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How to Handle Negative Customer Feedback: 5 Pieces of Expert Advice

As a local business owner, you probably already understand how important gathering customer feedback can be for the success of your business. Customer feedback is your one-way ticket to true, unbiased sentiments regarding your business and how you conduct it. Without gathering customer feedback you’re sort of walking around blind — unaware of what customers want, what they like, and what they’re not getting.

Now, every business owner likes to receive positive feedback. You work hard to produce a quality experience for your customers. You want to hear that you’re doing a great job and most of the time that’s probably the type of feedback you receive. However, if we’re being honest here, chances are not every response you get is rainbows and sunshine. Sometimes you probably get those few unhappy reviews which make you cringe.

It’s okay to get some negative customer feedback! It happens to every business and negative customer feedback isn’t all bad. They actually present you and your business with a spectacular opportunity to grow. Not sure you see the silver lining yet? Don’t worry will help you out with that.

Here are 5 pieces of expert advice for handling negative customer feedback and turning it into a positive.

1. Read Every Word. Fully Understand the Complaint

This one is pretty elementary but extremely important none the less. Before you can even think about addressing the issue at hand, you need to fully understand what the issue is. If you quickly read a complaint and respond with a generic response that does not completely address the situation, you run the risk of making the situation worse — much worse. By not understanding and fixing the problem fully your business can come off as…

A.) Uncaring in the sense that you did not actually fix the problem your customer was experiencing


B.) Dismissive in the sense that you did not take the time to fully understand the complaint

Everyone is pressed for time. However, when it comes to negative customer feedback — make the time. Fully understand the issue and address it in its entirety to salvage that customer and your reputation.

2. Be Sure to Respond to Every Negative Piece of Feedback

Your customers took the time out to share their opinion. It’s only fair you pay them the respect of acknowledging their voice has been heard. Whether it’s an actionable request or not - the least you can do is give them the courtesy of a personal response. At the end of the day, just promise them you will do better. Though some negative customer feedback can be a bitter pill to swallow responding to each and every submission with a positive response can only help your situation. On the other hand, ignoring some submissions can sometimes fuel the fire.

3. Always Take the High Road

Remember what your mom always used to tell you when you’d get in fights on the playground? Be the bigger person. Now, sometimes that's easier said than done. Especially considering that sometimes you’re going to get negative customer feedback that isn’t entirely true. Your initial reaction is going to be to defend yourself. However, don’t get defensive, take the high road.

Getting defensive runs the risk of escalating the situation. Instead, respond in a professional manner, explain your side of the story, and most importantly apologize (whether you are in the wrong or not) and move on with your best foot forward.

4. Use a Little Humor When Applicable

For really rough, scathing feedback, sometimes a little humor can go a long way to smooth over the situation. It definitely might not work in all situations, but when applicable it can help lighten the issue. While you absolutely need to be serious about your business and need to address complaints in a professional manner, you don’t want to come off as too stiff or inhuman. So, if you can admit your faults in a light, humorous way and elicit a smile from the complaining party — you’ve won that battle.

5. Use the Feedback as a Coaching Opportunity

Negative feedback presents you with an amazing opportunity to adapt and learn from your mistakes. Remember — what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

For Your Employees

If any negative customer feedback highlights a specific employee, this gives you the opportunity to help that employee grow in a positive manner. Now, by no means should you attack an employee based on some negative customer feedback. However, it does give you the opportunity to start some constructive dialogue between you and that given employee. Approach the employee in a supportive manner, and help him/her get to the route of where the issue originated from. This way your employees can better understand what went wrong, and how to avoid it happening in the future.

For Yourself

We seldom take a look in the mirror and reflect on our own actions. Negative customer feedback can sometimes be that wake-up call business owners need to do so. In many instances negative customer feedback can sound the alarm on any practices or operations you have going on at your establishment that customers are not entirely loving. If you're serious about growing your business and increasing your bottom line — really read each and every complaint and take action.

About the author:

Denise Prichard

Manager, Marketing Content and Certified Yoga Instructor (RYT-200)


Denise Prichard is a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) and an experienced content marketing professional with a penchant for writing compelling copy within the fitness, wellness, and beauty industries. When she isn't writing or editing, you can find her teaching yoga classes, pedaling her heart out at a spin class, or hanging out with her rescue pups. She currently serves as the marketing content manager for Mindbody.


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