How to Respond to Online Reviews

Jack DeYoungDigital Marketing, Social, Strategy

How to Respond to Online Reviews

How to Respond to Online Reviews

There are few things better than the flood of positivity that comes from reading a five-star review for your business. It’s online validation of all of the hard work you and your team have invested in to provide the best product or service imaginable. The inverse of that is of course the epic comedown of reading a one-star review from a dissatisfied customer because there are few things that can spoil an otherwise good day more abruptly.

A five-star review and a one-star review both evoke wildly disparate reactions for brands. Your customers’ shared opinions can make or break your business online so it’s important to not only be attentive to both their accolades and their criticisms, but to know precisely how to respond with enthusiasm or restraint. Online reviews are fundamentally a public conversation between a brand and its customers where each brand’s entire target audience is eavesdropping. The way a brand responds to each review will help cultivate a positive or negative opinion from prospective customers.

We’ve compiled this guide on how to respond to online reviews so that you know precisely how to emphasize enthusiasm, challenge an inaccuracy or injustice, and mitigate any potential negativity.

Build Brand Equity By Responding to Every Review

Google, Yelp, Facebook, and every other platform that hosts business reviews have something in common: they appreciate it when brands engage with their customers. The more often (and more quickly) you respond to every review–be it positive or negative–the more weight you carry within the algorithms of each respective platform. When responding to reviews on any platform, every business should try to reply as quickly as possible but never at the expense of accuracy. It’s important to remember that being correct is always more important than being quick but accomplishing both is ideal. Perhaps most importantly, you’re not only building equity within the platforms, you’re building equity with potential customers who will all see how committed you are to listening to your customers, being responsive to their feedback, and providing top-notch customer service.

How To Respond to Five Star Reviews

First, dance an Irish jig because receiving five-star reviews is the goal. You and your team crushed it!

How to Responde to Online Review 5 Star ReviewsOk, calm down now, Michael Flatley. It’s important to keep in mind that your tone needs to be consistent and authentic across the board, especially when responding to online reviews. When crafting your response to a five-star review, keep in mind that it takes time for a person to leave a positive review and your response should reflect that by expressing exceeding appreciation for the person not only taking that time but supporting your business. You’ll obviously want to be effusive in your gratitude, but consider going the extra mile by offering the reviewer a discount or a free item on their next visit to your business because that will incentivize others to leave similar reviews, and most importantly, check out your business for themselves.

How To Respond To 2-4 Star Reviews

How to Respond to Online Reviews 2-4 Star ReviewsA valuable piece of the social media management services we offer at Nuera for many clients involves responding to their online reviews. Receiving a four-star, three-star, or two-star review can occasionally evoke frustration when crafting a response because there’s no rubric to consult for each individual person’s metric for experience. You always need to be incredibly savvy with your analysis of their tone when crafting your response because sometimes that four-star review actually reads like someone who had an abysmal experience at your establishment. Let’s go through all three of these different review ratings below:

Four-Star Reviews

Most of the time you can just tell they really wanted to give you that fifth star but there was one seemingly infinitesimal thing that gave them pause. If they mentioned that specific reason, reference it quickly but don’t deviate from your tone of positivity because hey, four-star reviews are still a good thing. Always ask them what you could have done to have earned that fifth-star and give them a link where they can provide feedback. Even if they don’t actually answer the question, you’re displaying a commitment to customer service that potential customers will appreciate.

Three-Star Reviews

Well, you’re obviously dealing with a psychopath here (kidding, not really, ok maybe a little) but your response should always suggest that you’re never content to give a customer something that could be deemed “a perfectly adequate experience.” Once again, you need to address their feedback (if provided) and ask them to give you an opportunity to deliver the five-star experience you know you can.

Two-Star Reviews

Three-star reviewers are just your garden-variety psychopaths whereas two-star reviewers are like The Joker in The Dark Knight. Some people just want to watch the world burn. However, they didn’t go for the jugular and leave your business a one-star review so there is still a chance (albeit slim) to salvage the situation. Whether you agree with them or not, you need to be sensitive to their concerns and address them directly. If those concerns are valid, promise to address it with your team and to do better moving forward, then do just that.

How To Respond to a Valid 1-Star Review

How to Respond to Online Reviews 1 Star ReviewsFirst and foremost, be certain you have the facts before you respond. Even if you think their complaint is unwarranted, cover all of your bases and look into the situation before crafting a response. Walk around the block, collect yourself, and make sure your response does not mimic the tone of an angry customer because it lowers your business and sends an adverse message to prospective customers. Address their concerns head-on and don’t shy away from admitting you could have done better. Offer a way to make it up to them while assuring them that their complaint was not only heard but will be fully addressed.

These reviews are unpleasant to receive but you should also offer to take the conversation offline and speak with the reviewer by phone. Leave your contact info (personal info for management if it’s particularly incendiary) because if you can get them on the phone and explain your side of the situation then you might be able to pacify their concerns and get them to remove (or improve) the review on their own.

How To Respond To Demonstrably False One-Star Online Reviews

Facts, facts, facts. Fully research what happened and leave a measured, fact-based response that addresses and refutes the concerns articulated in the offending review. For brand voice, you should never lower yourself to match an indignant, incorrect tone but you also don’t have to take their falsehoods lying down. Imagine you’re talking to a petulant toddler who started throwing a tantrum when they learned Peppa Pig was being canceled. You need to be the adult when they won’t be.

It still sucks to have that review online even after you’ve responded with your side of the story though, right? Luckily, you are not held hostage by the belligerently entitled denizens of the internet. There are ways to truly false or unfair reviews removed but they can require a lot of work. The first step is to include the exact language the platforms cite as being grounds for flagging a review. Sometimes that’s “off-topic” and sometimes it’s something like “conflict of interest” or “not relevant,” but you need to do the research, identify the appropriate phrase, and incorporate it into your response to the review. While it takes a lot of time and effort beyond just doing this, we’ve had a lot of success getting false, negative reviews removed for our clients at Nuera and our process always begins with knowing the specific language to incorporate into our response.

78% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Your response to any online review serves as an audition for prospective customers deciding whether or not to check out your business and logic rather than emotion should always rule your response. The sites that host reviews do provide a service to prospective customers and while those reviews can be a source of frustration, they’re also a tremendous opportunity to impress an audience of potential customers your business has yet to meet.

About the Author

Jack DeYoung

As Digital Director, Jack is responsible for developing and executing engaging digital and social media campaigns. With experience at two successful startups and in the advertising industry, Jack’s background makes him uniquely qualified to tell our clients’ stories.