What's The Right Way to Respond to Online Reviews?
Consumers have more ways to make their voice heard than ever, thanks to social media and dedicated review sites (e.g. Trustpilot, Yelp). Whether their experience is good, bad, or somewhere in between, a customer can tell the whole world about it within a few clicks.
And one person’s review can influence another’s decision more than some businesses may realize. A massive 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they do recommendations from their friends — so negative feedback could push them towards a competitor even if they have no way to verify a reviewer’s claims.
But the way in which a business handles a review can also make a difference to consumers.
More than 50% of people expect to hear back from a brand within seven days of writing a review, especially if it’s critical or negative. And creating that response is an opportunity to win (or restore) the reviewer’s trust — and potentially make a positive impact on other consumers at the same time.
In this post, we’ll explore the right way to respond to online reviews as a key part of your ongoing online reputation management strategy.
Address reviewers by name to show you value your customers
A generic, automated response to a review suggests your business places little value on feedback, the customer’s experience, and the perception other consumers may have of your company.
To get off on the right foot, start by writing the reviewer’s name as you would at the beginning of an email or letter. Keep it simple. Keep it friendly, no matter the nature of the complaint. For example:
It’s a tiny part of your response — but it should make the customer feel seen and valued.
Always be gracious for the time a reviewer has invested into communicating with your business
Expressing gratitude might not be your immediate concern when you read a negative (or even slightly critical) review for the first time. You and your employees work hard to provide products or services of the highest standard — and it can be hugely frustrating to see someone complaining about them in a public forum.
But you MUST bear in mind that the reviewer has taken the time to think about their feedback, write it, and post it. They may have done this because they want to:
So as hard as it may be, take a moment to thank the reviewer at the beginning of your review. This is especially important if the customer’s tone is impolite or even aggressive, to show your business is keen to avoid a heated argument.
And this leads nicely onto our next tip …
Resist the urge to respond in an angry or argumentative tone
Consumers checking reviews want to learn more about your business before they buy from you. They want to know that your company is professional, reliable, and responds to reviewers in a responsible manner.
They DON’T want to see your team hurling abuse at someone who wrote a negative review on Yelp or Facebook.
Not only will you come across as unprofessional and potentially untrustworthy, but they’ll wonder what sort of treatment they can expect if they do business with you.
Maintain a courteous tone at all times when you respond to online reviews. Even if that’s difficult. Even if you want to tell a reviewer EXACTLY what you think of them.
Your anger will pass over time. But the negative impression you make on a prospective customer may not.
Be apologetic if your business has genuinely made a mistake or treated a consumer badly
Even the biggest businesses in the world can make mistakes and prompt customers to look elsewhere.
Perhaps a product purchased as a gift for a special occasion arrives weeks later than it should have and the buyer is rightly frustrated. Maybe a hotel has no record of a guest’s booking even though they paid for their stay days earlier. Or it could be any number of other oversights.
Whatever the situation, you MUST apologize to the reviewer sincerely early in your response. Fight the temptation to unload the blame onto the customer: accept responsibility, explain what went wrong (if possible), and detail actions taken to prevent this mistake from happening again.
The reviewer is likely to appreciate your apology and may be convinced to do business with you again if they see that you genuinely want to do better. It may also build trust and credibility with prospective customers as they research your company.
Invite reviewers to contact you through another channel for further discussion if necessary
You can only say so much on a review site. You might feel that a customer’s feedback warrants a more detailed discussion, especially if you believe their details are inaccurate or they’re maliciously spreading lies about your business.
In either case, invite the reviewer to contact you by email or some other way for a private chat. And if you believe the reviewer is deliberately lying about a negative experience, dispute their claims in your response — but in a professional manner.
For example: “our night manager made a record of your conversation and the solutions they offered to help you, and we believe this may contrast with your claims. Please contact me directly so we can discuss this further. Thank you.”
Direct communication with a disgruntled customer, whether or not their dissatisfaction is justified, could lead to a mutually satisfactory conclusion. They may share their experience with you on social media, building brand awareness and showing your business in a positive light.
The right way to respond to online reviews may not always be the easiest, but taking the time to do it properly can pay off.
Never underestimate the importance of effective online reputation management to your business’s success. And to discover how Reputation Mart can help to protect your reputation, get in touch with our friendly team today!
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