How to Respond to Negative Customer Feedback

November 1, 2017
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Negative customer feedback and complaints are often considered unwanted and damaging to a business’s reputation. This is especially important in today’s digital age where, if a customer takes to social media to write negative feedback, it is available for all to see.

However, complaints are necessary for business growth and are beneficial for both you and the customer. They help to solve a customer’s problem, and show you possible areas to improve. Furthermore, if handled correctly, negative customer feedback can improve your company’s reputation and retain customer loyalty.

Typically, customers want three outcomes from a complaint:

  • For the company to listen to them.
  • To feel like the person listening empathises and understands.
  • A resolution.

reading negative customer feedback

This article will outline the importance of feedback for a business, and how to respond to negative customer feedback in a way that is beneficial for your reputation.

Importance of Customer Feedback

All feedback is important and valuable for a business. Positive feedback gives you an insight into customer satisfaction levels and the popularity of your products or services. Negative feedback highlights areas for improvement and helps you refine your complaint handling process.

Research has found that 90% of customers read online reviews before visiting a business. Moreover, 86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews. Negative customer feedback is unavoidable, so these figures highlight the importance of dealing with it appropriately, professionally, and effectively.

Research has also shown that having a few bad reviews can also be a good sign for potential customers. 68% of consumers are more likely to trust a company when they see both good and bad reviews, with 30% of people suspecting censorship when they don’t see any negative reviews. Of course, having lots of negative reviews is off-putting. Therefore, ensuring you respond effectively to any negative reviews is incredibly important.

Responding to Negative Customer Feedback

Effectively handling negative customer feedback reflects well on a business. It gives you the opportunity to show you value and respect customer experience and satisfaction.

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Need a Course?

Whether your complaint is over the phone, via email, on social media, or made in person, our Complaint Handling Training Course will give you the skills you need to handle it appropriately and resolve it successfully.

The following tips demonstrate how to respond to any negative reviews and feedback that you may receive.

Respond Promptly, but Carefully Consider Your Response

It is essential that you thoroughly think about your response before you reply. An unfair complaint may leave you angry, but it is important not to jump straight in and reply in an emotionally-charged manner.

Remember: a complaint is not a personal attack on you. Rather, it demonstrates dissatisfaction with a service.

Research has shown that customers typically expect a response within one hour if they have complained on social media. You should always aim to reply within this time frame, but you must carefully consider your response. Allow yourself some time to be objective and emotionally remove yourself from the situation before you decide your reply.

If you are unable to respond within an hour, you must ensure you reply within 24 hours at the absolute most. If you respond after this time, customers may write your business off completely, or even take further action. Try to reply as quickly as possible.

Be Polite and Respectful

You must always be polite and respectful to customers who have complained. If a customer is angry, responding in an unpolite manner will only make matters worse.

If the reason for negative feedback is your fault, admit your mistake and apologise. Customers value honesty, and offering an apology shows you empathise with their situation.

You should also strive to be personable with your responses. Replying in a robotic manner, that lacks warmth and empathy, will further annoy the customer. You should always include your name at the end of your reply to show the customer that you are personally dealing with their feedback.

woman replying to feedback

Be Honest

Don’t be scared to correct a customer if they are wrong. However, you should always respond politely and professionally.

For example, if a customer has made an incorrect comment on social media, you could reply:

Hi Mark,

I am very sorry to hear that you were refused a refund at our X branch, so I have spoken to the appropriate members of the team and reviewed our company policy. This states that refunds can only be given up to 28 days from the day of purchase. This is written on the back of all receipts and on our website FAQ.  Unfortunately, your purchase was over 28 days ago so I am unable provide a refund.

If you have any further questions, or if there is anything more I can do or offer to help, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

All the best, Ellie.

Take Complex Issues Offline

If the issue is complex, and will take a lot of time and communication to sort, take the conversation out of the public eye. Leave a comment on the post to show you have seen and acknowledged it, and contact the customer by calling, emailing, or messaging them.

woman listening to customer on the phone

Solve the Issue

Try to resolve all customer complaints. Never ignore or delete any negative customer feedback. Acknowledge all comments and try to solve them quickly and effectively.


You should always try follow up negative reviews within two weeks of the original comment. Ask the customer if they are satisfied and if there is anything more you can do. This shows the customer that you have not forgotten about them, and that you are dedicated to delivering good customer service.

Record and Learn

Record all instances of negative customer feedback. By keeping a record of complaints, you can see if there are any recurring themes, which could suggest an area you need to improve.

Negative customer feedback is an opportunity for you to learn about your business, and what customers like and dislike. Don’t see complaints as negative – see them as a positive way of improving your business.

responding to negative feedback

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