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How to Respond to Negative Reviews

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As auto shop owners and managers, we’ve all been there. No matter how effectively you manage your business and focus on the customer experience, chances are, at one point or another, you will find yourself fielding a negative review.

While it’s easy to take these reviews personally and either ignore them or respond with vitriol, stop and remember one thing. Those that take the time to leave a negative review are usually some of your most engaged customers.

Think about it, if someone had a bad experience in your auto dealership they could easily walk away and quietly make the decision never to deal with you again. By leaving a review, they are reaching out and giving you an opportunity to deal with the situation and rectify the problem. Use this opportunity to not only mend that relationship but promote your business to new clients at the same time.

In the digital age, more and more of your customers will find your business online. For this reason, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of these reviews and use them to your advantage. Read on as we take a look at the best things you can do when you receive a negative online review as well as some things you should avoid.

What Not To Do

As a business owner, it’s easy to get upset when you see a negative online review of your business. Take a look at this list of what not to do when you find yourself in this situation.

1. Take it Personally

Now, this is easier said than done. When a less than stellar review from a customer threatens your business, it’s easy to take it as a personal hit, especially if you feel the review is unjustified. The problem with this attitude is, when you view negative reviews as a hit to you personally, you are more likely to come from a place of defensiveness and deliver a less than ideal response.

Rather than looking at negative reviews as a hit to you personally, try and look at the situation objectively and remember that the feedback is a result of the customer’s experience with your business as a whole, rather than you as an individual. It’s important to have a positive attitude when dealing with complaints.

2. Get Defensive

Many business owners have fallen into the trap of getting defensive when responding to a poor review online. As well as antagonizing the customer who left the review, this will leave a seriously bad impression on all the future customers who come across the review, and your response to it.

Remember, the review is from your customer’s perspective, so regardless of how things usually run in your business, the review reflects their experience.

3. Hope it Goes Away

When you see a negative review directed at your business, it’s mighty tempting to bury your head in the sand and pretend it never happened. No matter how appealing that strategy may seem, it’s a bad move for a couple of reasons.

First, think about the number of potential customers that will see the review when they search for your business. When you take the time to write a well-formulated response to a negative review, it’s this response that will stand out to your customers.

If you ignore the review, it sends your potential clients the message that you don’t care about customer service and they are more likely to believe the negative review is factual.

4. Get Nasty

One of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make when responding to online reviews is play dirty. Whether the poster is a garden variety online troll or just a genuine customer having a bad day, some reviewers will try and lure you into battle by using poor language or hitting below the belt.


The key takeaway here is that engaging in online fights will never leave you or your business in a good light. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, refrain from stooping to the level of the reviewer. Instead, use the opportunity to thank the customer for leaving a review but explain you won’t engage based on their language or behavior.

5. Be Generic

You’re busy, we know. But taking the time to craft a personal response to any negative reviews your business receives is well worth the time and effort. We’ve all seen the businesses that reply to their online reviews (both negative and positive) with the same generic spiel. This not only makes it clear the business doesn’t value the review, but it also sends the message to customers that the feedback isn’t being taken on board.

6. Post Fake Reviews Yourself

It should go without saying, but owners or staff posting fake positive reviews for their own business rarely ends well. First and foremost, it’s usually easy to spot these faux reviews from a mile away. From overly descriptive language to insufferably positive experiences, fake reviews stick out like a sore thumb. Review platforms like Google, Facebook and Capterra often link through to a personal profile as well, increasing the chances that you will get sprung for posting a bogus review.

If potential customers come across one of these reviews and realize it was posted by you or a member of your team, not only will it make them question the quality of the experience your business provides for customers, it may make them think you have something to hide.


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What To Do

Now you know what not to do, read on for a round-up of the simple steps to take when replying to negative reviews to turn those customer relationships around.

1. Respond ASAP

This is important. When a customer leaves a negative review for your business, they often do it in real-time. Maybe they visited your auto shop this morning and had a poor experience with one of your sales team. By responding to their review as soon as possible and taking steps to make it right, you can often catch the customer before they make a purchase from a competitor instead and ensure you save a client.

2. Think it Over

When viewing particularly bad reviews or ones that mention individual team members by name, it’s easy to respond in the heat of the moment and make rash decisions. This is almost never a good idea and can lead to you making some or all of the mistakes we outlined above.

Instead, when you receive one of these reviews, stop, take a deep breath and think about the implications for your business. While it may feel amazing at the time to fire back and give the reviewer a piece of your mind, the long term impact of that decision could have serious consequences for your business.

3. Read Carefully and Acknowledge the Problem

Customers who take the time to leave a review for your business explaining the situation are a blessing in disguise. By bringing a negative situation to your attention, they are giving you an insight into your business and the client experience you may not have had otherwise. Most customers who have a bad experience don’t inform the business owners of the issue, so appreciate the ones that bring it to your attention!

Use this to the benefit of your business by taking the time to read the review, we mean really read it and address the specific issues raised by the reviewer in your response. Not only will this help you understand the problem and make any necessary changes, but it will also make the customer feel heard and go some way to repairing the relationship.

4. Reframe it in a Positive Light

Despite your best intentions as a business owner, sometimes things just happen. Maybe the reviewer caught you and your team on an off day and your normally top-notch service just wasn’t there. Remembering the number of potential customers that may see these reviews, use your reply as an opportunity to call out the positive aspects of your business.

If the reviewer is diplomatic and references any positives in their review, make sure you emphasize these while also detailing the normally high levels of service you aim for in your business, so any readers know that the experience of this customer is not the norm.

5. Be Personal

What level of service do you strive for in your auto shop? Do you make sure you call customers by name? You bet you do! Engaging with them online is no different. While some review platforms make it tricky by not requiring users to leave their real names, there will always be at least a username you can reference when responding to their message to make things more personal.

But don’t stop there. If you are able to isolate the specific customer based on their review, use specifics of their visit (date, the model of car, etc.) without exposing any sensitive information. Not only will this help the customer feel valued and understood, but it will also show your business in a good light and make it clear you are really following up on the review.

6. Follow Up

Some review platforms like Google only let you respond to reviews once. Rather than leaving it at that, make sure you do your best to follow up with the customer and do everything in your power to see that their issue is resolved. Often, the best way to do this is by taking the conversation offline so you can engage in person. If you are unable to track down the customer based on their review, make sure that your response lists your name and your contact information so the customer can follow up with you if they desire.


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Example Responses

Need a little inspiration crafting your reply to that bad review? We’ve got you covered. Check out these examples below. But remember, the most important thing in writing a quality reply is to personalize it to the reviewer and make them really feel heard.

Responding to a negative review from a legitimate customer:

“Hi [first name], thanks so much for taking the time to leave a review. I want to be the first to apologize for the experience you had at [name of your shop] on [date]. That is far from the experience we strive to provide for our customers, and I can understand it leaving you feeling less than impressed. If you’ll let me, I would love to help make this up to you. I have reached out to the email address we have on file for you and I would love to welcome you back so you can experience our famous service. Thanks, [your name].”

Responding to a review from a suspected troll:

“Hi [first name], thanks for taking the time to write a review. After checking our system, I can’t seem to find any record of you visiting us on [date]. Your review doesn’t sound like the level of service we provide for our customers every day, or indeed reflect the experience described in the numerous other reviews for [your business name]. If you would like to discuss this further, please reach out to me directly at [your contact details]. Thanks, [your name].”

The Bottom Line

The most important takeaway here is to look at negative reviews as a way to improve your business. The way you respond (and if you choose to at all) says as much about your business as it does you as an owner.

Rather than seeing negative reviews as a problem, get productive and use them as unique insights into your business from the perspective of your customers. Whether you like what you read or not, acting on this feedback will allow you to strengthen your business and continue to improve.

In this increasingly digital world, more and more customers will first encounter you online. With that in mind, there’s never been a better time to focus on your online reviews and ensure the way you handle them projects the vision you want for your business.

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