Like it or not, online reviews impact the success of your business.
How do we know?
These highly compelling statistics aside, there is also the reality that reviews directly contribute to your website’s ranking status.
So, all in all, reviews are important for business. But you know what’s even more important than the reviews themselves? Your responses to them.
It’s true. Everyone knows that bad reviews happen to even the most fastidious of business owners. A savvy response, however, can truly make lemonade out of lemons.
Did you know that 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews? Plus, review responses that include your business’s keywords are more likely to show up in potential customers’ searches (and their content is entirely within your control). Make the most out of the situation, and use reviews as an opportunity to genuinely connect with customers and build your client base.
If responding to reviews is a little outside your comfort zone as a business owner, it’s time to dedicate some time and energy to learning a few tricks of the trade. In this post, we’ll cover some basics that will quickly build your confidence and set you on the path toward responding to online reviews with success.
Why Respond to Reviews?
First off, it’s polite. If a customer gave you positive or negative feedback face to face, you would certainly respond.
Online reviews are no different, except for the key fact that they are public—and thus visible to literally thousands of potential customers. If anything, responding to online reviews has much more potential to impact your business as a whole than a direct, real-life encounter with just one customer (though those are important too, of course). According to BrightLocal, 79% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and another 57% say they would be “not very” or “not at all” likely to use a business that doesn’t respond to reviews. Powerful stuff!
Clearly, online reputation is a major factor in successful business marketing and growth. While you can’t control what people may write in their reviews, you can certainly take the reins when it comes to how you respond.
Responding to a positive review makes customers feel appreciated, while responding to a negative review makes them feel heard. Both types of responses are important and both, when well executed, have the potential to effectively promote your business.
Do All Reviews Merit a Response?
It depends. In an ideal world, you would respond to every review with a savvy and personal response. But that’s not always possible. Depending on the size of your business, the volume of reviews you receive, and the number of different platforms you receive them on, you may need to be selective about which reviews you respond to.
Here are some factors to consider as you prepare to approach handling online reviews for your business.
Start by zeroing in on the review sites that are most relevant for your business. For example, Tripadvisor will be a critical platform for hospitality businesses, Yelp for restaurants, and Google for retail businesses. Focus your energy first in the hardest-hitting rings and then move outward to less impactful platforms if you have time.
If your business only has a few online reviews, you’d best be responding carefully to all of them. If, however, your business receives hundreds of reviews per day, you can probably be more selective about which ones require a response.
Avoid responding to reviews simply for the sake of responding. Formulaic copy/paste responses are easy to spot and ignore, as are generic messages like “thank you”. If you’re going to tap into the review response potential, take the time to do it properly.
Who’s job is it to respond to online reviews, and what are the expectations? Marketing, operations, social media, and customer service teams all have stakes in the online review game, so if you run a larger business, it’s imperative to clearly delegate the task of responding to reviews to a particular individual or team. The same holds true for companies that may have teams receiving online reviews across multiple physical locations.
No matter the size of your business, you should also be sure to have a review response policy. This could be as simple as a few guidelines you lay down for yourself or as complex as a written training manual. Your goals in responding to online reviews might include your ideal timeline, response rate, tone, and more. Making a plan in advance can prevent impulsive responses that can ultimately do more harm than good.
Now that we’ve laid the framework for understanding why review responses are critical for good business, let’s take a look at some overarching best practices.
Positive and negative reviews do require different approaches (which we’ll explore in more detail later on), but there are certain elements that you’ll want to include in your review response tool kit no matter what. Whether the review in question is glowing or scathing, here are a few “musts” that will bolster your response’s traction.
Responding in a Timely Manner
When someone writes a review, their expectation clock starts ticking the second they post it online. Don’t let time slip away and miss the opportunity to engage with them while your business is still fresh in their mind.
A week is about the maximum you’d want to leave a review sitting without a response, but really the sooner you respond, the better. The optics of a quick response demonstrate that you are organized, on the ball, and customer service oriented—not only to the client who wrote the review but also to all the other potential customers out there.
When you write an online review response, address the reviewer by name if possible. Ditch generic salutations like “Dear Client” or “Dear Valued Customer” unless the name they have used in their review is clearly computer generated or fake.
Likewise, sign off on every response with your own name and business role (e.g., Jane Doe, Director of Communications). Where applicable, also provide a contact for the client to follow up with you directly (more on this later).
Using a client’s name makes your response feel personal and draws their attention to what you have written. Signing off with your own name demonstrates sincerity, responsibility, and a willingness to dialogue further if necessary.
Even if you are seething inside, thank customers for their feedback. Saying “thank you” sets an open and professional tone and allows you to move forward with the online dialogue. Politeness can go a long way, and the fact that you aren’t face to face doesn’t mean that there’s not a real person (actually, many real people) on the other side of the screen. So, mind your manners.
Spin It to Your Advantage
As we mentioned earlier, you have full control of what gets published in your review responses. So spin it to your advantage! Even in a genuine and sincere response, you can choose to include key phrases and information that will ultimately benefit your business and rankings.
Concisely highlight the strengths of your business as well as new products or services. Use your keywords. And invite your customers to return!
Responding to Positive Reviews
Some business owners wonder why they should respond to positive reviews. Well, here are a few reasons:
- As we mentioned earlier, it’s the polite thing to do. Enough said.
- The ripple effect. Responding personally to a positive review benefits your relationship with a specific client—plus with all the other potential customers who are likely to come across the review. It also increases positive “buzz” about your business and the possibility of organic referrals.
- It’s an opportunity to increase your rankings and do some subtle marketing.
So, is there a formula for an excellent positive review response? While every response will be unique in its own way, here are some important tips to keep in mind:
In addition to thanking your customer and addressing them by name, your response should highlight and enhance positive specifics that were mentioned in their original review. For example:
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your glowing review of our bakery. We are so glad to know that our new chocolate cake exceeded your expectations.”
This builds on the positive review and provides a platform for you to further promote your business’s strengths.
Add Details and New Information
Take a moment to expand on positive feedback and even add new information if possible. For example:
“You are right that our bakers have put a lot of time and energy into perfecting the recipe. Every new creation is a labor of love, and we are currently working on several more new desserts.”
This type of subtle marketing shows customers that it’s worth returning to your business for future experiences. This brings us to our final suggestion…
Invite the Customer To Do Something
Make a concrete invitation to the customer to return to your business, try a new product, or even ask if you can use the review as a testimonial. Capitalizing on your customer’s delight at this moment is good business for you and for them. For example:
“We look forward to seeing you again soon to try our new Cinnamon Creme Brulee. When you stop in, ask for me by name, and I’ll bring one of our bakers out to greet you personally.
All the Best,
Jane Doe, Owner”
With a response like this, you’ve practically guaranteed your customer will return—hopefully with friends and relatives to boot!
Responding to Negative Reviews
Alright, here’s the biggie. Responding to negative reviews can be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s definitely a necessity. The only thing worse than a negative review is a negative review with no response. Trust us, that’s the last thing you want! Here are a few reasons why a negative review response is always crucial:
- It’s an opportunity to make things right. Just like with an in-person complaint, you can resolve the issue—and sometimes even get the original negative review retracted or updated.
- You’re actually speaking to more than one person. Your responses to negative reviews can and will inform the decisions of potential customers.
- Responding to a negative review can actually help you chart a stronger course forward. Criticism can hurt but can also be a catalyst for positive change.
Use the following tips to make the most out of a challenging situation and hopefully even turn a dissatisfied customer’s frown upside down.
Getting a negative review totally sucks. If you feel the review is unwarranted, you may feel defensive and angry. If you or your business actually missed the mark, you may feel guilty, embarrassed, or frustrated.
No matter what, it’s absolutely imperative to calm down before responding to a negative review. Resist the temptation to type a response in the heat of the moment; instead, return to the issue when you’re ready to be objective and productive in your response.
Quick responses are encouraged, but not at the expense of losing your cool. Take a walk, drink some tea, work on something else for a while. Trust us, you won’t regret it.
After addressing your reviewer by name and thanking them for their feedback, it’s time to say you’re sorry. Rather than viewing an apology as an admission of guilt, see it as an opportunity to sympathize with your client’s poor experience and to take responsibility for doing better in the future. Coming across as human is always something to strive for, and what is more human than making a mistake?
In most cases, there’s no need to apologize profusely or offer too many details, excuses, or justifications. A simple acknowledgment is usually all that’s required. For example:
Thank you for taking the time to review our bakery. We are sorry that your expectations did not match your experience during your last visit. This is on us.”
Highlight Your Standards
After apologizing, take a minute to spotlight your business’s high standards. This serves the dual purpose of both acknowledging the customer’s sub-par experience and also demonstrating that your business generally holds itself to something superior. For example:
“As a team, we normally take pride in our excellent customer service and are always disappointed on the rare occasions when we miss the mark.”
Ask for a Second Chance To Fix It
Make a concrete offer to right the wrong and win back the client’s business. Suggest a concrete way to remedy an unresolved issue or invite the customer back for a free or discounted service or product. For example:
“We would like to make things right by inviting you to visit our bakery again for a complimentary dessert of your choice.”
Take the Conversation Offline
Provide direct contact information so that any further issues can be resolved out of the public eye. This demonstrates your willingness to continue to dialogue with the client while also leaving your own controlled response as the final public word on the matter. It’s a win-win. For example:
“To redeem this offer or to provide any further feedback, don’t hesitate to contact me directly at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Hope to see you again soon,
Jane Doe, Owner”
If you’d still like some more tips or personal advice on how to put online review responses to work for your specific business, reach out to us at RAPTAP Marketing in Garden Ridge, TX. We’re here to support you as a business owner no matter what.