How to respond to negative reviews as a small business owner

The internet is one of the first places people turn to when they’re searching for a new provider or service. And one way your small business can stand out from the rest is ensuring your TripAdvisor and Google reviews are glowing. Consider this: a small business with dozens of five-star reviews is more likely to earn the trust of a new client than a business with only negative reviews…or no online reviews at all.

Of course, it’s more than likely that you’ll encounter an unhappy customer review — whether online or in-person. And when it happens, don’t stress about it. With the right response, you can give your business a second chance to make the right impression.

1. Acknowledge the issue and apologise.

When you see a negative review pop up on TripAdvisor, Google or another site, the first thing you should do is reply to their comment. Don’t get defensive — instead, apologise for their negative experience (even if you feel the customer is in the wrong) and invite them to connect with you offline. Leaving an actionable reply like this also shows other potential customers that you’re a responsive business owner who cares about their customers’ experience.

When you’re crafting a response, try something along these lines:

Hi there!

I’m so sorry to hear about your experience — thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’ve sent you a private message and would love to set up some time to chat so I can figure out what happened and make things right.

Sarah Coleman

Owner, Luna Salon

2. Contact the customer privately.

After you’ve left a public reply, contact the customer privately (if you’re able to). If they left a review on your small business’s Facebook page, send a message to their profile. Or, if they left a complaint via email, reach out to them directly — either through email or over the phone. Use this opportunity to ask questions and get more details about their experience, so you can get the whole picture and better approach the issue. Though the customer had a negative experience with your small business, they’ll likely appreciate this personal attention and opportunity to voice their feelings.

And once you have a better idea of what happened, you might be able to troubleshoot exactly what went wrong. Let the customer know if there was a technical error with your booking system or a scheduling miscommunication — these mishaps are few and far between, so make sure the customer knows their incident was truly a one-off.

3. Do whatever you can (within reason) to remedy the situation.

Now that you’ve gotten the full story, remedy the situation in a way that works for your business and the customer. If it’s within reason, give them a refund on the product or service they purchased from you. Or, offer a replacement for the defective product they purchased, or invite them back for a re-do of their service.

Approach them with a solution like this:

Thank you for giving us more information about your experience. We would be happy to issue a refund, or, if you’re willing, we’d love for you to come back to the salon for a complimentary colour appointment with one of our Master-level stylists.

4. Ask for a second chance.

If the unhappy customer has been receptive to your initial approaches, they might now be open to giving you a second chance. Invite them to come back to your business, and give them an incentive to do so — even if you’ve already remedied the original issue. This is your window of opportunity to turn them into a loyal customer. So, after they’ve come in for a remedial haircut, give them a coupon to use towards their next appointment, or a voucher for a complimentary add-on service.


If the customer gives you another chance and seems satisfied with your response, ask them if they’re willing to update their original review. This will show potential customers that you remedied the situation and help you keep your positive online reputation.

5. Move on.

Sometimes, there’s just no way to make an unhappy customer a happy one. If you’ve tried to contact them for more information or refund them and don’t receive a response, it’s okay to move on. There’s no need to dwell on a negative situation. Instead, focus your efforts on increasing positive reviews for your business on TripAdvisor or Google by reaching out to your regular customers or new clients.


In extenuating circumstances, you can contact TripAdvisor or Google to potentially remove a review that’s particularly disparaging. You should only do this if you haven’t had any luck resolving the review directly with the customer.

Here’s our advice for responding to negative reviews:

  1. Acknowledge the issue and apologize.
  2. Contact the customer privately.
  3. Do whatever you can to remedy the situation.
  4. Ask for a second chance.
  5. Move on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *