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review example from Wattle Designs

How to Respond to Negative Reviews | Tips for a Small Business

Most people read reviews before making a purchase. Of that number, many of us go straight to the 1 and 2 star reviews… and they aren’t always fair. I once read a one-star hotel review that said the hotel was absolutely amazing but complained that it rained all week!

You can learn a lot from reviews, but I think you can often learn even more from the replies of the company involved.

If you own a small business, you might well dread getting a bad review, but this list of tips should help you when it happens.

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Don’t take it personally

It’s easy to feel deflated by negative reviews but try not to take it personally. How you respond to reviews can be a great way to show how your business cares about its customers. Try to understand where they are coming from.

Take a step back

Take a step back and don't reply impulsively. Give yourself time to process the review and gather your thoughts before responding. Stay professional: Throughout your response, maintain a respectful and professional tone. Avoid any personal attacks or defensive language. Remember, your response will be visible to others, so it's important to maintain a positive public image.

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Thank you

Begin by expressing gratitude for their feedback. Acknowledge that their opinion is important and that you appreciate them taking the time to share it. Thank them for pointing out the problem with your product if there is one, or for bringing this to your attention.


We all want to feel listened to. If you can, start with an apology. Even if you feel like you are not at fault for anything you can still say ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ or ‘I’m sorry that you were not happy with your order.’  Don’t over-do the apologies or you can risk looking ineffective, no one wants to read a sob story. Apologise once to ensure you are caring and decisive and stick to the facts.

If the review highlights a valid issue or a mistake on your part, apologise sincerely. Show empathy and let them know that you are committed to addressing the problem. Avoid getting defensive or making excuses. If you made a mistake, own it but say how you are going to improve on this going forward so that future customers who read the reviews feel reassured.

Offer a solution

Propose a solution to the issue raised in the review. This could involve offering a refund, replacing a product, or providing additional support. You might have already sent a refund before the review is written but if the customer doesn’t mention it, then do so yourself, to show future buyers your willingness to make it right and that you have done everything you can to ensure customer satisfaction.

Mistakes happen, most customers are very understanding if you get your communication right and treat them fairly. It might not be your fault an order is delayed but sometimes you just have to take the hit. Remember, it's not their fault either!

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Turn the bad into good

Use a bad review to promote your business e.g. if someone says they think it was too expensive, use it as a chance to state all the reasons that you can justify your higher price – quality of materials, superior packaging etc. When any new buyer reads this review they will only feel reassured by your reply.

Monitor the comments

After responding, keep an eye on any further comments or responses from the reviewer. If they reply, make sure to provide any necessary follow-ups or clarification promptly.

What will you learn from this?

Is there anything you can make clearer to your customers e.g. if their complaint is that they thought the product was smaller than they expected, could you take better listing photos with objects to give scale to your item or a photo with measurements added?

If they were unhappy with a faulty part, you could reassure them that it was a one off or issue or that thanks to their review the problem has been fully investigated and a superior component is now being used. Again, this reassures any future customers who read the negative review and will mean they aren’t put off from making a purchase.

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So, how do we prevent bad reviews in the first place?

Consider adding thank you notes to your orders. These can be handwritten for small businesses or printed on a bigger scale, but either way they add a personal touch. Customers are far less likely to leave a bad review if you are a real person to them.

Add your contact information to make you easily approachable with any small issues so that they come to you before leaving a review.

The more information you put in the listing photos the better. I always find that customers always look at photos but don’t always read the descriptions! Photos for estimated shipping times and accurate size guides will save any confusion and when repeated in your listing mean that customers are less likely to miss any key facts.

Wattle Designs thank you noteWattle Designs estimated shipping times


Try as you might, a negative review will happen at some point. Take it on the chin and move on. You can’t win them all.😉

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