Review marketing is a powerful way to show local consumers that your business is the right choice for their needs - but your work isn't done when you get a new review. It's important to respond to those reviews as well.
Wondering which types of reviews you should reply to and how to reply to all those reviews?
Read on to learn how to reply to positive, neutral, negative and fake reviews, and why you should (or shouldn't) in each situation.
Why You Should Reply to Your Business's Reviews
Replying to reviews is a vital part of your business's review marketing strategy. Replying to positive reviews shows the customer that you care about their experiences with your business and that you appreciate them.
Replying to neutral reviews is a great idea, because it could be the little push the customer needed to give your business a second chance.
Most businesses already know that replying to negative reviews is crucial to mend your relationship with the customer or show anyone who reads the review that you care about making things right for unhappy customers.
And don't forget that consumers expect you to reply to them.
How to Respond to Positive Reviews
I'm not saying you have to reply to every positive review you receive - no business owner has time to keep up with that. However, you should try to reply to some of your positive reviews. Here's how:
- Start by thanking the customer. Tell them you're glad they had a great experience with your business.
- Don't make it all about you, but do use this as a chance to promote new specials or let them know if you have new products or services. "Did you know we just revamped our customer loyalty program? Come in and get your new loyalty card soon"
- Use keywords. This will make it more likely for the review to show up in search results. Insert relevant keywords and your business's name. "Thanks for choosing Steve's French Bistro - we're glad to hear you enjoyed our croissants and rustic French décor."
- Don't go crazy with your keywords, though. Mentioning your business name and industry once should be plenty, and stuffing too many keywords into your response will make it look like spam.
- Get some extra marketing power out of this review by sharing it on your website and social media.
How to Respond to Neutral Reviews
Neutral reviews are tough. One more star and they'd be positive. One less and the review can hurt your business's reputation. So, how do you reply to those three-star reviews?
- Start by thanking the customer for their review. Thanking someone for feedback, even neutral or negative feedback, is always a good place to start. Let them know you appreciate their comments and you'll use them as a chance to improve your business.
- Repeat the positive aspects of the review. "Thanks so much for your feedback - we're glad to hear you enjoyed your breakfast sandwich."
- Apologize for or explain any negatives. "Our prices are a little higher because we pay our servers a living wage so that they don't have to depend on tips"
- Invite them back. "We hope to see you again." Or take it offline. "If you'd like to discuss how we could've made your experience better, please call or email us. We look forward to hearing from you."
How to Respond to Negative Reviews
Negative reviews are tough. You work hard to make sure your business is great, so when someone criticizes it, it can make you want to scream.
No matter how the negative review makes you feel, in the end, you need to reply to the customer. Here are a couple of reasons why:
- 70% of unhappy customers will continue to use your business if you fix the problem
- Consumers who are researching your business will see your response and know that you care enough to make things right for unhappy customers
How should you reply to negative reviews of your business?
- Calm down first. Never reply when you're still angry, because you may say something you don't really mean if you're emotional when you reply. Walk away from the computer for a few minutes. Don't wait too long, though; 52% of consumers expect a response within seven days.
- Remember why you're replying. You want to win back the customer and show other consumers you care enough to make things right.
- Apologize, even if it isn't your fault. "I'm sorry you had a less than stellar experience." Or, "Whoops, we're sorry - looks like you caught us on a bad day."
- Remind the reviewer (and anyone else who's reading) that this experience is unusual. "We usually get food out to our tables within 30 minutes" Or, "Our sales assistants usually receive compliments on their excellent customer service skills."
- Repeat the positives. Again, if there are any positive comments in the review, repeat those so that you can reinforce the idea that your business is usually on top of things.
- Take it offline or offer to make it right. Ask the reviewer to email, call or visit your business so you can fix the problem. Offer a coupon or discount for their next purchase. Don't try to bribe them for a better review, but do genuinely try to make things right.
- Bury this negative review by getting new positive reviews.
- Remember that you can't please everyone. Some unhappy customers just won't return to your business, but that's okay. Focus on building better relationships with happy customers.
- Know that negative reviews aren't the end of the world. In fact, a few negative reviews will help consumers trust your business more. Some consumers are suspicious, and they tend to think business reviews are fake. But, they know you probably wouldn't pay for fake negative reviews.
How to Respond to Fake Reviews
Speaking of fake reviews, many businesses ask what they can do to combat fakes. It's estimated that 15%-30% of all online reviews are fake.
Fake reviews are a little tricky, but here's what you can do about them:
- If you ever find a review that is obviously false, find the review website's FAQ or TOS page. Figure out how to flag or report the review as fake and report it.
- Don't reply to the review unless the review website doesn't allow you to flag reviews as fake. Only then should you reply, calmly, that you have no record of doing business with this person.
- Don't attack them. That will make your business look bad.
- Bury the review with new positive reviews by building a review marketing strategy that allows your business to consistently get new positive reviews.
A Note on Review Platforms and Websites
Every review website or platform will have its own set of rules for replying to reviews. Read those rules before responding.
For instance, Google has a set of Terms and Policies.
And Yelp is very particular about how businesses should conduct themselves on the review platform. Here's Yelp's set of rules for replying to positive and negative reviews.
Don't forget to reply to your reviews on social media too. Customers can review your business on social media, so you should be replying to those reviews in the same manner.