How to Change a Negative Review to a Positive Review

5 stars on a plain background
5 stars on a plain background

As a business owner or decision maker, it can feel devastating to receive a brutal, unflattering, or negative review. From review sites like Yelp to career sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, negative reviews can also be bad for business: people read reviews when they are considering products, services, and career changes. Plus, social media sites like Facebook and Instagram and search engines like Google offer business reviews as a standard part of their offerings.

When you receive a negative review, there’s still a chance to make that review work for you, even if the customer who wrote the review cannot be satisfied. To change that negative to a positive, you need to have a system for responding to comments, a fast turnaround procedure in process, and a way to respond sincerely.

Table of Contents

  1. Empower Your Marketing and Customer Satisfaction Teams
  2. Respond Quickly to Negative Reviews
  3. Resolve Customer Concerns
  4. Personalize Your Response
  5. Take Responsibility for Missteps
  6. Affect Prospective Customers’ Opinions
  7. Consider Policy, Product, or Service Changes

You can change a negative review to a positive review by establishing a procedure for responding to comments. To accomplish this, you’ll need to respond to negative reviews with alacrity, be ready to own any mistakes you might have made and post transparently about the outcome. Remember: this isn’t just about helping the customer who posted; it’s also about every prospective customer or business partner who sees the post.

Empower Your Marketing and Customer Satisfaction Teams

When there’s a negative comment or review, expedience is crucial. Many businesses have slow response times, with layers of red tape and approvals required before a marketer or customer service professional is permitted to post a reply.

Empowering your marketing and customer satisfaction teams is the best way to speed up the response process. You can do this by:

  • Hiring trustworthy professionals and good communicators, most of whom will command competitive salaries.
  • Providing standard operating procedures (SOPs), examples, and clear guidelines for acceptable customer service responses.
  • Indicate and identify what makes a posted review something that must be escalated versus something an employee can handle on their own.
  • Offering effective onboarding and training.
  • Allowing employees to use Slack or another chat platform so they can problem-solve together.

Respond Quickly to Negative Reviews

Once you’ve empowered your teams to do what they need to do, set an expectation for response time, such as one business day or less, and ensure you have a good system for assigning negative reviews to agents to resolve. You may wish to consider a group email inbox and a kanban style board.

Resolve Customer Concerns

When you empower those responsible for responding to provide immediate solutions to customer complaints and reviews, you’re also enabling them to provide various types of resolution to the customers’ problems. Here’s an example:

“We’re sorry your drink was not made to standard. We will check with the baristas on duty at that time to ensure they know the standard drink recipes. We got it wrong this time – and we’d like to have you back. Our customer service team has emailed you a coupon for a complimentary beverage in hopes you’ll visit Monday Coffee Shop again.”

When it’s a low-cost item like a latte, the solution is simple and best to make public: offer the customer a replacement. The lifetime value of that customer as well as anyone seeing the response, means your cost in fixing the issue is negligible. If they get a complimentary $6 latte but come back every week for the next ten years, it’s easy to see why the latte should be comped. Plus, you’re getting the attention of anyone reading your response, which greatly affects consumer opinion.

More involved matters will involve private communication, such as those involving a rare car part, a home mortgage closing, or a legal issue like an assault from a massage therapist. In these instances, respond to the review by describing how you have contacted the customer to resolve the matter privately. In rare instances, the customer may come back and change their review rating or update the review to include their view of how you handled the resolution process. This is a second chance for you to make things right.

Personalize Your Response

There’s always room to improve brand personas, tone, and content, but when it comes to your response to a negative review, customers don’t want to hear from a brand – they want to hear from a person. This is doubly true if you’re responding to a customer service misstep. The customer has already lost trust, and they want a resolution.

When you’re responding as a brand on social media, the only way to identify yourself usually involves incorporating that in your message. For example:

“I’m Sabrina, Customer Experience Lead at ABC Brand. I want to thank you for sharing your experience with us…”

Here, Sabrina identifies herself and introduces herself in a kind and professional way. Now the reader knows that a person at the brand responded to the message, even if a marketer posted it.

Take Responsibility for Missteps

When something really goes wrong, your business must take responsibility for the missteps. Make a genuine apology and own the problem before you describe how you’ll prevent it from happening again in the future. Avoid language like “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and be direct. Here’s a great example:

“We are sorry to hear that you experienced poor service at our restaurant. Our staff should be more attentive and responsive. A busy dinner hour is no excuse for a 20-minute wait before the server attends to your order. Our server should have checked in with you in under five minutes.”

In this example, the business owner recounts and validates what happened and also explains that the customer is right for feeling like they had a poor experience. The facts indicate that the business messed up, and they recognize that fact.

Affect Prospective Customers’ Opinions

Ultimately, some customers will never be happy. You need to accept that there’s nothing you can do to change their opinions or experiences about your business truly. It’s possible that the customer decided to use your product or service knowing that it might not be the best fit for their needs; maybe they have other things going on in their life that affect their mood or opinion.

When it’s impossible to please the customer, remember that it’s not just about the dissatisfied customer: your effort is about affecting the opinions of other people reading the public review, including prospective buyers. If you handle the interaction well, you’re convincing new customers to trust you.

Consider Policy, Product, or Service Changes

If the customer highlighted something about your product or service that really does need to change, thank them for bringing it to your attention. State what changes you’ll make regarding that particular feature or way of handling things, and don’t be shy about coming back to the review after you’ve implemented those changes to thank them. If the situation is salvageable, you can ask the customer to become a returning customer and offer them a coupon.

Lastly, you can always prevent some negative reviews by being very clear about what your product or service is and does. Many customer complaints come from a lack of understanding about whether the product or service was a good fit. A strong FAQ page can go a long way in preventing customer complaints – and it’s a resource for your customer service team to refer to when they’re answering comments and reviews.


You can also stop negative reviews before they happen by letting your customers know you are happy to hear from them at any time to resolve matters. Prominently post your 800 number from to be accessible to clients at all times. This way, concerns will be more likely to come to you inbound and privately versus in public for the world to see.

Establishing a procedure to address concerns quickly, taking responsibility for your missteps, and posting transparent outcomes can foster a more positive reputation for your brand online. To do this, you need to trust and empower your customer service team by giving them the right tools and education to make decisions and post quickly.