So You Got a Bad Review: 5 Steps on How to Handle Customer Feedback

Download Now: Free Marketing Plan Template
Adriti Gulati
Adriti Gulati


If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know the feeling. You see a survey report with a terrible number attached to your name, an awful Yelp review, or a less than ideal email sent to you and—sometimes—even your boss (yikes). Maybe it was your fault, or maybe it wasn’t. Regardless, the damage is done. If you’re like me, your heart sinks, your palms get a bit clammy, and you hope no one sees it—which they probably will. But luckily for you, most people have been there, and have empathy for the situation you’re in. If you're newer to customer service, or newer to negative reviews, here are five steps on how to get through it.

  1. Listen to understand.
  2. Talk to your colleagues.
  3. Find the learning experience and document it.
  4. Take action.
  5. Know that this isn’t the last time.


Listen to understand, not to respond

Sometimes the hardest part about reading a bad review is owning up to it. Negative reviews might surface due to product limitations, a difficult time scheduling a meeting, miscommunications, or just a customer’s bad day. Spend some time dissecting the review and ask yourself, “What made my customer say this?” Was it something in your control? Was it something in your customer’s control? If the review upset you, spend some time indulging in some self-care, and come back to it the next day with fresh eyes. At this stage, don't worry about anything else but trying to understand your customer's sentiment.


Talk to your colleagues

While reviews can feel extremely personal and even at times humiliating, know that you’re not the only person at your company who has gotten a bad review. Once you’ve understood the sentiment of the review, talk to the necessary folks who can help you prevent this in the future. If it’s a product limitation, who can you talk to on the product team to share this feedback with? If it’s a lack of your own knowledge, who on your team can help you skill up? If it’s just a customer’s bad day, who on your team has really good customer empathy that can help you navigate the interaction now? And lastly, if you think your company has an open and transparent culture, talk to your boss. More than not, your boss has seen the review—don’t bother hiding it. If you own up to the review and show your boss you have understood the sentiment of your customer and talked to the necessary folks to help you make it right, your boss might just be impressed.


Find the learning experience

The only negative experience is one in which you can’t learn something from. Don’t make this review one of them. Through listening and talking to your colleagues, find the learning experience. If your customer was having a bad day, jot down some notes or phrases that you can say next time and see if that works. If the product has a limitation, write down a sound-bite that you can share, or have someone’s name or email address you can pass to the customer. Have a running document of the reviews, what caused them, and your learning experience so that you're constantly iterating upon and improving yours, and the customer's experiences.


Take action

In my eyes, this is the most intimidating—but the most important—parts of navigating a negative review. If someone left a negative review, they took time out of their day to let you know how they felt. Respond to them so they know their words aren’t falling on deaf ears. As you’ve now understood the review and taken away a learning experience, your response will be more than, “I’m sorry you felt that way,” and should have actionable steps that your customer can take to turn their frown upside down. If this is intimidating for you, start with an email rather than a call, and maybe even CC someone you trust on the email so if the conversation escalates, you have a backup. As an example, our Chief People Officer, Katie Burke, always takes time to respond to reviewsnegative and positiveon Glassdoor. Take a peek below.

Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 11.11.18 AM


Screen Shot 2019-02-22 at 11.11.18 AM

Know this isn’t the last time

If you’re in customer service, you know that sometimes it can be a thankless job and you’ll have days that just don’t go your way. That’s okay! Know that you aren’t alone. Almost every customer service rep has been in your position, and while negative reviews will still happen, they’ll become less and less frequent the more you learn from your past experiences. Your confidence will grow, as will your ability. Don’t let one negative review get you down. Keep on keepin' on!

Want to connect with others on HubSpot tips, tricks, and updates? Head over to the HubSpot Community to join a conversation or start one of your own.” 

Sign up for your free HubSpot Academy account.




Related Articles

Outline your company's marketing strategy in one simple, coherent plan.

    Marketing software that helps you drive revenue, save time and resources, and measure and optimize your investments — all on one easy-to-use platform