Online reviews have become a powerful tool for consumers seeking advice on purchases and determining if a company is reputable. In fact, according to a Dixa survey, 93% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase.
Responding to online reviews is an effective way to manage your online reputation. Many businesses don’t take advantage of the opportunity to respond to online reviews. They miss a chance to share their company’s perspective and demonstrate how much they care about customers and future business.
We’ll explore why businesses must respond to online reviews to strengthen their reputation, and share examples of how to react to both positive and negative online customer feedback.
Why you should respond to reviews
Here are five reasons why businesses should respond to every customer review:
1. Responding to every review shows you care about every customer.
When you respond to every online review someone posts, you show the world that every customer is vitally important, whether they’re complaining or complimenting your business.
When you get a negative review, you will have one of two instincts:
- Respond to the negative review to try to mitigate the damage.
- Ignore the negative review because it’s unpleasant and you don’t want to make it worse.
Responding is the correct instinct. You have a chance to rectify the situation and possibly salvage the customer to earn their repeat business and customer loyalty. Additionally, your prospects will see that you address problems head-on and realize you’re professional and care about your customers.
When you get a positive review, you’ll likely be pleased but may not feel the need to respond since there’s no issue to resolve. However, responding to positive reviews is worthwhile for the following reasons:
- Reinforcing a good relationship: You gain the opportunity to reinforce your relationship with that customer and express your appreciation for their review and their business. Responding to a positive review is another opportunity to foster loyalty and repeat business.
- Showing prospects that you’re attentive: Prospects will see that you provide a customer delight standard of service. They’ll witness your exchanges with happy customers and know you’ll value their business.
To help generate good reviews, ask satisfied customers to post a review while the experience is fresh. You can also encourage reviews via email surveys and social media.
2. Responding to online reviews increases your customers’ lifetime value.
Responding to online reviews is a way to boost customer retention. When you respond to customer reviews, you have a golden opportunity to market to existing customers – and returning customers spend more than new customers.
The review platform will likely notify the customer when you respond to their review. Happy clients will feel appreciated and will be more likely to continue buying from your business. Unhappy clients may feel heard and gain a satisfactory resolution to their problems.
Many business owners and entrepreneurs are so focused on acquiring new customers that they ignore existing ones. Expressing your gratitude publicly via an online review response shows customers how much you value them, making them more inclined to continue the relationship and refer new customers.
3. Responding to online reviews enhances your SEO efforts.
Every time a customer reviews your business – positively or negatively – it’s an opportunity to build your SEO strategy. Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo crawl the internet to find new information to provide users with the most recent and relevant content. When you respond to each customer review, you can add context about your customers’ experiences with your business.
Let’s say you’re a plastic surgeon in Maryland and a happy patient just posted a glowing review online. You could reply:
“Thanks for the great review! We are constantly striving to be the best cosmetic surgeons we can be. I’m so grateful you chose our practice. If you need help or have any questions, call our Maryland office anytime. Remember, you also have my private cell phone number and can reach me anytime, 24/7, if it’s urgent.”
Note the keywords “best cosmetic surgeons” and “Maryland” in the reply. This additional relevant content will enhance the review page’s SEO value, especially for your Google local business listing. Google specifically states in its help system that reviews can improve your listings’ visibility in its results.
Don’t overdo it with the keywords in your replies, though. Otherwise, Google and other search engines may penalize your listing, and you could offend your customer or patient if they feel like your response isn’t authentic. Remember, these responses are public for everyone to see. The good news is you can add to, edit or update your replies anytime.
4. Responding to online reviews protects your business’s reputation.
When you fail to implement online reputation management, you leave yourself vulnerable to attack. All it takes is one or two bad reviews to cripple your business.
However, if you actively market your brand reputation and request online reviews, you can drown a few negative reviews in a sea of positive reviews.
Today’s consumers understand that businesses can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Your competition likely also has a negative review or two. The key is having dozens or hundreds of positive reviews to outweigh the negative ones. When you combine positive reviews with personalized responses to all your reviews, you protect your brand’s reputation.
When people see dozens of positive reviews and an occasional negative review, they are likely to discount the negative review – especially if the business has replied to all reviews with honesty and transparency and takes responsibility for mistakes.
Many times, your responses will attract new customers to your business. When they see you responding to all your clients and observe how you handle difficult situations, they’ll trust you to do a good job – and do the right thing if you don’t.
Online reviews build trust with e-commerce customers. A mix of positive and negative reviews with an average rating between 4.2 and 4.5 stars produces the best results. If all reviews are 5 stars, prospects may suspect they’re bogus.
5. Responding to online reviews attracts new customers who post reviews.
About 78% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to research from BrightLocal. That’s why it’s critical to implement a reputation marketing strategy that helps you develop trust with prospective customers.
As you earn more reviews for your business and consistently reply to them, prospective customers will understand why they should choose you over your competition. They will see that you care about all your customers. As a result, more people will trust your business, and you will become the clear leader in your marketplace.
When you invite new customers to share reviews about their experiences online, remind them why they chose your company. The odds of a new client posting a review online are good if customer reviews attracted them to your business in the first place.
Reviews aren’t the only valuable form of user-generated content (UGC). Other elements of your UGC strategy can include social media posts, peer reviews, testimonials, video content and blog posts.
How to write a response to a positive review
Don’t just say “Thanks!” or “We appreciate you” when replying to positive online reviews. Instead, personalize your response, showing your customers you took the time to compose a sincere and meaningful reply. The time you invest in writing review responses will yield a positive digital marketing ROI that includes loyal customers and repeat business.
When responding to a positive review, customize the following steps to your company’s personality and brand:
- Write your response sooner rather than later. A response to a positive review will appear more meaningful and genuine if you deliver it quickly. You don’t have to respond mere minutes after the review is published, but don’t wait more than 24 hours.
- Address reviewers by name. When Sarah H. leaves a positive review, don’t just start your reply with “Thanks for your review!” Start it with “Hi, Sarah!”
- Continue with gratitude. After you address the reviewer by name, move on to simple gratitude. Your response should be something like “Hi, Sarah! Thanks so much for your enthusiastic review.”
- Address the reviewer’s key points. If Sarah’s review says she loves your accounting company’s thorough tax preparation tips, acknowledge that point. You can usually acknowledge all the reviewer’s positive feedback in just one sentence.
- Offer discounts or rewards. While this is optional, offering discounts or rewards – or inviting them to join your loyalty program – can encourage customer loyalty. If you include these offers, do so near the end of your response.
- Keep it short. Positive review responses shouldn’t be long. You can be genuine and grateful with the above and a final “thanks” or another expression of gratitude at the end. Don’t forget to include your name.
- Share your positive reviews. After you respond to the positive review, share it on your company’s social media feeds. You can also add positive reviews to your website’s testimonials page.
Positive review response example
Keeping the above tips in mind, the following is an example of an appropriate response to a positive review:
Hi, Sarah! Thanks so much for your enthusiastic review. We’re really happy to see that our thorough tax preparation tips and advice have made a difference for you. Feel free to remind us of this review the next time you use our services for 20% off! Thanks again for choosing us. – [Your name]
Choose an online reputation management service to generate positive content via blog and social media posts and cultivate online reviews with positive feedback about your product or service.
How to handle negative reviews
Most entrepreneurs and business leaders try to satisfy and please their customers. However, no matter how hard you try, your business may be forced to address a negative online review. When this happens, consult trusted advisors with legitimate business experience and acumen before responding. The last thing you want to do is reply in a distressed or angry state.
Negative reviews are more complicated than positive reviews. Often, the complaint is a legitimate issue. Other times, the customer might be unreasonable.
- When responding to legitimate complaints: If your business made a mistake, acknowledge it and make it clear that you are sorry. State that the mistake doesn’t align with your high standards of quality, customer service on-time shipping, etc. Offer to make amends.
- When responding to unreasonable complaints: Some customers will try to sabotage your business to get free products and services or just to get attention. Consider how you can reply authentically and meaningfully without compromising your integrity. Do your best to reply professionally, politely and thoughtfully. However, resist the urge to defend yourself. You don’t want to get into a public back-and-forth with this customer. Let them know you’re sorry they feel this way. If appropriate, indicate that there may have been a misunderstanding. Urge them to contact you offline to discuss it further.
You probably won’t be able to make every customer happy, but prospects will notice your efforts.
Negative review response examples
Here’s an example of responding to a negative review after your company made a mistake:
Hi, Bob. I’m so sorry you felt as if our customer service representative was rude and unhelpful. We appreciate your bringing this matter to our attention so we can take appropriate action. This sort of behavior is not typical, nor does it conform to our high standards for customer care. To make things right, please call 888-372-1000 and ask for Fran, our vice president of customer service, who will work to resolve your issue.
Here’s an example of responding to a negative review from an unreasonable customer:
Hi, Tom. Thank you for letting us know that you were disappointed with the food on your last visit. We’re so sorry that your meal did not match your expectations. The beef stew is a popular dish in our restaurant, but because it’s made with Guinness, it may not be to everyone’s taste. We hope you will visit us again and order something else, like our award-winning shepherd’s pie or fish ‘n chips.
Eric ‘ERock’ Christopher contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.