Managing negative customer feedback

Managing negative customer feedback An old employer once told me to never respond to a negative review unless I was able to own the situation and fix the issue.

A negative review of your business can feel personal. You’ve worked hard to deliver your product or service, but somehow, somewhere along the line, something’s gone awry. Maybe the complaint is justified, or maybe it’s a case of a crackpot consumer with expectations set a little too high.  But in both cases, the proper course of action is always to act.

I think my old employer was wrong. I think you should always respond to a negative review, and always have a process in place to own the situation and fix the issue.

And, with so much feedback happening over social media, this resolution will be visible in a digital trail for a whole range of other potential customers to see.

  • Invite your customers to give you feedback. After a negative experience, most customers will simply go to a competitor without warning. Limit this by asking for their opinions, and then fixing any issues. Having links to your social media pages on your website and in your communication with customers will encourage engagement ­– both negative and positive. An ongoing stream of authentic feedback will protect you from the occasional bad review.
  • Accept the negative comments. Don’t take them personally, see them as valuable insights into your customer experience and your business weak points. Think of each bad review as an opportunity to keep a customer, not lose one.
  • Work out a system to deal with it. Monitor comments from different sources – social media, review websites, emails, and in-store feedback. You might like to write up a basic template to respond to emails and online comments, but don’t worry about sticking to it meticulously – it should be personalised to the customer and the situation.
  • Train your staff. Let them know how you’d like them to handle negative feedback, and give them resources to make quick decisions to fix the problem before it escalates.
  •  Respond quickly and honestly. Never ignore negative feedback, even if it seems trivial. Let the customer know that their complaint will be dealt with swiftly, and explain to them what you’re going to do. Then, do it.

So what should you say, and what should you do? 

These days, the customer – while not always right – certainly has a whole lot of power to do a lot of damage to your brand. With social media and review sites like TripAdvisor, one angry customer can create a wave of distrust.

But by nipping problems in the bud, you can contain its effects and even create a positive outcome. Use the visibility of reviews on these channels to your advantage – respond promptly with an apology, and an offer to correct the situation. The unhappy customer will be pleased, and your brand will look engaged, transparent and concerned about your customers’ experience.

When so many people use social media and review sites to shop around for any good service, this can only be a good thing.

All publicity might not be good, but you can use those negative comments to generate positive publicity for your brand. Don’t let negative comments sting you and affect your confidence. Instead, use them to your advantage – to improve your product, your customer service, and your business overall.

Do you have a process in place to manage negative feedback?  Share your comments below. We’d love to hear from you.



  1. Indira Pierrot says

    I think in the days of social media you can’t just ignore negative feedback. Respond in a gracious way and then do your best to get situation resolved offline.

  2. Good techniques to use for managing negative customer feedback. I would add that it’s good to think about what you want to say for a little while rather than being tempted to respond in anger.

    • Vicky Savellis-Grant says

      I agree with your Beth. I like to write the response, wait a little then review and send. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Always take time to think through your response. Sit with it awhile. Fortunately have thus far not had to deal with any. If they do come up, these are really good points to consider.

  4. I’ve previously heard how negative feedback is one of the best ways to showcase the character of your business. How you respond to negativity is a direct interaction with customers to let them know what kind of business owner you are. If your client happiness is your center focus (whether they are right or wrong), you will. most likely achieve greater overall client satisfaction. I like your tips on the necessity to train your staff and be swift/honest. It’s important that all staff members know how to react in the situation so they aren’t caught off guard. Great tips!

  5. Great advice! I’ve seen improper responses from companies in the past and it always looks bad. Being professional goes a long way.

  6. Thank you very much for these great tips. I especially like your point about not taking personally but as valuable insight. Such comments which were considered as negative could ultimately become determinants of he success of a business. Thank you

  7. Any business owner needs to accept any negative feedback from anyone. Weigh it if it is an honest assessment or otherwise. Great tips!

  8. I absolutely 100% agree that you need to respond to every customer whether positive or negative. I recently went through a very bad experience with a cruise line where they didn’t respond to my concerns or anyone else’s regarding a problem with the ship we were scheduled to sail on over the holidays. Sadly their customer service pretty much dismissed any calls and their social media team failed as well. They actually cancelled my reservation 3 days before the cruise because they didn’t like my comments online. That alone was such a disturbing response but then they took it a step further and banned me and my family from all of their ships moving forward. I promise you I didn’t say or do anything to provoke that extreme measure but they clearly were out to make an example of me. I personally think it backfired once all of my friends online rallied around me but they, like most companies, really don’t care if they lose hundreds or thousands of customers. I don’t get it but then again, I don’t run a company making billions of dollars a year.

  9. Great article. It’s how we respond to feedback that makes the difference. It’s so easy to ignore something or get defensive. We can’t always turn a situation around but we can choose to respond positively. Often when someone has felt that we have listened to them and taken their issue seriously, we are able to win the back on side.

  10. Excellent tips, Vicky. I think negative comments provide a great opportunity to educate as well as to demonstrate extraordinary customer service.

    • Vicky Savellis-Grant says

      That’s right Jackie negative comments provide an opportunity to differentiate your brand, and overall business. Thanks for your comments.

  11. It took me a while not to take negative comments personally, now 3 years down the line I try to just deal with the problem and move on.

  12. Vicky! Great tips in this post. I agree with what you say about systems 🙂 Really important!

Speak Your Mind