How to Respond to Internet Reviews

January 16th, 2018
Reviews illustration

Reviews left on platforms such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, and countless other sites are a big deal. They can increase your search rankings, help push your content out to more social media followers and – most importantly – influence purchasing decisions. And while it may seem like something businesses have no control over, there are actually ways to leverage them – yes, even the negative ones – to improve your online image.

A prospect reading your reviews puts him or herself in the shoes of the reviewer. They want to see how you would respond to their issue if they were in a similar situation. That’s what makes responding to reviews so valuable.

Something to keep in mind while you’re stressing about negative reviews: People tend to post online reviews after either a particularly bad or particularly good experience. It doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your customers feel the same way. And your audience knows that. They can also recognize the difference between a genuine concern and an unfair rant. The content of the review doesn’t matter as much as the way you respond to it.

Here’s how:

Respond to every review.

That’s right; rule number one of responding to reviews is to actually do it for every single review. The best practice is to try to get to each one within 24 hours – the sooner, the better.

Be thankful.

Good or bad, this user took time out of their day to provide you with valuable feedback, and this should not go unnoticed. For a positive review, thank them for their kind words (bonus points for adding a personal note about their purchase or experience!), and this is just about as far as you have to go. For a negative review, thank them for taking the time to express their concern, and now read on.

Don’t be defensive.

The last thing you want to do is start a cyber-argument with a customer. Even if they’re completely out of line or obviously bending the truth, it’s really important to swallow your pride and continue with the next steps.

The one caveat to this is if someone leaves you a scathing review, but you have no record of them ever being a customer. You should absolutely put that in your response, so everyone knows this is out of left field. A great go-to for this kind of situation is “I’m sorry, [John Doe], but we have no record of you in our system. If there is anything we can help you with, please reach us at [phone number or email address].”

Display empathy.

Really try to imagine what is going through a customer’s mind while they’re leaving a review. Sometimes, you really did mess up. Other times, it may have been a simple miscommunication. No matter the situation, it’s important to understand where they’re coming from and express your regret for their inconvenience.

Provide a solution.

Sometimes a negative review stems from a problem with a product or service that you can easily fix. Other times, a “we’ll do better next time” is enough. Bottom line: a customer wants to know that their issue is being addressed.

Take the conversation offline.

A lot of reviews require follow-up questions, but the review platform is not the place to ask them. You don’t want the public to see more than they have to. Let them know that you’ll be in touch with them ASAP, either by email or phone.

Here’s an example of a generic answer to a negative review:

Hi, John. Thanks for taking the time to bring this to our attention. We’re very sorry to hear you had a bad experience with one of our products. We’d love the chance to fix this for you. One of our managers will be in contact with you shortly. If you need anything in the meantime, please feel free to give us a call at 800-555-5555.

Bonus tip: Try to personalize every response.

If you can, look up details of the customer’s purchase or latest service so you’re well equipped to deal with the issue and can show the customer (and other users reading reviews) that you’re on top of it. Avoid a “copy & paste” response so your audience can see that you genuinely care about your customers.

Nobody wants an unhappy customer, but you can’t make everyone happy all of the time. As long as you know how to professionally respond, and genuinely want to help your customers, an occasional negative review won’t tarnish your online reputation.

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