How to respond to online reviews

How To Respond to Online Reviews (Good and Bad)

93% of surveyed shoppers make buying decisions based on online reviews. That's a huge percentage! If you run a business, your reviews are vital to your success.

You may think that you're sure to only ever get positive reviews because your products or services are fantastic, so you shouldn't bother monitoring them. In reality, knowing how to track and how to respond to online reviews is a must. One bad review can make a huge negative impact.

You need to have a reputation management strategy in place and you need to know what to do when good or bad reviews start popping up. Let's talk about it! Read on to learn all about responding to online reviews (good and bad).

Why Is It Important to Respond to Reviews?

There are many reasons that you, as a business owner, should be responding to both positive and negative reviews. That's right, even positive reviews deserve responses!

While responding to positive reviews gets less valuable as time goes on, in the beginning, it will help you establish yourself as responsive and kind. Responding to negative reviews is important long-term.

Here are a few (but not all) of the reasons why it's so important for business owners to respond when they get a good or bad review online.

It Improves or Solidifies Your Online Reputation

Your reputation is everything as a business owner. You could have the best products or services, but with a bad reputation, you still won't gain customers. Public opinion is a driving factor behind your success.

Let's say you're not paying a lot of attention to your reviews and they're starting to lean negatively. Your star rating has gone down. Every low rating or negative review is a sign to potential customers that your business isn't worth using.

When you respond to negative reviews, you show customers that you're making an effort to improve. Even if nothing needs improvement, you're clearing the air so that the commenter doesn't have the final word.

When you respond to positive reviews, you're showing customers that you're listening to them.
Both of these things will make huge improvements to the reputation of your business and online branding.

You'll Build Trust and Relationships

Part of owning a business is building relationships and trust with your customers. Responding to reviews (both negative and positive) is a great way to do that.

When you respond to someone who's upset with your products or services, you're showing them that you want to make it right (or at the very least, explain the situation). Someone who was previously angry may calm down and see you and your business in a better light. You can regain their trust.

You'll Give Yourself an Opportunity to Grow and Learn

Reviews are gifts. Even negative reviews are opportunities for growth, so try to see them that way. They may feel like personal attacks (and in some rare cases, they may be), but they're learning experiences.

When you actively engage with a negative review, you're letting an unhappy customer teach you something that may improve your business. At the very least, you're learning an important lesson in politely and respectfully communicating with others.

Some Tips for How to Respond to Online Reviews

Responding to online reviews is tricky. There are infinite possible responses you can give, but if you want to make a good impression, you have to be careful.

Remember, you're representing your business. Your response will determine how customers see you, and it may sway them toward or away from your business.

Here are a few helpful tips that can improve your responses to online reviews.

1. Respond Quickly

It's important to respond as quickly as possible (without being too rash). When you let a bad review stay up for too long without responding to it, more people will see it. This is bad for your reputation.

You may also forget about it. It's easy for reviews to slip your mind when you have so many other responsibilities as a busy business owner.

Take a brief amount of time to decide how you're going to respond. While you should respond quickly, don't let yourself be careless. Give yourself time to cool off (if the review was inflammatory) and decide what the best response would be.

Ignoring bad reviews won't make them disappear, especially if you don't have many reviews to start with. Even if you're feeling anxious, responding within a few days (if not a single day) is a good move. Get it over with.

2. Learn From Your Reviews

When you get a review, try to take something from it.
If the review is positive, keep in mind what you're doing right and make a note to continue doing it (or even expand upon it).

If the review is negative, determine what you can change. In some cases, negative reviews aren't actually your fault, but don't jump to that conclusion right away.

3. Be Polite

Politeness is key when you're responding to online reviews regardless of whether they're positive or negative. Even if a review is downright mean or inappropriate, you need to stay as professional as possible.

You have your reputation to consider. While it's tempting to respond to negative reviews with the same energy the customer used, you're running a business. Consider how that would look to other people.

Your response is public, so it's best to take the high road.

This can also help you diffuse the situation. Often, people who leave negative reviews just want to know that someone is hearing their concerns. When you respond with kindness, their motivation to "fight it out" may dissipate and they may open themself up to a rational and calm interaction.

Use restraint.

Some brands can get away with "sass" in their responses, but this is a risky move and that sass has to be part of their preexisting brand image. It's also carefully crafted, not just an "off-the-cuff" remark.

4. Keep It Brief

For both positive and negative reviews, it's best to be brief (while still being thorough).

For positive reviews, a quick "thanks!" and perhaps a CTA of some sort (such as asking the customer to tell their friends or check your shop later for new products) is more than enough to make an impact. Most people don't expect responses to positive reviews at all, so you will stand out.

For negative reviews, you will need to go into more detail, but not too much. Make sure you address the problem, apologize, and give your customer steps to take.

It's often best to save the longer conversations for private messages or emails so you don't draw too much attention to the review but you still pay enough attention to the customer.

If you are defending your business against a troll comment, you may have to go into more detail, but just offer enough information to clear the air. Remember that most people won't sit and read long comments, so you don't gain anything from writing several paragraphs in response.

5. If It's Negative: Make It Right

If someone leaves a negative review (and the review is legitimate, of course), you're being given a great opportunity to make things right. How will you do that?

Again, it's often best to take this conversation into private messages or emails to make sure you can fine-tune your next steps to the disgruntled customer's needs.

Sometimes being heard is enough and the customer won't want anything else. Telling them that you're going to make changes to ensure the problem never happens again can be comforting.

In other cases, you may want to offer a coupon, replacement item, or service (depending on what it is your business offers). Note that discounts, replacements, or "freebies" might seem bad for business, but this isn't the case if it means salvaging your reputation and making a customer happy.

6. Be Authentic and Empathetic 

Customers value honesty and authenticity. While you should be professional in all of your responses, you should also be human. Many customers respond negatively to responses that seem too "corporate" because they seem inauthentic.

Connect with your customers and you'll gain their trust.

Responding to Online Reviews Is Essential

Learning how to respond to online reviews is tough, and it will be a trial-and-error process. As you progress, you'll discover the best ways to communicate with both happy and unhappy customers while maintaining your professionalism and your reputation.

Speaking of your reputation, are you in need of a reputation management strategy? We want to help. Learn more about our services so we can start working together today.