How to Professionally Respond to Online Reviews

How to Professionally Respond to Online ReviewsOnline reviews now play a massive part in our everyday buying decisions. If you’d have told us 25 years ago that we’d be choosing whether or not to do business with a company on their public online score through online platforms like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Reevoo, and of course Yell.com – rather than listening to the recommendations of friends and family, we would never have believed it.

Yet, that is exactly what we are doing:

Over half of 18-34 year olds say they trust online reviews more than the opinions of friends and family. (Source: Vendasta)

All of this is great for a consumer, but it can be quite a daunting prospect for a business owner. Putting your beloved business out there, only to have it potentially buffeted and swayed by the winds of public opinion.

We all like to hear about the things we’re doing right, but what if somebody has something critical to say? How do I respond? What do I do?

Well don’t worry – that’s exactly what we’re talking about today. But first, let’s start off with a few tips for when things go right…

Responding to Online Reviews

It’s important to respond to all reviews that you receive, both positive and negative.

Responding to Good Reviews

  • Sincerely thank the reviewer for their visit or order, and thank them for taking the time to share their thoughts via review
  • Be personable and refer to the reviewer by name.
  • Recognise the positive points they made and reinforce their positive view. For example, if the reviewer particularly liked a pasta dish you served, feel free to state something like “our pasta is handmade fresh in our kitchen every day to a traditional Italian recipe” (as long as that’s true of course!).
  • Give your reply some substance. Provide a suggestion as to what to try on their next visit, or make them aware of an upcoming event or offer that they could take advantage of.
  • If they have some nice things to say about particular staff members, say that you’ll let those staff members know (and do so).
  • End on an invitation to come back or ask them to tell a friend – or both!
  • Share good feedback on social media for maximum exposure.

Occasionally, overall good reviews may mention some negative element to the experience or a point of constructive criticism. In this case, thank them also for their honest feedback and state what you are going to do to ensure that it won’t be a problem for future customers. If it’s a situation you can put right retrospectively in any way, absolutely do that! Recognise their issue and apologise sincerely, but keep it short; let the positive element of the feedback take centre stage.

Responding to Negative Reviews

  • Always take a breather before responding to any negative reviews. It can be all too easy to take criticism to heart and want to retaliate angrily. It never pays to snap back or get on the defensive. Always remain professional and take the high road. Take a walk or sleep on it if you need to.
  • Never just outright delete or report a bad review. Everyone’s opinion is valid and deserving of attention, so be nice.
  • Start off your response with a genuine and sincere apology for whatever happened.
  • Just as their review is in the public domain, so too should your reply.
  • Clearly demonstrate that you understand their disappointment, and try to resolve any issues civilly and publicly. Always try to make things right if possible, you may want to offer a token “on the house” service for next time if you can (e.g., a cafe may offer a free tea or coffee on the person’s next visit). If a genuine mistake or issue has taken place, always try to resolve it in the public forum. However, if there is some dispute over a certain turn of events, or if there genuinely may be fault on both sides, always refer the person to a manager (giving a direct phone number or email address) to discuss the issue privately away from the review site.
  • Explain what you are doing to fix any problems, express gratitude for the honest and constructive feedback and put a plan of action into place to stop the problem again if the need is there.
  • Always keep responses to negative reviews as short as possible, you want to be able to deal with them appropriately, but not bring too much attention to them. One general rule of thumb is to keep to between 3 and 5 sentences. This should give you enough opportunity to apologise, suggest a solution, and to generally offer an olive branch.
  • If a to-and-fro conversation begins to emerge between you and a reviewer on the review site, try and take the problem away from the site, and on to a private platform like phone or email.
  • If you suspect that the review is not genuine (say from a competitor or a disgruntled ex-employee) you can usually report the review to the site in question for further investigation (you certainly can on Yell – just sayin’).

EDIT JUNE 2017:  Please also see the related article posted since, “Turning Negative Reviews into Positive Experiences.”

Puzzling over how to respond to online reviews - good or bad? Follow these simple tips. Click To Tweet

So, reader – how do you deal with online reviews – good or bad? Have you had a particularly positive or negative reviewing experience that you’ve learned from? What are your criteria for leaving reviews for other organisations? Let’s compare notes down in the comments!