The Ultimate Guide: How To Respond to Reviews Both Negative & Positive

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We hope that this guide will help you establish brand guidelines for responding to your customers’ online reviews. 

Review Tip:  Always reply to every review your customer leaves. Good or bad.

People leave online reviews on many different websites. Today, the competitive landscape leaves no room for excuses when it comes to your customer experience journey. This means that no small business owner can ignore reviews.

Before we show you how to respond to reviews, here are two tools you can utilize to keep track of when a customer leaves an online review. As a business owner, you don’t have time to constantly check and monitor review sites.

Fortunately, there are tools that can monitor them for you:

Mention – A social listening tool that allows you to jump in when your brand is mentioned in conversation. You can clarify and solve issues, or thank your customer for their feedback. How do you know if what people are saying about your business is good or bad? Mention has a sentiment analysis tool which sorts the positive comments from the negative. This tool will allow you to quickly identify a problem, giving new meaning to the phrase getting out of PR hell quickly.

Reviewtrackers – Continuously monitors reviews on Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor and more than 80 other review sources. It does all the work for you. It schedules automatic email summaries and builds reports. You can also request reviews from your customers, using just this one platform.

Why should you respond to reviews?

Because your customer is waiting for your reply. 92% of consumers now read online reviews (Bright Local). This means consumers are learning how brands communicate and resolve problems. A review is not just a testimonial or selfie. A critical review is an opportunity to demonstrate problem-solving skills and achieve success with your customers. Always be prepared for a negative review.

Customers expect a fast reply.  How fast? 21% of customers expect a business to respond within 24 hours maybe even less. Suddenly the monitoring tools we’ve shown you sound like a must-have, don’t they?

Now that it’s clear when, why, and what tools can help you respond to reviews, let’s move on to the how. How do you answer reviews, and use them to grow your business? What words should you use? What should you include? How do you make your responses work across all facets of your business?

Now, let’s look at how to respond to customer reviews.

Negative Reviews - Responding

  1. Decide if it is indeed worth your time.

Whilst we want to encourage you to respond to your reviews, we don’t want you to respond to irrational complainer rants. It looks bad if you engage in these kinds of conversation. Take it offline: ask the customer to contact you.

  1. Take your time.

Don‘t rush into responding. Check with your employees, check your data, and, most importantly, don’t jump to any conclusions. Reply with purpose, and say you are sorry – even if it’s not your fault.

  1. Acknowledge their problem.

Never ignore or undermine the feelings of your customer. You know how it feels when somebody tells you ‘it’s not that bad,’ or that ‘everybody else was happy with the service, so there shouldn’t be a problem.’ When a business tries to minimize the issue, they use words that make the situation worse.

Don‘t use the word misunderstanding.

For example:

“I think there has been a misunderstanding. We are never late with our deliveries. Maybe you expected it too early.”

  1. Don’t be surprised by a reviewer’s emotional reaction to your people or services.

Remember: a customer’s knowledge of your business processes and procedures is always limited. For this reason, don’t ever be surprised that they tend to react more emotionally, and interpret events more cynically. Your job, as a manager and as a responsible business, is to navigate the situation and be diplomatic.

  1. Keep your customer informed.

Let them know as soon as the problem mentioned in their review is solved. If the problem is technical, keep communication open with your customer. Keep them updated. Don’t let too much time lapse between a negative review and your reply. Demonstrate to other customers that you stay engaged throughout the process.

For example:

“As I promised you 12 hours ago, we have solved the first part of the boiler test. In the next 2 hours, Thomas (our engineer) will look into the programming. I’ll email you in the next 3 hours with your boiler delivery time. Thank you for your patience, Ana.”

  1. Try to move the conversation offline

If you can see that a problem has the potential to escalate, or your customer is emotional, do your best to steer the discussion offline. Better options may be phone or email.

For example:

“Dear Helen, I would like to invite you to our office for lunch, to discuss your business needs and offer you a personalized service package. Our project manager and CRO expert will be present too, so we can answer all your questions about execution and goals setting at that time.”

  1. Understand the customer’s situation. Don’t just pretend that you do.

If it moves to the problem-solving stage, be present and invest 100% in understanding your customer’s needs. You might encounter someone who is incapable of communicating the underlying problem. Be patient. Ask the right questions.

Do enough research, and never assume that this specific customer has the same problem your other customers do. Do not use the word seems. It demonstrates that you are trying to understand, or avoid solving, the problem.

For example:

“It seems to me and my team that you had different expectations. Are we right?”

  1. Solve the problem.

Don’t say that you will consider the criticism.

Consider implies a lack of conviction. We all know how we react when somebody says they will consider our advice. Our first thought is: they won’t.

For example:

“We appreciate your advice and will consider your suggestions.”

Try this instead:

“We had a team meeting about your suggestion to have more staff available on Thursday evenings. We have started using employee scheduling software, and we hope that on your next visit, you won’t have to encounter such a long queue. We would love for you to visit us next Thursday to try our newest addition to the burger menu! Thank you again for your priceless advice.”

What does this do for the customer? It repairs their trust in your brand’s ability to take real action. It also shows that your business values them.

Don‘t use words like policy, department, or division when replying.

For example:

“Our policy in the customer service department dictates that each customer will be refunded within 48 hours. You don‘t have to worry about it.”

This sounds robotic. When we want a refund, we expect it to be solved not by department and policy, but by a person that will communicate with us.

  1. Ask for false or inappropriate reviews to be removed.

You are allowed to defend your business against false or fake reviews, and you should do it. Absolutely. Don’t be afraid to call the review site and calmly explain the situation.

Do it only if you are sure it is fake and false. Don’t get too defensive. Business owners who are not location based often forget that staff are simply human, and do make mistakes. Research and calmly evaluate all possibilities. Talk to your team, talk to your managers, talk directly to the employee who was handling the situation. Gather your data before you respond to any review.

Positive Reviews - Responding

  1. Be specific in your review.

If you receive a positive review about your service, it’s important to acknowledge it.

“Thank you for noticing and praising our new intern Luke Johnson for his research on the competition. We are very proud to have such a motivated Kings College graduate.”

Let’s analyze critically. What does this kind of response do for your brand?

First, it humanizes your brand; it wasn‘t a generic response. It shows that you care about individual communication.

Secondly, it acknowledges the employee. You’re not taking credit for his work, and you’re using his full name. This kind of response sends a message about your employer brand.

With just one message, you become more than a brand with a service. You become a good employer that attracts new talent.

  1. Take the opportunity to help SEO. Mention your company and service keywords.

For example:

“We are thrilled that you enjoyed our new real estate service for Florida businesses. We hope you find the best solution. Our new real estate services division, for financial institutions and banks, will provide free consultations next month. We welcome you and your team to consult with the best footprint experts in the field.”

It also adds intrigue. Free consultation? Experts? This offers value to the customer.

  1. Use the review for promotions and services.

Use your positive reviews for marketing, and offer this customer coupons or special offers make them even happier.

For example:

“This is why we get up in the morning. You truly made our day. We would love to invite you and your friends or family to try our fresh cheesecake. Call in and see us on Friday and receive 10% off!”

Encouragement and gratitude like this will drive more customers to your business. It has the added bonus of motivating others to leave positive reviews.

  1. Make them your affiliates.

Don’t miss the chance to create product and service ambassadors. These ambassadors are your best customers; the ones who share their positive customer experience with everyone they know.

For example:

Maria, thank you for such an honest review. Use the code Mariaisthebest to get a 10% discount for your friends & family. You can also take advantage of our elite referral program.”

Now that you have the tools to respond to reviews, it’s time for your brand to rise to the occasion. Take a look at your brand’s online communication strategy. Have a special meeting with your team, and invest in effective customer communication training.

And if this guide has helped you, please share it online.
Your feedback is much appreciated.

That’s how many consumers read online reviews before deciding to contact you.
Of customers expect a business to reply within 24 hours
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Alisa Makowski

Alisa Makowski

Alisa lives and breathes marketing, it runs in her blood, that and coffee. Alisa is the top peeler here in our village of monkeys. Falling in love with marketing at a young age, Alisa has worked with various corporations while obtaining her B.Sc in Marketing. Over the course of only a few years, she was able to dominate her craft in the areas of: Web, Social, and Traditional Marketing. In that time period, she was able to work with companies such as The Furnace Company, Costco and with loyalty programs such as Aeroplan and Air Miles.

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About Web Apeel

At Web Apeel, we take a personalized, humanized approach to marketing.   Through the marketing journey, businesses need a partner that will help them grow and empower them in the process – that’s what we do! Come and take a step forward toward that special “apeel” that your business needs. You’re cordially invited. 

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