How to Respond to Positive & Negative Online Reviews

If you leave your online reviews unmonitored, you could be missing out on an opportunity to cultivate a loyal customer base. Whether they're negative or positive it's important to respond to them, and here's what we suggest.

by Catie Leary

Content Marketing | Inbound Marketing | Local SEO

Reading Time | 4 min

If you’re not monitoring and responding to your positive and negative online reviews, you could be missing out on an opportunity to cultivate a loyal customer base. After all, more consumers than ever are relying on online reviews, such as the ones you find on Google or Yelp, to help them make product purchase decisions and discover new businesses.

Whether the feedback is negative or positive, the one thing you should always do is respond. It shows that your business is active and that you and your staff care about your customers’ experiences. It also gives you the opportunity to stick up for yourself should you receive a less-than-glowing review. Of course, mastering the fine art of crafting review responses can be tricky. Here are a few tips on crafting responses to both positive and negative reviews.

Responding to negative online reviews

Negative online review? Take a deep breath.A bad review can sometimes feel like a personal attack, especially for small business owners. Reading scathing feedback about something you’ve put so much time and labor into can easily ruin your day. With emotions running high, you have to be strategic.

Don’t respond immediately

If a review is particularly harsh (or unfair!), there may be an urge to clap back immediately, but this is almost always a terrible idea. Instead, take a deep breath and stay calm. Depending on the severity of the tone of the review, you may want to step away from your computer and go for a walk. Responding to complaints or grievances, whether they’re warranted or not, is best performed with a cool, clear head.

Make reasonable efforts to investigate the issue

This starts by verifying the facts of the situation. For example, if there was poor interaction between the customer and someone on your staff, you’ll need to make sure you have both sides of the story. While “the customer is always right” is a popular adage in business, this is, of course, not always true. It might be that a customer is negatively reacting to a company-held policy, for which your employees have no control over. If a specific team member is implicated in the review, talk to them to see what happened on their end.

Depending on the severity of the situation, you may want to reply to the review with a simple request that the reviewer contact you by email or phone for more details. In some cases, negative online reviews may be the result of a misunderstanding — perhaps the customer left your business a review that was intended for a company with a similar name (we’ve seen it happen!).

What is the nature of the negativity?

You’re now ready to sit down and craft a reply to a negative online review. Start the process by considering the following:

  • Is the negative review is justified? We all make mistakes. Offer a solution or, if applicable, tender a sincere apology.
  • Is the negative review unfair? If the details of an incident are in dispute, share a non-emotional explanation that calmly states the facts of the situation from your perspective.
  • Is the negative review a matter of taste? There may be nothing wrong with your product or service — it just may not be to the customer’s liking. That’s okay. A simple “We’re sorry to hear that. Hope you’ll give us a second chance!” will suffice.

“Brevity is the soul of wit”

Shakespeare knew what he was talking about. In the heat of the moment, it may be tempting to craft a 500-word essay on all the reasons why the reviewer is wrong, but it’s best to keep your responses short and sweet.

Write in your brand’s voice.

While an unsatisfied customer might opt for some colorful language in his or her review, that doesn’t mean you should follow suit. Even if you’re irritated by a customer’s comments, it’s important to take the high road and communicate with a sincere, professional tone. And of course, any great brand voice should include flawless spelling and grammar. Before you hit submit on your review response, make sure you send it to a colleague or friend to look over first. A fresh set of eyes can help you identify any errors that you might have missed.

Responding to positive online reviews

Thank you

Yes, you should respond to happy customers, too!

Thankfully, responding to a positive online review is much easier (and enjoyable!) to do than responding to negative online reviews.

Say “Thank You”

It sounds simple, but starting your response with a simple “thank you!” can go a long way toward building goodwill between you and your customers. You need to make sure they know you appreciate their business and the time they took out of their day to write the review.

Personalize your message to each reviewer

Automated or script responses may save time, but seeing the same message underneath every review can come off as lazy or insincere to anyone who is browsing your reviews for insight into your company. That doesn’t mean you need to write a long letter of appreciation to every single reviewer. However, personalizing a short response — such as using their name or referencing a specific detail in their review — demonstrates that you’re carefully reading and considering the thoughts of your customer base.

Acknowledge any constructive criticism

A positive, five-star review can still contain constructive criticism. Take this not as a slight, but as a sincere suggestion from an otherwise happy customer that wants to see your business succeed. After all, they’re obviously rooting for you if they took the time to share thoughts on how to improve your product or service.

Monitoring your online reputation

To respond to positive and negative online reviews, you have to be aware of them in the first place. Contact us today to learn more about the importance of managing your online reputation through a local SEO campaign.

Catie Leary | Contributor

Catie has spent the last 12+ years honing her digital storytelling skills as both a journalist and a content strategist. In her spare time, she enjoys powerlifting, karaoke nights with friends, reading science fiction, and hanging out with her three cats.