January 8, 2024
5 min read

How To Respond To A 1-Star Rating Or Review

One of them strikes every business eventually: the dreaded 1-star review. In fact, 1-star ratings may be more common than you realized, accounting for roughly 17% of Yelp reviews.  

Unfortunately, that doesn’t bode well for your business — because even though they take place online, reviews still have real-world consequences. Negative ratings can eat at your profits by hurting your Google rankings, driving away prospective customers, and potentially even making your current customers think twice about sticking with your brand.

If the 1-star rating is accompanied by a negative write-up, your company’s image and reputation can suffer even more. For example, a review that alleges fraud, discrimination, worker exploitation, or safety issues can have catastrophic consequences for an entire franchise — even if it was originally directed at a single employee or facility.

The financial stakes are high for your business, which is why it’s critical to implement a sound review response strategy for 1-star reviews. Here are four solid strategies to help you get started, plus some helpful insights into why responding matters.

Why Should My Business Respond to Negative Reviews?

There are two ways to look at this question, and both are important for your business:

  1. What is the purpose of responding to bad reviews?
  2. What is the benefit of responding to bad reviews?

The purpose of responding is to salvage your damaged relationship with the unhappy customer. But why invest that effort when there’s no guarantee of retaining the customer?

That brings us to the second part: the benefits of responding to 1-star reviews. These have the potential to include better Google rankings, higher star ratings, and ultimately, accelerated growth.

Plus, the picture is bigger than the individual reviewer you’re responding to; it also includes the undecided consumers who are browsing reviews of your company. When shoppers are still on the fence with your brand, the message you send is crucial — and your review reply is the perfect place to set the right tone. Remember, 96% of consumers who read online reviews also read owner responses, which means that every response is an opportunity to win customers. Even if your reponse doesn’t change the original reviewer’s mind, it may positively influence other consumers’ opinions of your brand — and in turn, their real-world buying decisions.

For a deeper dive into this subject, we recommend checking out our blog post on why it’s important to respond to reviews. If your wondering what happens when you report a Google review, we have a blog post as well.
Otherwise, let’s move ahead with a few strategies that your business can use for dealing with 1-star ratings (and even using them to its advantage).  

1-star review response strategies

4 Strategies for Responding to a 1-Star Review

There are different methods you can use to salvage a soured customer relationship, from offering apologies to encouraging follow-up contact. We recommend integrating both strategies into each of your 1-star review responses — plus a few others. Let’s take a look at four of them.

Strategy #1: Thank the Reviewer  

Let’s be honest: you probably aren’t in the mood to thank that reviewer who just ripped your business to shreds. But remember, a negative comment takes just as much time for a reviewer to write as a positive comment. Even if you’re less than thrilled with the customer’s feedback, you still need to acknowledge the effort that went into it. Plus, thanking the reviewer demonstrates professionalism and courtesy, which is integral to Strategy #3. But before we get there, let’s take a look at…  

Strategy #2: Empathize, Acknowledge, and Apologize

This is probably one of the trickiest strategies to navigate, yet most important to master. If your apologies are too profuse, you risk looking unprofessional — but if your apologies aren’t sincere enough, you risk looking like you don’t value your customers. If you don’t take responsibility for the customer’s issue, it can seem like you’re trying to dodge the complaint — but if you do take responsibility, it can portray your brand or team in an unflattering light. So what’s the best way to proceed with your apology?  

A safe approach is to keep your apology concise while offering empathy and acknowledgment. For example, you might say something like, “We’re sorry to hear that you weren’t satisfied with [your visit/your experience/our service], [Reviewer’s Name.] We understand your frustration with [the problem situation], and want to assure you that our [relevant department/team] is [taking actions to resolve the issue].” As you probably noticed, the apology is accompanied by a commitment to action — a critical detail that we’ll explore in the next section.

While apologizing can go a long way toward softening a reviewer’s attitude, moderation is key with this strategy. Keep your apology sincere but brief, so that your response can focus on future improvements instead of past mistakes.

Strategy #3: Commit to Customer Service

With this strategy, it’s your time to shine by shifting a positive focus onto your brand. Remind the customer that your business is dedicated to providing superior service, then reinforce your commitment to restoring their satisfaction — ideally, in a way that relates directly to their complaint or issue.

For instance, if the reviewer complained about poor communication, you could reiterate your commitment to keeping your customers updated. Going a step further, you could even use it as an opportunity to call out features like text alerts, email newsletters, 24/7 customer support, or anything else that’s applicable in the situation. Not only does this approach show your overall commitment to customer satisfaction — it does so in a personal way that directly addresses the reviewer’s issue, showing you’re there to listen and help.

While it’s important to remind reviewers about your commitment to serving and assisting them, it can be even more useful to invite a larger conversation — especially if the issue is legally sensitive or involves conflicting accounts of an event. Remember, most reviewers who leave 1-star ratings have experienced (or at least perceived) serious problems with your business, which are best resolved through in-depth conversations, not Yelp or Facebook comments.  

That brings us to our next strategy, which is…

Strategy #4: Direct the Conversation Offline

The benefits of this strategy are twofold: it enables you to avoid publicly discussing an issue or error (which could make your company look disorganized), while still providing the customer with reassurance and resolution.

Encourage the reviewer to contact your office, or, where appropriate, to contact you personally. Moving the conversation offline will give your team a chance to investigate and solve the problem, without tarnishing your brand on the internet. It’s essential to sound enthusiastic and provide clear contact information, so that the reviewer knows you are sincere about resolving the situation.

Last but not least, here’s a final tip to consider: even if you plan on calling or emailing your customer, you should still respond to their 1-star review online. That way, other consumers can see how helpful your business is, too — not just the person you’re contacting.

Our Response Scribes Respond to Reviews on Yelp, Google, and More

Responding to 1-star reviews is essential, but takes time and resources your business can’t spare. That’s where Shout About Us can provide a seamless response management solution for your digital agency or brand. Our review response service ensures that your customers receive on-brand, on-message, on-point replies within 24 hours of receipt — no matter how many locations you operate. We work with brands across a wide range of industries, along with digital agencies in need of centralized review management.

Discover why Chick-fil-A, Jersey Mike’s Subs, CertaPro Painters, Wyndham Garden Hotels, PostalAnnex+, and thousands of other companies trust our personalized review reply service. Request a demo for your business today, or contact us online to get started.

Emily Homrok

Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than seven years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.


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