A Guide to Answering Negative Online Reviews

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 The negative review – every online business owners heart-thumping, middle-of-the-night, cold-sweat-inducing nightmare.  Okay maybe not that bad, but to be honest hearing anything negative about your business tends to set one on edge, I know it does me and that’s usually on my clients’ behalf, not my own!

I thought a few tips on handling a negative review in the online space would be handy to all of our readers.  I find that most owners are reluctant to say anything back to negative reviews.  The thing is – the negative reviewer is YEARNING for you to get involved, to tell them you’re “really sorry” and you hope they’ll “try again”. 

Not only is the negative reviewer looking for that – the future shopper that reads that review is looking for the interaction and the reassurance that you’ve fixed the problem.  If you don’t tell them you have fixed it – how will they know?

My number one rule for managing a negative review?  Fix it or nobody will forget it!  If it’s broken, fix it.  If it’s shabby, replace it.  If an employee is rude (on a consistent and repeated basis,) replace them.


  • Acknowledge the problem, give out your personal email address and invite the reviewer to contact you directly to address their concerns.  Let the others that read that review know you’re willing to do whatever it takes to “make it right.” 
  • Use the negative review as a tool to educatefuture shoppers.  If someone is upset because the vacation rental didn’t house 8 people comfortably – take the opportinity to respond, apologize for their inconvenience, and remind them that the house was only rated to fit 4 comfortably.

Andy Beal – blogger at MarketingPilgrim.com, author of Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online, and founder of Trackur.com talked about a great example of managing reviews in his recent article:  Advice for Managing Negative Reviews of Hotels or Small Businesses.  ResortQuest Waikiki thanks EVERY reviewer for leaving a review and responds to negative aspects of any review with a personal message.

Tripadvisor Management Response

I’ve got my copy of Beal’s book on order,  I’ll be posting a book review when I’m finished with it!


  • Ignore it. Like most things in life, ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. Dig in and get it fixed – then let others know it has been fixed.

  • Be Antagonistic.  Nothing looks worse than an owner attacking a guest for a less than accurate complaint.  You aren’t going to change their mind by attacking them.  Instead apologize and let them know you don’t do business that way and maybe point out the 10 other positive reviews to the readers of your response.

 Think about negative reviews as an opportunity to engage your audience, to show them how much you care about their vacation, trip or getaway.  Without that interaction, your online presence is pretty 1.0 – and 1.0 is about 4-years ago.  Move into Web 2.0 & 3.0 by striking up a conversation online.


  1. Carie –

    I couldn’t agree with you more and I think you make some excellent points. Negative reviews can help lend credibility to the other positive reviews about a product, service or vacation home.

    Great post…

  2. I think this is exactly right, although I would take it a step further – we suggest to our clients that they respond to negatives, but also that they take care not to get into a debate with the reviewer.
    Even if you respond with a (non-antagonistic) ‘we’re very sorry, this problem has been fixed, etc’, you may find that the original poster, or others, then jump back in with ‘well that doesn’t help me’ or something equally problematic.
    It’s all too easy to get into a he-said-she-said, back and forth with people online, but for business owners this can be very harmful. You certainly don’t want to look petty or that you’re constantly on the defensive. Our counsel is (almost) always, “State your initial response, then leave it alone!”.

  3. Carrie Hill says:

    @Bryan – thanks for the comment!

    @Simon Ashton
    I agree – taking a potentially volatile situation offline is a great idea – but having a civilzed talk and coming to a mutually beneficial conclusion ONLINE can be a great indicator of the “care-factor” a business has for their clients. This is definitely something that doesnt happen every time – but it CAN happen and can benefit everyone involved and even future involve-ees :)

    Thanks to you both for participating!


  4. Skaneateles Suites has fabulous reviews at TripAdvisor (indeed, we are top 10 in all New York State) and lately I have had several Guests comment that “It was hard to believe”.

    In contemplating my own travel experience, I have to agree, it’s hard to believe a hotel is ‘perfect’. This is not my way of encouraging negative reviews, rather, that management responding in a public form is really rather more conforting than too-good-to-be-true stuff.

    Regards, Curt and the Suite Dreams Team

  5. Carrie Hill says:

    @curt – no problem I can fix it!

    Thanks for your comment!


  6. Thank you for the information in your article.