Lizzie has several years of experience working with content creation and management. She achieved a BA (Hons) in English Literature from the University of Birmingham, before developing a career in PR and comms.

Negative Comments: How and Why You Should Respond

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me… we’ve all heard that one before. It’s one of those sayings that our mothers used to teach us, and is usually followed with an equally virtuous anecdote discouraging retaliation. We’re not in the habit of telling you to ignore the wise words of your mothers, but when it comes to social media and negative reviews, mum actually doesn’t know best. In fact, mum’s advice can be pretty fatal to your business.

Here, we discuss why you should always respond to negative reviews – and how to do so.

Why should I respond to negative comments?

Running a business is never plain sailing, and negative reviews are certainly one of those bumps in the road that we’d all rather avoid, but reviews and comments online are now a staunch part of the business landscape, and they don’t appear to be leaving just yet. In fact, statistics from Trustpilot reveal that 89% of consumers make the effort to read reviews before purchasing a product. That statistic alone emphasises how important it is to keep all public-facing elements of your business tidy – yet also, responding to negative reviews actually has a number of other benefits that can soften the blow of its initial negativity.

Active & Online

The cruel and unforgiving business landscape means that many businesses are here today, gone tomorrow. But replying to these negative reviews can actually show that you are still active, and haven’t gone into hiding after a barrage of negative reviews. This is especially true in terms of social media comments. If you’re not replying to comments, it can appear as if you’re inactive – either by error, or choice.

Utmost professionalism

It’s not very often that a bad review can work in your favour, however, when replied to correctly and replied to in general, this can actually be the case. Replying gives you the opportunity to say your piece – taking back control of the narrative – as well as showing how humble and customer driven you are as a business. Ignoring comments, on the other hand, gives many the impression that you may have something to hide, or that you don’t care about customer service.


If you ask most businesses what they’d like to see in terms of their reviews, most would automatically declare “100% 5-star reviews”. Unsurprisingly, if you asked a customer who was scouting the market what their ideal would be, they’d probably say the same, without necessarily meaning it. Negative reviews are a part and parcel of life, and not everyone is going to enjoy the services that your business has to offer. Customers know this, but they also know that these can be exploited. Gaining trust of your audience is already hard, and fake reviews can make it harder. In fact, the 18-34 age range are not only the most sceptical, but also more likely to spot a fake review than any other age range, with 92% having spied a fake review in the past year.  So, don’t necessarily feel bad about a negative review, and don’t try and counteract them by partaking in services that generate fake positive reviews either. Keeping it real is key!

Farewell to time wasters

Quite often, customers can be dissatisfied with a service that wasn’t part of the package, or happened to be more expensive. Customers who are looking for a similar service may come across your review and be put off, but this is actually a good thing – as it saves wasting their time and sets other customers’ expectations early on in the process.

How to respond to negative comments

This is the tricky part. Unfortunately, arguing with random people can come as part of the internet’s territory, and if you’re one of those people who hasn’t argued with a stranger on the internet – we don’t believe you. Maintaining your company’s PR image, and not annoying an already annoyed customer is no walk in the park, but following our guide below will certainly make it easier on you.

1. Say sorry

Elton was right: sorry does seem to be the hardest word sometimes. But it can certainly make any further correspondence with the customer smoother, and your PR image easier on the eye. Even if you haven’t done anything wrong perse, you can apologise for the customer’s disappointment, so something like: “we’re really sorry that the service we delivered wasn’t what you had hoped for” can really work well in cooling the customer down and maintaining your professional image.

2. Be polite

Finally, we can take some of mum’s advice! Being polite is important for your image, but it’s also important in managing the customer’s emotions. Customers can be rude, there’s no doubt about it. But you have to remain calm and polite at all times, otherwise this could turn into a viral PR nightmare and a never-ending argument.

3. Be quick

Try and make sure you reply to any negative comments pretty quickly, as customers can lose their temper, which can reflect badly on you. If you’re not able to direct full attention to the complaint straight away, sometimes a comment like “A member of the team is looking into this now and will be in touch” can bide you a little time.

4. Respond privately

Nobody likes to air their dirty linen in public, so talking it over privately can be your best course of action. This is especially important when it comes to negative social media comments and less so with external review platforms like Trustpilot. We’ve seen some brands reply and request that they email a specific email address, but in our experience it’s better to comment on their post to tell them you’ll contact them personally and then message them directly to sort the issue out.

5. Explain why it happened

The customer is always right, they say… well, not always.  With regard to third party review platforms, explaining yourself can work well. Some customers can be unreasonable. They can lie, they can exaggerate and all at no fault of your own. So, in some instances, it can be okay to defend yourself, albeit in the politest way possible. This is more effective on third party review platforms as you can typically find out the details of the issue from the affiliated reference number. With social media, your strategy should be slightly different; explaining why it happened can quickly turn into an argument, which gets lots of attention for all the wrong reasons. Different platforms have different audiences, and different audiences require different strategies.

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