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How to respond to online reviews in four simple steps

Customer reviews are incredibly powerful. A good review can encourage many more customers to choose your product while a negative one can be devastating to your business. This is because consumers increasingly rely on these reviews to inform their purchase decisions. And reviews that come straight from an actual customer hold more weight than any marketing campaign or discount offer.   

Online reviews are everywhere. Platforms such as Google Reviews, Yelp and Facebook let customers recount their experience and rate it on a one- to five-star rating system. Even if only a few reviewers rate your business, if the reviews seem legitimate, they can profoundly affect the way your business is perceived.  

With this in mind, it’s no wonder many businesses are focused on achieving positive online reviews. Many focus on ensuring their business operations run smoothly and customer service is of high quality. However, customers are far more likely to post a negative review than a positive one. It’s human nature to want your grievances heard if you have a perceived negative experience and people are less commonly motivated to post a positive review. 

While it can be frustrating to receive a negative review, especially if you feel the complaint isn’t warranted, it’s important not to panic. Negative reviews can provide an opportunity to reconnect with the customer and repair the issue. Often, if you handle this well, your disgruntled customer can be transformed into an ardent ambassador.  

There are four key steps to handling a negative review:

1. Respond quickly  

It can be tempting to ignore the negative review and hope it will be lost among the positive ones. But customers expect their concerns to be heard and addressed, so it’s critical to respond within 24 hours, even if it’s just to acknowledge you are aware of the issue and will work with the complainant to resolve it.  

You can streamline this process by designing a suite of key messages that suitably address various common situations. It’s essential to personalise these messages to each complainant because they will quickly notice if you offer a canned response to every negative review. Having these messages ready to go can help you respond fast with information that aligns with your business’s position.  

2. Move the situation to a private communication method or offline 

After addressing the customer in the public forum, it’s important to offer a direct channel of communication such as a company email address or through direct message so the conversation is one-on-one rather than on public display. It also maintains privacy of each individual when it comes to details of the incident or personal data required to investigate or pass on the complaint. If you can, offering a direct contact number can help take the conversation offline and demonstrate you care about the issue with a dedicated team member available to discuss and provide a resolution. 

3. Keep it short 

The first response to a negative review should be limited to three or four sentences. Avoiding follow-up questions will eliminate the potential for a complaint to drag on and expand in detail. Lengthy responses also legitimise a complaint regardless of whether the customer is right or wrong. So, avoid debating and addressing each point individually when writing a response. Instead, summarise and provide a general response addressing the customer’s complaint. 

4. Make things right 

If your business demonstrates a willingness to address and improve from negative online reviews, you will keep the original customer happy and encourage new customers to choose your product or service. Even when it may seem as if you’ve lost the customer forever, it’s important to invite them back and welcome them to give the business another chance. This demonstrates a mature approach in which the business is eager to develop and improve, as well as potentially make restitution.

For example, offering something for free or at a discount can work well. However, it’s important to avoid giving away something for free to everyone who complains regardless of the legitimacy of their complaint, as your business may come to be seen as an easy target for those people looking to game the system. Try to keep offers of free products or services private. 

The Recognition Group can help your business generate more positive online reviews and address negative reviews with social media monitoring, community management, key messaging and a review of internal operations to help communicate better. Get in contact today. 

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