How to respond to a negative review, without losing your sh*t

Sometime the internet sucks. It’s not all funny Tik Toks and dancing puppies. Sometimes you get bad press or a bad review. And it hits you like a sucka punch, a fish slap and a punch in the gut. It leaves you feeling winded, the adrenalin pumping. And then the self-doubt jumps in to join the pity party. 

“My business must be crap. My product is rubbish. Therefore, I’m crap, I’m a total failure. That’s it. Might as well chuck it. Not getting anywhere. I knew I shouldn’t have started that new campaign…” and so it goes on. One negative review and your walls come tumbling down. Sound familiar?

First things first, acknowledge that it’s totally human to react this way. It’s normal. You’re normal, well, in this respect anyway, we can’t comment on your penchant for mixing Maltesers in with your popcorn at the movies. Now that is weird.  Anyway, a bad review bloomin’ hurts. And that’s ok. But, what should you do next? How should you respond? Should you respond? 

Breathe please

Step away from the keyboard. Don’t hit REPLY immediately. Do not pass GO and do not collect $200 (ever played Monopoly?) No knee jerks please. I know it’ll make you feel amazing…but that amazing feeling will only last for 30 seconds. Believe me. Because once your knee has jerked, you’ll start second guessing yourself, and checking back every few minutes to see what the reviewer comes back with. It looks petty because it is. It’s not helpful. It’s not valuable and it creates a terrible impression for other customers.  It’s an immediate turn-off. 


It’s also tempting to ignore the review. As in, don’t give them the time of day. Don’t engage. Don’t credit them with a response. We hear you. Why should you reply to someone who has gone right for the jugular and been downright insulting? Well, actually, when managed in a particular way, this is a gift of an opportunity. You get to be the ultimate advert for humility and good values. And,  it’s the perfect way for you to stick 2 fingers up at your nasty reviewer, metaphorically speaking of course. You get to walk away as the Bigger Person.

Recent research published by Telstra shows that actively managing negative reviews can have a positive effect on consumers’ consideration of your business.

So, what should you do?

Evaluate the Review 

Negative reviews fall into two categories

  • Useful, since it’s constructive feedback and well-intended
  • Downright nasty and therefore destructive. Not well intended at all

The Useful Negative Review

A review which makes a valid point is always useful. For example

“I paid for 1 day express delivery and I did not receive my product for over 2 weeks.”


Ok, this is a valid reason to leave a negative review.  I would feel like that too. I wonder why it happened. Let’s find out and ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Respond to the reviewer

“Hi, we’re very sorry this happened. Thank you for letting us know. We’d like to understand why your delivery was so delayed. Please leave your email address here or call this number (0123 455677) and we can get to the bottom of this for you. Again, we’d like to apologise for the late delivery.”


You’ve acknowledged the customer and their valid complaint. By going offline it gives you a chance to really understand what went wrong. It may be you weren’t at fault at all. If that’s the case you’ve still publicly shown you’re willing to accept blame and you will act to ensure it doesn’t happen again. However, if there was some sort of problem at your end, it’s now been brought to your attention and you can fix it. A valuable lesson.

The Nasty Negative Review

On the other hand, a review which is personal or emotional tends not to be genuine. By this we mean the reviewer is either having a bad day or is basically just a troll, or both; a troll having a bad day.  In fact, in some cases it’s likely the reviewer may not even be a customer. I mean who’s got that kinda time? 

For example,

“Your products are terrible and I hate your company. I’ll never buy from you again.”


Ah ok. That’s pretty nasty. But, it’s not directed at me. It’s not personal. And, no explanation is given. What did they even buy? Are they even a customer? I’ll check with customer services to find out if they really are a genuine customer.


“Thanks for taking the time to write a review. We can’t find your details in our customer database and we’re concerned by this. Please leave your email address so we can chat to you and find out more about what went wrong.”


JACKPOT. You’ve been super polite AND you’re meeting them head on. You want to solve the problem. You’re being helpful. WIN WIN WIN. Can’t say fairer than that can you? 

The ULTIMATE comeback with a negative, destructive, nasty review is kindness, kindness and more kindness with a cherry on top. 

Kill them with kindness. But make it believable too. Like don’t offer to be their Best Man or anything but be as nice as nice can be. Job done

The Moral of the Story

A negative review needn’t ruin your day. In fact, it’s an incredible opportunity to showcase your brand values. 

By addressing customer grumbles head on, you’re illustrating how valuable your customers are to you. You’re listening to them. You’re keen to give them what they want. And, when customers get what they want, they’re HAPPY. They’ll rave about you. And hey, they might even grab some pom-poms in your brand colours and turn into your biggest cheerleader.

Alternatively, with the destructive reviews, by killing them with kindness you’re showing a willingness to come to the table 100% of the time (even when you know it’s a bad-tempered troll). 

And remember, as a business owner you’re out there. You’re putting yourself and your business out there in the arena, every single day. Be proud of that, and don’t ever let a negative review stop you.