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Negative Review Responses: How To Turn Lemons into Lemonade

As a business owner, there are few things that jerk a knot in our minds like a negative review.

We’ve all been there – you wake up, grab your morning coffee, and check your emails to discover a not-so-pleasant surprise: a negative review. It’s like a rainy day when you plan a picnic, but how do you respond?

Negative reviews are a part of life in the business world. You could say they’re the cost of doing business. Even the greatest businesses on Earth get them from time to time. The key is not to let them rain on your parade (or picnic). Instead, let’s learn how to respond with class, charm, and maybe even a dash of humor!

Here are our suggestions on how to handle it when (Ok, “If” you ever get a negative review):

Take a Deep Breath and Resist the Urge to Hulk Out

First things first, take a deep breath! Negative customer reviews can feel like a punch to the gut, but don’t let your emotions take the wheel. Instead of turning into the Hulk, remember that this is an opportunity to shine and show your professionalism.

Do NOT Take Negative Reviews Personally

If you started this business and have built it from the ground up, getting a negative review can feel like a personal insult.

It’s not though.

Chances are very good that they don’t know you, have never met you, and wouldn’t be able to pick you out of a lineup, so what they said, isn’t personal at all. It’s simply about their experience with your business and that is all.

It’s important to keep everything in this perspective.

Investigate the Situation Sherlock Holmes-Style

Put on your detective hat and do some sleuthing. Is the reviewer a genuine customer?

Did they have a valid complaint, or were they just having a bad day? Sometimes, it’s a case of mistaken identity or even a competitor trying to mess with you.

In some of these cases, you can get Google to remove the review since it goes against their guidelines, but don’t count on that.

We worked with one client who got a horrific review from someone who said something to the effect of:

“And we caught the business owner making a mistake. When we pointed it out, he flipped me off!”

I called our client and let him know he got a bad review and it turns out that this was nothing more than a road rage incident. The author of the review supposedly cut off my client in traffic went on his Google Business Profile and left a negative review. Hey, it happens!

When I asked my client if he flipped the guy off, he said, “No! No! No! Well….yeah.”

I told him that in Atlanta traffic, I get it.

If the reviewer was an actual customer, it’s important to investigate to see when and what went wrong in the interaction. This turns the negative review into what it should be: an opportunity to learn how to improve what you do.

Craft a Thoughtful Response

Now, it’s time to respond. This is where you want to be careful. Why? Simple.

No one ever “won” an argument on a review site. You have zero chance of becoming the first.

So, get the urge to fight out of your head. If your response is too defensive or combative, you’ll not only lose the battle but the entire war.

Remember, when you respond, you’re not really responding to the individual who left the negative review although, they will get emailed your response on your Google Business Profile. You’re responding to all the potential customers who will read your response in the future to get a feel about whether or not they want to do business with you.

If they see you explode, become defensive or combative, your very own response will do more to hurt your business than the negative review.

Start by thanking the unhappy customer for their feedback. Show them you appreciate their input, even if it stings a little. Remember, you’re the bigger person here!

Here’s a template to get you started:

“Hi [Reviewer’s Name], thank you for taking the time to share your feedback. We’re sorry to hear about your experience, and that we did not meet your expectations. We take your concerns seriously.”

Address the Issue and Offer a Solution

Get down to the nitty-gritty. Address the specific issue raised in the review, and if necessary, offer a solution. Show your commitment to making things right.


“We apologize for the inconvenience you experienced. Our team is dedicated to providing top-notch service, and we’d like the opportunity to resolve the issue and make it up to you. Please reach out to [Contact Information] so we can discuss this further.”

Keep it Positive and Professional

Remember, you’re not just responding to one person; you’re showing your entire online audience how you handle criticism. Keep your tone positive and professional, and avoid getting into a heated online battle. Rise above!

Inject a Dash of Humor (When Appropriate)

If the situation allows, don’t be afraid to sprinkle a little humor into your response. A well-timed joke can help defuse tension and show that you don’t take yourself too seriously.


“We’re sorry our unicorn-powered coffee machine malfunctioned during your visit! We’ll make sure our magical baristas work their magic next time.”

Or, YOU write something funny.

Just a quick caution about using humor. While you may think your response is hilarious, be sure to run it by several objective parties for feedback. These days, humor can be a dangerous thing since what is funny today might not stand the test of time.

Learn and Improve

Lastly, take this negative feedback as an opportunity to grow and improve. Use it to make changes that will benefit your business in the long run. Negative reviews can be the silver lining to your cloud.

In the end, remember that negative reviews happen to the best of us. It’s how you respond that sets you apart.

Show your customers that you care and that you’re always striving to be better. So, chin up, business owner! You’ve got this!

Remember, Not Every Customer Is A Good One

When you run a business, it’s important to remember that there are some really bad customers out there. It’s a simple statistical fact that your business is bound to run into some during the course of your corporate lifetime.

What does this mean exactly? Well, some customers are miserable, unhappy people who simply cannot be pleased no matter what you do. Those people are out there.

Final Thoughts

Responding to negative reviews is an art, not a science. It requires patience, empathy, and a careful touch of humor when appropriate. By mastering this art, you can turn a potentially sour situation into an opportunity to shine, show your professionalism, and win over customers.

So, look at negative reviews as the cost of being in business long enough. Learn what you can from them and keep up the good work.

Cliff Tillery, director of SEOCliff Tillery, MBA is the Chief Operating Officer and SEO Director at Make It Loud which is a digital marketing firm located outside of Atlanta Georgia. More than 14 years ago, he started search engine optimization at this award-winning agency and has taught digital marketing skills to business owners at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the Gwinnett Entrepreneur Center, and other groups.

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