Getting a great online review for your business has a way of putting a spring in your step, doesn’t it? Whether your Love Language is “words of affirmation” or you just love to hear someone singing your praises, positive online reviews tell you that you’re doing something right. And most importantly, you’re making your customers happy.
Negative online reviews, on the other hand, have a way of ruining your day. It’s like if the waiter comes along and takes your plate away while you’re away at the restroom. “Oh, you were enjoying yourself there? Not so fast!”
In either case, it’s important that you respond to all your online reviews — both the positive and the negative. The more you engage with your audience and let them know you’re listening, the more professional, approachable and trustworthy you become. That’s especially true when it comes to negative online reviews. If you handle yourself with grace and avoid lashing out, you will come across as the cool-headed business that wants to solve problems and make things right.
Sometimes, particularly with negative online reviews, you might be unsure how to handle a review or find the right words. Even positive online reviews can be tricky; if your response lacks feeling and appears canned, it’s almost worse than saying nothing at all.
To help you hone your review-response skills, we’ve compiled some imaginary online reviews. With each one, you’ll see responses that fall within the “good, bad and ugly” range. Aim for the “good,” and your review responses will get an instant upgrade. Avoid the “bad.” And although it seems outlandish that anyone would venture into the “ugly” territory, we just never know, so we’re throwing it in there. If nothing else, it may give you a good chuckle.
The Thankful Patron
If you want to improve your responses to online reviews, the easiest place to start is by replying back to customers who like and appreciate your products or services. Oftentimes, business owners overlook these positive reviews, thinking, “Well, they’re happy! Nothing else to see here.”
In reality, customers want to hear from you even if their words are positive. In fact, they might actually be offended if you ignore them when they took the time to sing your praises. Imagine a great review going south just because you didn’t express your thanks!
Hypothetical positive review from Mark Smith: “We had such a lovely time dining at Marvin’s Steak House. The food was exquisitely prepared, the service was exceptional, and we never felt rushed to finish our meal. The entire experience was nothing short of magical. The to-go box even had a voucher for a free dessert on our next visit!”
Good response: “Mark, we are so thrilled you enjoyed your experience with us. In these challenging times for restaurants, it’s people like you who remind us of why we love doing what we do. We can’t wait for your return visit, and we promise to have a fresh tray of desserts ready for you.”
This response is personal, calling out specific details of the review. It shows that a real human actually read the review and took the time to respond — about the same time it took Mark to write it. Mark is going to hang on to that dessert voucher and hurry back in for a visit soon.
Bad response: No response at all. Or how about just “Thanks”? How quickly do you think Mark is going to hustle back to the restaurant?
Ugly response: “Glad you liked the service. Your tip didn’t really reflect that though, eh?”
The Irate Customer
Sometimes, you’ll get a customer who is upset about something that happened at your business. They may have a valid point, or they could just be overreacting. But whatever the case may be, this is your chance to act like the professional that you are.
Hypothetical irate review from Jane Painter: “This place is the worst. I needed help picking out a paint type for my ceiling, and the salespeople were either on their phones or talking to each other, paying no attention to me. I ended up leaving and going to the paint store across town. I’ll never be back.”
Good response: “Jane, we are so sorry you had this experience at our store. We really let you down when you needed our help, and we regret that you didn’t see the best version of us on that particular visit. We will be sure to address the customer service issues you mentioned with our staff, and we’re using your review to improve our service. We’d love an opportunity to make things right with you, if you’ll give us a second chance. We have a gift card we’d love to send to you, if you could please email [address] and let us know where to send it.”
Professional and reasonable, this response accepts responsibility and makes an effort to smooth things over. It’s up to the customer how they respond at this point, but in the public’s eyes, the business did everything they could to ask for forgiveness.
Bad response: “We are a high-volume store, and we don’t always have time for every little question. Our website has answers to a lot of FAQ. Next time, just get our attention!”
Yikes. Jane is about to fire off another negative online review about you now.
Ugly response: “lol if you don’t know how to paint, just hire someone!”
The Fibber, the Faker, the Turmoil Maker
Still other times, someone might flat-out lie in their online review. It’s frustrating, but it happens.
First off, if someone says something that just plain isn’t true, you may have some recourse with the review platforms. In some cases, you can ask that a review be removed if it contains information that isn’t factual. Check with individual platforms if this happens to you, and if necessary, follow their process for requesting that a review be removed.
In the meantime, while that process is underway, you’ll want to post a reply. It’s possible that your review will remain posted even if you go through the proper channels to have it removed. So just be sure you post a public response.
Hypothetical lie from Sarah Liesalot: “I tried to take a class at Sir Spins a Lot, and I was refused entry because I didn’t have shoes with me. The website says they rent shoes! What a joke!”
Good response: “Sarah, we regret that you left our facility with incorrect information. We do not rent out shoes, due to current health regulations in our county. Our website does not state that we rent shoes, and in fact, it states that bringing your own shoes is a requirement for entry. This information is also stated in our waiver, which you signed prior to taking class. If you have any further questions about our policies and procedures, please reach out to us directly at [email or phone].”
By sticking to the facts and avoiding the “liar” label, the business educates both the reviewer and the public. New students will be more likely to bring their own shoes, and Sarah will either do so the next time or avoid the business in the future (win-win).
Bad response: “You’re a liar. We don’t rent shoes. Nowhere on our website does it say that we do. You signed a waiver stating you would bring your own shoes. How about you read the waiver before you sign it, hmm?”
Name-calling and being confrontational only makes you look bad and further aggravates the customer.
Ugly response: “Nope. We don’t rent shoes, lady. Show me one place on our website that says this. Yeah, I don’t think so!”
Online Reviews Are a Delicate Matter
One final thought about responding to online reviews: Some people will never be happy, no matter how accommodating you are. Avoid getting into back-and-forth word battles, which are ultimately losing efforts. Do your best to resolve any issues quickly and professionally, and invite the customer to take the conversation offline if needed.
Knowing how to respond to your online reviews is one of the most valuable skills you can attain as a business owner. By the way, the same goes for any direct messages and comments you receive on social media.
Your customers are already using social media and review platforms as customer service channels. They expect quick responses to complaints, and they also expect quick responses to compliments.
If you lack the time to handle this kind of volume of incoming messages, consider letting TracPoint's Rallio do some of the heavy lifting for you. Our dashboard pulls all of your comments, reviews and messages into one central inbox so you can easily see and respond to them all. We also have Social Strategists who can do the responding for you through our technology, if you would rather get an expert eye on your reviews.
Head over to tracpoint.com to see how it works and request a demo. And if you like it, send us a message. We promise our response will fall in the “good” range — and steer clear of the ugly.