Online reviews – how to respond to them?

Responding to online reviews can make a big difference, that can gain you or make you lose hundreds of dollars. Try to do your best.

Some time ago, customer shared their experiences with businesses by word-of-mouth. This had a limited impact, since one person can tell their experience to a certain amount of people.

Nowadays, feedback and reviews can be found everywhere online – Facebook, Google listings, Yelp. These reviews can be also seen by thousands of your potential customers.

Reviews often help people to decide which place to choose to fill their needs. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Also, it takes 12 positive reviews to outweigh one negative, so you must handle them well.

Sure, it can get hard to deliver an answer for every customer, especially when it happens even if you seem to have a great business.

Your response can either encourage potential customers to give your business a shot or solidify their decision never to give you a cent.

First, let’s start with a really basic template of a response to negative reviews.

  • Acknowledge the complaint.
  • Apologize their expectations weren’t met.
  • Solve the problem.

Starbucks, for example, trains its baristas to respond to customer complaints using the “LATTE” method—listen to the customer, acknowledge the complaint, take action to resolve the issue, thank the customer, and explain why the problem occurred.

Do not take reviews personally

Whatever the situation and whatever their comments, don’t take reviews personally. You’re not going to make everyone happy every time—it is just the way it is.

Instead of taking negative reviews personally, try to understand the customer’s point of view.

If the customer is complaining about a higher-than-expected price, where did their expectation come from? Could your website, menu, or sign be misleading? Was the product not “worth it” in their eyes?

Chances are, the customer is not mad at you, they’re mad at the experience they had at your business. Even if they are personally attacking you, they’re still most likely criticizing your work more so than you as a person, even though it may not seem that way.

Keep it professional. For example, if the review is “these cheapskates served ridiculously small portions,” you probably don’t want to respond, “maybe if you weren’t so overweight.” (no matter how cool and funny it might look for you or the others)

Cool off before replying

Most of the times, reviews are posted quite fast – sometimes they might start even at the table. You shouldn’t do the same with your answer. It’s best to give it some time, so you could write an objective (not emotion-based) answer. You’ll be happy you waited!

Show that you care

When replying to negative reviews, try to offer them something as a sign of apologizing. Even if you would love not to see this person again, it does a trick. If another customer sees a negative review that has been answered, they will see that you do not ignore your customers at notice their complaints.

Customers like to know they can get a refund or get their problem resolved if something comes up. Seeing you work with other dissatisfied customers will make them feel safer giving you their money.

Explain, but don’t be too defensive

Your response should explain your side and why the issue occured without overreacting.

Standing up for you business can make customers to relate to you and react positively. However, any attempt to discredit the reviewer might make them to relate to reviewer.

Acknowledge mistakes

Humility is key. Everyone likes humility.

If you really made a mistake, don’t try to hide it. Remember – acknowledge, apologize, solve.

Customers may become apprehensive if they read five reviews about your business messing up, and each of your replies focuses on how the customer was wrong.

Don’t hang an individual employee out to dry either. This makes you look just as bad.

Accept blame and move on to the solution.

It’s best to respond to everything

Respond to negative reviews. Facebook, Google, and Yelp use algorithms to feature different reviews. The most recent reviews won’t always be at the top. So if you respond to some reviews but not others, there’s a risk prospective customers will see the reviews you didn’t acknowledge.

I wouldn’t say you need to respond to all positive reviews, but this is great too. One-sentence responses to positive reviews are appreciated! The whole purpose of your online presence is to get the word out about your product or service. You can best do this by making your customer base look like a community.


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