4 Review Response Templates For Negative Reviews

Andrew McDermottNegative Reviews, Reputation Management, Review Management, Review Marketing2 Comments

negative review response templates

Negative reviews, left by unhappy customers, present a serious problem for almost every business. When customers leave a negative review, it's a sign of broken trust.

It feels like an accusation.

A proclamation stating that your organization failed to deliver as promised. Should you respond? If so, what's the best way?

Let's take a look.

First, you'll need to identify your reviewer

J.M. Rensink, researcher at the University of Twente, discovered that there are seven motivations behind positive and negative word-of-mouth. Today, we'll focus on the negative.

Namely, why customers leave negative reviews.

1. Vengeance. This customer has had a bad experience. They feel you've wronged them in some way and they're out for revenge.

2. Anger/anxiety reduction. This customer is trying to self soothe. They're looking for a way to vent, to purge, relieve or reduce the pressure from their negative emotions.

3. Solution seeking. These customers have a problem but feel they can't trust their company to fix that problem. They reach out to reviewers and prospective buyers for advice, multiplying your problem.

4. Altruism/teaching. These customers are simply reporting the facts as they see them. They're focused on sharing their experiences with the public at large whether those experiences are positive or negative.

5. Message intrigue. These reviews can be positive or negative. They're triggered by external activity (e.g. ads, commercials, or a public relations disaster).

These details inform and educate.

Prospective buyers use these negative reviews as profiling tools. They're resources buyers can use to evaluate your business quickly. With that in mind, let's take a look at our first response template.

Response template #1: the vengeful customer

This customer isn't looking for satisfaction. They don't want a resolution to the problem. Their focus is uncomplicated. They want to hurt you. The more damage they're able to produce, the better.

Here's an example:

Example of a vengeful, angry review from an upset customer with a Bill Nye avatar

This customer hates their business. Not only are they willing to post a negative review, they're attempting to rally reviewers to their cause. They reported this business to the Attorney General's Office and they'd like every customer to do the same.

They want to see this business fail.

How should you respond to a customer's review when you've let them down? Is there anything you can say to restore or salvage the relationship?

Here's a template you can use to respond to your vengeful customers.


Hi [Reviewers Name],

[Name] here, I'm the [title] at [business name].

I'm so sorry we let you down.

We've taken your feedback, and the feedback of other reviewers, to heart. We're in the process of making some major changes.

[Specific yet concise list of changes]

Is there anything we can do to make this up to you? I completely understand if you're angry and simply looking for space/closure. However, I'd like to make things right if I can.

Are you open to this?

[Manager name | contact number]

Why it works:

It's easy to attack a faceless corporation. It's not quite as easy to attack a specific person, especially one who is innocent and simply attempting to do their job. Beginning and ending with a name improve your odds of humanizing the conversation.

It's no guarantee of course.

In fact, if you're dealing with a vengeful customer, the chance of this working is very low percentage.

This is good news.

This response isn't for your vengeful customer. This response is for future prospective buyers who stumble across your negative review. As a whole, customers are reasonable people. They expect to see negative reviews. But more importantly, they're interested in seeing how you respond to these negative reviews.

That's the key.

Response template #2: the angry/anxious customer

These customers are angry.

Their anger may be based on several legitimate or illegitimate factors concerning your situation. Here's the key differentiator. At first glance, these customers sound like the vengeful customers we've just discussed.

an example of a review from an angry customer

This customer has a right to be angry, don't you think? He had certain expectations going in. He spent his money with the expectation of a particular return and those expectations weren't met.

This is salvageable.

Relationships like these can be repaired. But only if you're able to use the right verbiage.


Here's a template you can use to respond to your angry customers.

[date] [Reviewers Name], you're right.

You expected [result], you should have received that but that's not what we delivered. If I were in your situation, I'd be pretty upset too.

I'm so sorry we missed the mark on this.

We should have caught this the first time but we didn't. These mistakes have been hard (and expensive) lessons to learn. We're using your feedback to [concise list of changes].

Can we make this up to you (at our expense)?

I'd like to do whatever I can to correct our mistake and earn your forgiveness. What can we do to make this right?

Please reach me directly at:

[Manager name | contact number]

Why it works:

We're using the language of apology. Most people aren't aware of the fact that apologies have their own language. Most people expect specific things from the apologies they receive.

What sort of things?

Some people expect you to communicate:

1. Regret. These customers want to hear the words "I'm sorry." They want to see and understand that you feel regret for your actions.

2. Ownership. These customers want you to accept responsibility for your mistakes and own them - without excuses, evasion or blame.

3. Restitution. These customers want you to restore them, to make things whole. This could be issuing a refund, doing the work for free, replacing a particular item.

4. Reform. These customers want to know what you'll do to prevent this issue or problem from ever happening again.

5. Forgiveness. These customers want you to request reconciliation. They want to see your humility and/or vulnerability. Some may intentionally reject you when you ask. Others may welcome you back with open arms.

Which one is most important to your customer?

You have no idea.

Which is why it's important that you include elements of all five in your response. This isn't as important with vengeful customers as they're simply looking for ways to hurt you.

Response template #3: the solution seeker

Customers aren't always emotional. Some customers just want a solution to a specific problem but they're too afraid to ask for help.

an example tripadvisor review from a customer that just wants a solution to a problem

These relationships can be repaired if you're willing to: (a.) Go above and beyond for your customers (e.g. making yourself fully available to customers) and/or (b.) Reversing the risks they face with a promise of some kind (e.g guarantee, warranty, or seller-assumed risk).

Here's a template you can use to respond to your solution seeking customers.

[date] [Reviewers Name], thanks for reaching out.

Your concerns make sense. We could have [taken particular actions] to relieve your stress and anxiety but we didn't do that. I'm sorry about that.

Here's what I can do for you.

I can [concise list of solutions/action steps].

As a courtesy, I'd also like to offer a complementary [bonus actions/reward/incentive]. Would this help to make things right?

Please let me know,

[Manager name | contact number]

Why it works:

This gives solution seeking customers a way to solve their problem. If you've missed the mark somewhere along the line, now's the time to apologize. Just be sure to use the appropriate apology language. You'll need something else to seal the deal.

A bonus, reward or incentive.

Your goal here is twofold: (1.) Reduce the risks to customers searching for a particular problem and (2.) Take those risks onto yourself.

Response template #4: altruism/teaching customers

These customers are simply about reporting the facts as they see them. Their focus is on helping others - prospective buyers who are interested in an unbiased account of their experience with you.

yelp review of a customer providing true details about establishment despite negative review

Responding to a negative review from an altruistic/teaching customer is straightforward.

Just the facts.

They're going to share the facts and details of their situation: their experience, the events in question and specific details. That's what your response needs to include.

How do you do that?

Here's the template you can use to respond to your altruistic/teaching customers.


Hi [Reviewers Name],

I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts and feedback with us. I'm disappointed to hear that you were treated in a way that was less than you deserve.

I'm so sorry for that.

This shouldn't have happened to you. We dropped the ball completely here. If you're open to it, I'd like to make this up to you.

Please let me know,

[Manager name | contact number]

Why it works:

This response is light on emotional language. Remember, these altruistic/teaching customers are typically focused on the facts. They're interested in giving those around them a truthful, fair yet unbiased account of their experience with you.

Which just so happened to be negative.

Go above and beyond for these customers. Do whatever it takes to woo them back to your corner. Take care of them. Shield them from the issues that created these negative reviews in the first place.

Take care of them.

Do it without an expectation of return. Even if it means you're still rejected by them. Do it for your future buyers. Respond even if you're unsure about the outcomes or potential profit.

Negative reviews scream for a response

A negative review, left by an unhappy customer, presents a serious problem for almost every business. When customers leave a negative review it's a sign of broken trust.

It feels like an accusation.

And it is. Prospective buyers use these negative reviews as profiling tools. Straightforward tools they use to evaluate your business. Negative reviews aren't as good as positive reviews.

But they aren't a fatal blow either.

Customize these templates. You'll have the tools you need to respond to a negative review appropriately.

About the Author

Andrew McDermott

Andrew McDermott is the co-founder of HooktoWin and the co-author of Hook: Why Websites Fail to Make Money. He shows entrepreneurs how to attract and win new customers.

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