play a pivotal role in consumer decision-making, with 91% of shoppers consulting them before making a purchase, according to Statista. 67% of these consumers read as many as six reviews, highlighting the significant impact of customer feedback on purchasing behavior.

Realism and Positive Reviews: Too Much of a Good Thing

Despite their importance, the credibility of reviews is under scrutiny. The World Economic Forum reports that 85% of consumers  suspect fake reviews in the mix.

An abundance of positive reviews could raise suspicions of review gating, where businesses showcase only positive feedback, potentially undermining trust. A balanced review profile, including both positive and negative feedback, appears more genuine and trustworthy to consumers. As a result, only allowing 5 star reviews may not be the golden ticket to success.

Information Seeking and Feedback

Certainly, people look through reviews to see what kinds of good or bad experiences customers have had with your business. However, they also look through your reviews to learn more about your business and to see how you respond to reviews, as this can reveal additional information about the business and a lot about your business’s character. 

Negative reviews provide feedback about your business and present opportunities to improve and make customers happy. By showing that you acknowledge mistakes or negative experiences and show willingness to improve, that can demonstrate your authenticity and commitment to your customers. 

Responding to Negative Reviews

To respond to negative customer feedback, you’ll need to set goals to make sure that your responses are purposeful and benefit both your customers and brand. We’ll discuss what makes a helpful review response, and then we’ll show some examples. 

Goals of Negative Review Responses

Your unique goals as a brand will vary, but these three principles apply everywhere: 

Goals to nagative review responses
Remember before send nagative review response

Anatomy of a Negative Review Response

Every great negative review response is unique, and its composition will vary. However, there are a few common themes that make up the best responses. Excellent review responses are:

  • Personalized: Discuss the problem they wrote about. This helps let reviewers and other viewers know you care about them at an individual level.
  • Empathetic: Acknowledging the problem and apologizing doesn’t just show the reviewer that you care about them and realize what went wrong, it also shows bystanders that you’re receptive to feedback and that you care about your customers.
  • Informational: Negative reviews often reveal opportunities to provide customers with helpful information. This not only helps the negative reviewer, but it provides helpful information for all readers that will improve their experience. 
  • Timely: Responding quickly lets the reviewer know that their feedback isn’t just important: it’s urgent.
  • Concise: If your review response is short and to the point, it will make it much easier for bystanders to read as they glance through hundreds of reviews for your business.
  • Receptive: Let them know what you did to rectify the situation and make things better for customers.

What Do Effective Negative Review Responses Look Like?

One of the best places to look to investigate how businesses in your sector respond to negative reviews is to take a look at your competitors. Investigate how they approach negative review responses both narrowly and broadly. How many do they respond to, and how do they respond? 

Looking at your competitors will help give you ideas on how to respond to negative reviews, but it can also present opportunities to do it better than they do.

nagative review response for hotel

The hotel takes an empathetic approach by apologizing for Lauren’s poor experience. They also take an informative approach, letting the reviewer know that there are in fact two buildings, not one, and that each building has its own front desk. Passing future guests would find it helpful to know that they can be checked in at either desk, regardless of which tower they’re staying in. It’s also neat to know their pillow options.

Nagative review response for restaurants

The restaurant responds empathetically and apologizes for the experience Amanda received. They also extended appreciation for the feedback and acknowledged that it would play a role in making the experience better in the future. The restaurant also provided helpful information about how to see the live bands schedule on their Facebook page and website. This could help the reviewer and other prospective customers plan their visit accordingly. 

This review response was actually generated by RightResponse AI’s Intelligent Response Generator. To achieve a personalized response like this, the restaurant gave the AI engine a list of facts that it can use to reference in its review responses. The AI engine understands the context of the review and adds relevant information that would be helpful to all prospective customers  while also responding empathetically.

Review Response Strategy: Responding at Scale

Responding to negative reviews really isn’t that hard at an individual level. However, at scale it gets tricky. Here’s a quick look at some of the best options available to you:

Type of Negative review responses

For small businesses, human-led responses to negative reviews are the best approach. If company leaders interact with their customers on a daily basis, they can directly connect with reviewers with personalized and helpful responses. 

However, medium to large-sized businesses can have trouble responding to high review volume. Outsourcing human-led responses is possible but comes at the cost of personalization and quality. Spelling and grammar mistakes are the most common with this approach, and outsourced review responders won’t know specific facts about your business that would be useful. 

Auto-responses are another option, but they are also the worst. Reviewers and viewers will immediately be able to see that the response was made automatically since it will lack any personalization aside from addressing the name of the reviewer. However, it’s probably better than not responding at all.

Generative AI in Scalable Review Response

With hundreds or thousands of reviews, responding to all of them with unique and personalized responses can take a lot of time and resources if done by hand. Artificial intelligence is an option, and there are two ways to use it. 

The first way is to simply get ChatGPT or another generative AI chatbot to do it. Paste in the review and ask ChatGPT to create a response to it. Copy the output and paste it in as the review response. Rinse and repeat. However, the AI won’t know much about your business and won’t be able to provide the most relevant information.

However, the most efficient and effective way to do it is to leverage AI built for the job. RightResponse AI enables businesses to automate review responses in context for hundreds or thousands of reviews. It can aggregate, filter, and organize reviews by a number of categories, and can even accomplish competitor review analysis for you all in one place. It even makes it possible to respond in multiple languages. You can learn more about this in Our Intelligent AI Review Response Generator post.

To get that level of quality and scalability out of advanced generative AI review responses from RightResponse AI, you’ll need to spend time giving it the facts and information that it needs to know to provide high quality responses that will be best received by reviewers and readers. 

Didi you know - RightResponse AI

Make the Right Response to Your Customers with RightResponse AI

Although small businesses will always be the champions of human-written responses to negative reviews, larger businesses aren’t necessarily at a disadvantage. They just need to use the right tools. 

RightResponse AI utilizes the best available generative AI models to provide realistic, personalized, informational and relevant responses to your customers. See how it can benefit your brand by starting a free trial today.

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