No business owner is happy to hear that a customer had a bad experience, but receiving negative feedback from time to time is a fact of life. Even the best businesses in the world have a critic or two.

89% of consumers report a willingness to change their negative reviews based on how a business owner responds

– LSA Study, The Great Conversational Divide

Fortunately, there are proven strategies for addressing negative feedback and re-engaging an unhappy customer. And there can be light at the end of the tunnel: a Local Search Association report shows that 89% of consumers report a willingness to change their negative reviews based on how a business owner responds.

When you respond to your critic, you should apologize for the bad experience, investigate what went wrong and offer to make amends.  When you do this right, you can convert someone posting negative feedback into a loyal customer willing to post a positive review.

1: Apologize

Take a deep breath and apologize to your dissatisfied customer.  It doesn’t matter whether you think you’ve been judged unfairly. The best way to defuse your customer’s anger is to demonstrate a willingness to accept responsibility.

If you’re replying to the customer over email, lead with a line like: “We’re very sorry to hear that you had a bad experience.”

2: Find out what went wrong

Whatever led to the customer’s dissatisfaction, you should ask for details. That way, you can determine whether you have a larger issue requiring your attention. More importantly, the customer will appreciate being listened to, which can go a long way towards repairing his or her opinion of your business.  

In your email reply, you can follow your apology with a line like: “If you’re open to discussing this further, please call us at [your number] and ask to speak with me, [Your Name].

3: Offer to make amends

To demonstrate your interest in retaining your customer, you may follow up with an offer for their next purchase – 5% off, a $10 credit, or another form of encouragement to work with you again. Keep in mind that saving a customer is worth more than his or her next purchase. By addressing the customer’s disappointment, you are reducing the chance of getting a negative review.

You can close your email with a line like: “We’d also like to offer you a [credit or discount] as a small token of thanks for being a customer and for sharing your thoughts with us. We look forward to speaking with you.”

Sample Email

Here is a sample email reply for customers who submit negative feedback:

“Dear [Customer’s Name],

We’re very sorry to hear that you had a bad experience at [Your business]. It’s our goal to deliver the highest quality of service to all of our customers so we’d love to learn a little bit more about what prompted your feedback. If you’re open to discussing this further, please call us at [your number] and ask to speak with me, [Your Name]. We’d also like to offer you a [credit or discount] as a small token of thanks for being a customer and for sharing your thoughts with us. We look forward to speaking with you.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]”

Sample Review Response

Here is a sample message you can post in response to a customer who submits a negative review on Yelp, Facebook, or Google.

“Dear [Customer’s Name],

I’m very sorry to hear about your experience. It’s our goal to make sure every customer receives the best possible service. We’d love to make this up to you. We’ll message you privately to get additional feedback, and I can assure you we’ll do everything we can to resolve the matter.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]”