How to Respond to Positive and Negative Customer Reviews (And Keep Your Sanity)

The customer’s voice has never been as powerful as it is today. Google, Facebook, Yelp, almost anywhere online customers can find your business they can also leave a review.

79% of consumers check reviews before they make a purchase or visit a business, and 85% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

This means a few good or bad reviews can have serious effects on your business. Luckily though, many, if not all, platforms allow business owners to respond to those reviews, and you should respond. A Harvard Business Review study found that when businesses respond to both positive and negative reviews their ratings subsequently increase.

Listen, we understand that responding to online customer reviews, both good and bad, can be time-consuming, difficult, and, at times, maddening. But by responding (especially to the bad ones) you can learn from your mistakes and improve your business’ reputation.

So, let’s take a look at how to approach responding to positive and negative customers reviews, and one tactic you can use to cut down on the amount of time responding takes up (and the stress it can cause)

What are your options for dealing with reviews?

When a customer leaves a positive review…

You should always respond! Whenever a customer leaves you a positive review you should respond. Not only does it show customers that you stand behind your product or service, but it also allows you to engage with your satisfied customers and build trust with them. 

Acknowledge them by name in the response and show them your gratitude. But don’t just stop there. Anyone can write a quick ‘thank you’. This is an opportunity to separate yourself from your competitors. 

Go above and beyond by offering them some sort of extra value, whether that is coming into your workspace and testing out a new product, or sending a complimentary water bottle or t-shirt to their home with your company’s name and logo on it. Think outside the box! Show them that you don’t just pay attention to the customers that cause headaches.

When a customer leaves a negative review…

Evaluate the feedback internally first, then respond to the review! That’s right: always respond. If the review meets the platform’s review policies, and is from an actual customer, you should respond to the review directly after you’ve taken the time to chew on the feedback.

Customers have a lot of power online, and if you react emotionally, the disgruntled can easily spread negativity all over your reputation online. It’s easier than ever to do so.

How to respond to the review depends on the situation. If the customer was in the wrong then civilly explain to them what they did and why your business reacted the way it did. If your business was in the wrong, consider creative ways you can fix the situation, and follow through. Offer them your email address or work number so that they may contact you directly.

Not offering a solution to make it right means you didn’t properly respond to the negative review.

On most review platforms you as the business owner have the last word, so keep your response nice, short, and civil. Replying with an attack on the reviewer will only make things worse, and could cause more damage to your business and brand than the original negative review did.

An empathetic and well thought out response to a negative review shows customers and potential customers that you care, are attentive, and empathetic.

Having response templates is handy

Depending on the size of your business, and how many hats you have to wear, you might not have the staff or the time to monitor every possible website that allows reviews. Neither do you have the time to respond to every one that comes in. To make responding to reviews a little easier we suggest having two or three positive and negative review templates that you can use to streamline the process. 

When using a template to respond to a review try and edit it to be as personal as possible.

The double edge sword with using templates is that if you don’t edit them based on the situation, or use the same one too much, they can make your responses look robotic and disingenuous.

Templates to get you started

Below are examples of positive and negative response templates. Feel free to make these your own, or do a quick Google search to find more examples that might be more suitable for your business.

Positive response template example

Hi {first name}!

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this review. I’m ecstatic to hear that you loved our {positive feature mentioned in the review} and I’m excited to let our team know they’re knocking it out of the park! {Make a unique and exciting offer of value to the customer}. Thank you again for your review, {your name}, owner.

Remember, engaging and empathizing with your customer will show the rest of the potential customers who may be looking into using your company that you care about, and take the time to invest in, your customers.

Negative response template example

Hi {first name},

Thank you for letting us know about {negative feature highlighted in the review}. I’m extremely sorry to hear that your experience with us was lacking, and I will be bringing your review up with {person/department/team responsible} internally to discuss how we can do better in the future. I would love to connect with you to try and find a way to amend this situation as your business means a lot to us. Please feel free to contact me at your earliest convenience at {email or phone number} so that we can talk. I look forward to speaking with you. Sincerely, {your name}, owner.

What to do when a review is obviously fake, malicious, or written by a competitor (aka: when it ignores the website’s terms of use)

Flag the review as inappropriate! For all the good internet tools like reviews can do – some people use them inappropriately. Luckily, many websites that allow customers to leave reviews also have policies in place to curb the abuse of their review system. Flag the review. If you don’t get the review taken down by flagging it then try and get in touch with the site’s support team. Whether you are able to get in touch with a support team will depend on the website though, as some are easier to reach than others. If all else fails, though, be prepared with a civil response.

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