Turning criticism into opportunity: how to respond to negative reviews

Beyond the adverse effects of negative reviews on your product sales and brand image, to say nothing of how they erode customer trust, critical feedback may represent a chance to strengthen your reputation and win back a customer.

Deciding how to respond to negative reviews is the first step in capturing that opportunity.

Understanding the Impact of Negative Reviews

It may seem counter-intuitive, but not all negative has to be negative.

As important as positive reviews are, having no negative reviews can create suspicion. A balance of a few negative reviews is normal, natural, and expected.

  • 35% of shoppers look for negative reviews before buying something.
  • Negative reviews add authenticity to the positive ones, giving people more reasons to trust what others are saying.

What’s the optimum balance?

A star rating between 4.0 and 4.9 on Amazon seems to be ideal. Above 4.9 makes the product seem unbelievable; less than 4.0 makes it seem undesirable.

How you respond to those critical reviews is just as important.

Fun Fact: 88% of consumers would use a business that replies to all of its reviews; in contrast, only 47% use a business that doesn’t respond to reviews.

This data tells us potential customers want to see that we’re engaged.

It also tells us we can positively impact our reputation by adopting a policy of responding to customer reviews.

How To Respond To Negative Reviews From Customers

Timeliness of response matters.

It is not only for the dissatisfied customer you’re handling but for any future shoppers looking to see how efficiently and quickly you handled those dissatisfied customers.

Don’t let the timestamp of your response be too far from the timestamp of the original complaint. Don’t let the issue get stale.

This approach is crucial.

When you respond to a negative review, you’re looking to do two main things:

  1. Handle the customer and convert them to an ally.
  2. Demonstrate to future customers that you do what’s needed to ensure customer satisfaction.

Maintaining professionalism in your responses is key.

It’s natural to take negative reviews personally, to get beefed up about what the customer said, to think they’re wrong, you’re right, they’re dumb, they need to …

Hold on.

You are turning this negative into a positive by adopting the customer view, understanding their grievance, and fixing it.

With care, with concern, and with attention to their needs.

Without making them wrong.

Note: Let’s pause here to say that not all negative reviews are legit. They can be fake, bogus, paid for by your competitors, malicious, and can violate Amazon TOS (Terms of Service) – there are many negative reviews you DO NOT want to respond to and which you want to get rid of.

There are legal ways to do that, and we here at TraceFuse are the masters. Treat us as the bouncers at the velvet ropes. We’re here to keep the riff-raff out of your party.

In handling (legit) negative reviews and real customer complaints, there are best practices for navigating them.

Best Practices for Responding to Negative Reviews

Here are a few things to remember when handling complaints and customer issues.

Acknowledge the Issue

Seems simple, but it all starts here.

Don’t divert or otherwise try to shift blame.

Accept full responsibility, acknowledge the negative experience the customer has suffered, and commit to a solution.

Apologize Sincerely

Knowing how to respond to a bad review when the customer is wrong is vital. The adage that says the customer is always right serves as your guiding principle to rectify the situation even if they are not.

Begin by adopting their point of view. See the problem through their eyes regardless of fault, and then fix it.

Handle the issue. Often, this begins with an apology for the troubles they endured, and making that apology sincere becomes much easier when you do the above.

Offer Solutions

Your proposed solution is what the customer, ultimately, is after.

It’s also what future customers will look for when reviewing your responses and how you handled the situation.

Propose actionable solutions or compensation if appropriate.

Take the Conversation Offline

Another good option to resolve the issue is through private channels. 

Anyone looking at the review later will see the exchange, understand the nature of the problem, and see that you took the time to work with the customer through other channels.

Follow Up

Check if the proposed solution was satisfactory. Handle customer complaints to a “done” or their satisfaction.

Monitor and learn from your responses. Learn from past interactions to improve future customer service practices.

Be Good Natured

This advice might go without saying, but it can get overlooked.

Be engaging and friendly in your responses.

Funny responses to negative reviews can act to defuse the situation. Handle the customer complaint without being flippant, but a bit of humor is always appreciated.

If you’re handling their problem, we can be professional and lighten the mood.

Also, set up alerts for new reviews. By subscribing to Amazon’s professional selling plan, you automatically gain access to their customer reviews tool; otherwise, you can use third-party tools.

Using tools for review alerts is highly recommended – especially if you manage many products with plenty of reviews posted daily.

How about a few examples of review responses?

Negative Review Response Examples

We took these randomly from products on Amazon. Just went in, picked a few, and came up with what might be an initial response.

3-Star Review Response Example

“Great binoculars for the price but was disappointed in the narrow angle. I was hoping for a wider viewing field.”

The following response example assumes there’s a solution you might know that the customer does not:

“Thanks for taking the time to let us know! There’s actually a setting you can use, which we show how to use in a video. We’re sending a link. And thanks so much for getting a pair of our binoculars! Let us know any other way we can help.”

2-Star Review Response Example

“Thermometer worked great for about 6 months but no longer reads temperatures correctly. Tried to recalibrate but it’s still not temping correctly.”

An example response might be:

“So sorry to hear! Thanks for letting us know. We’re issuing a return so you can send that one back, and we’ll be sending you a new one to replace it. We’ll get you back to reading accurate temps ASAP!”

It’s worth it to demonstrate such above-and-beyond customer service. Yes, in this case it will cost you any profit you might’ve made, but the intangible, cascading positive effect of such customer service almost can’t be measured.

1-Star Review Response Example

“Chairs are fine however they are showing rust and have barely been used within the first 10 days. By no means did we expect high quality at the price point, but gimme a break. We also submitted this to the company and all they said is that they would get back to us…They have yet to respond, offer resolution and now we are outside the return window. AHEM.”

We chose this one because, well, in the actual customer review the customer lets us know they already tried to get a handling.


This incident was a missed opportunity and should not have gotten this far.

It appears that if the company addressed the customer concerns, there never would’ve been a negative review in the first place.

A response example if they’d submitted an issue like this would’ve been “You’re right, they definitely should not be rusting that quickly. Let us make this right.” Then handle the situation and don’t let it drop.

Turning Negative Reviews Into Opportunities

When you respond to reviews correctly, you can turn even the most (legit) negative review into a positive one.

Sometimes, the customer will even change their review, giving it a higher star rating after you help them fix/resolve the issue.

Every customer feedback, whether positive or negative, is an opportunity to reinforce the customer relationship. Use customer feedback to:

  • Improve product quality
  • Improve your level of service
  • Showcase your excellent customer support
  • Turn criticisms into praise

Negative reviews, in particular, are an opportunity to enhance business practices and customer satisfaction.

Amazon encourages this. There are, however, some guidelines to follow.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

Understanding Amazon’s policies on responding to reviews is critical to avoid policy violations.

As an Amazon seller, you can (and should) review the Terms of Service (ToS) for handling reviews. A few key points to remember:

Follow the above tips; be ethical in your responses and treat the customer respectfully.

Adhere to all Amazon ToS, not just those about reviews. Understand and abide by the spirit of the intent behind those ToS when it comes to customer interactions.

Mostly, it’s just good common sense.

Turning Criticism Into Opportunity

As with many things, better understanding comes when you look from the other point of view.

Imagine being your customer.

Are you more likely to do business with a company that’s engaged? One that takes the time to acknowledge your comments, whether positive or negative – and, most importantly, one that handles your issues?

Done right, engaging with your customers is almost always an opportunity to make things better.

And when it comes to the negative reviews that shouldn’t be there, the bogus, the fake, the violations of community standards or TOS, we can help.

It’s guaranteed to shed light on how the process works, what you can do, and how we can help.

Watch our 6-minute video explaining how:

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