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Review Responses: Best Practise
13th July, 2017

Review Responses are an intrinsic part of any business these days, what people write about your services can encourage or dissuade new customers from trying them too. Getting a bad review can feel like the end of the world and the flight or fight response does not serve you well when dealing with them. Ignoring a bad review in hopes it will go away does not solve anything, nor does aggressively defending your products or services when in fact the customers might have a point. A bad review is an opportunity to prove yourself. There is an old saying, “a complaint well handled creates a customer for life”, and below is a list of things to consider when you are crafting a response to a review or complaint. These rules aren’t written in stone, you might find that they won’t apply to every review or need some tweaking in different situations, but they are a useful list of suggestions. They apply to both good and bad reviews, just because a review is good, doesn’t mean you don’t need to take the time to respond!

The first four are probably the most important and should be considered in relation to every response you write, but the others should be kept in mind too. Good luck and happy responding.

  1. Remember future customers.  The most important thing to remember about any response that you write is that the audience of your response is everyone, not just the person who wrote the review. Your response might be read once by the reviewer but will be probably read hundreds of times by other people that might be already using or considering to use your service. It’s arguable that what you write for your response will be read more than most content on your website. So always be thinking about your audience as you write.

  2. Never be defensive about negative reviews.  As previously stated, the response you write is less for the reviewer and more for the future customers who will be checking reviews before choosing to work with you. The reviewer might be wrong or rude but everyone has a bad day, and try and take that into account when you write your response.

  3. Never write responses to negative reviews when you’re emotional.  You might feel hurt or angry at what someone might write, but when you are feeling that way the best thing to do is to walk away for a little while and only write your response when you can do so with a level-head.

  4. Thank reviewers for their feedback and insight.  It takes time to leave comments and reviews and in doing so they are doing you a favour and giving you a chance to better understand how some customers perceive your business. It might seem unfair or incorrect, but value the information you are receiving from your customers, even the unhappy ones.

  5. Short and Sweet.  Keep it to the point, polite, unique and on brand! Just because you come up with the perfect response to one review does not mean you should use it over and over again, especially with reviews that are one after the other. Try to personalise your responses to the reviews as much as realistically possible.

  6. Don’t just take the issue offline.  While it can be useful to share your number or email address with a client don’t make it the solution for every customer. Always give some form of response to the review in public, even if you end up continuing the conversation later offline. However, if there is an issue of privacy for the customer, write a response about how the issue was handled without exposing private information.

  7. Don’t get personal, ever.  Sometimes reviewers can attack specific employees of your company, especially when they are angry. This is not acceptable and Google will remove reviews that represent personal attacks on people. If a review does this flag it and Google will assess it within a few days. In the same way, it is completely unacceptable to write a response that personally attacks a reviewer. Always be professional and polite no matter how aggressive or rude the reviewer is being.

  8. Set Ground Rules.  Some people are better than others at writing responses, it is worth making sure that your team know who should be handling them and that the person or people understand how you want them written. Grammar and spelling are really important, remember that the response that goes out represents your business. Sometimes the best people to write the response isn’t the Manager or Owner, pick the person who writes best, whatever their role is. They should be managed but it will be better in the long run if all your responses come across as professional and on brand. Always check for spelling and grammatical errors before reviews are posted. Mistakes happen, spelling errors will slip through, but it is always better if they don’t.

  9. No Gifts. Don’t provide any freebies or discounts in your responses. This reads like bribery and can also encourage other to post negative reviews if they think they can get something from it. This isn’t to say that a negative review might not justify something for free but in this instance it might be wise to do it offline. If the reviewer asks for something specifically in their review, it’s best to just ignore it if possible. If you must respond, describe how you believe your services or products are fairly priced and move on.

  10. Take Ownership of the Issue.  Sometimes business is just not fair and you have to take ownership of a problem that isn’t yours or was something out of your control. You need to own both the issue and the response to it. Many times reviewers just feel like they haven’t been listened to and will remove a review when they feel like someone has taken the time to respond (whether offline or in direct response to the review).

  11. Nobody’s perfect, people know that.  It’s okay to admit that you made a mistake and apologize. Remember you are speaking to future customers at this moment and owning a mistake and handling it the right way can actually increase customers trust in your brand. Perfection doesn’t breed trust, authenticity does.

  12. Review your Response.  If you are dealing with a delicate review, it helps to get a neutral party to check your response. Ask them to consider not just the perspective of the reviewer but also that of future customers.

  13. Have some supporting content ready.  If you frequently refer to policies make them easy to find. An easy-to-navigate FAQ page can be a wonderful library to refer to. Also, yourwebsite.com/returnpolicy is easy to paste in the response.

  14. There’s not always a good response. Sometimes there isn’t anything you can write that will fix the situation. You should still tell the customer you appreciate them and wish things had turned out differently. Remember, you’re speaking to future customers as well. However, if the customer begins to abuse your page report them and get the review removed. There is no reason for a customer to be slanderous or abusive. Keep in mind though that shutting them down in one place may cause them to go elsewhere, so you need to monitor their activity. A Google alert set up on their username with your brand name in the query could be useful.
  15. Never fake a review.  If discovered it could get you removed from a review site which means a range of customers might never discover you. Google and the other major players have bots checking the validity of reviews, and if they can associate the reviewer with your brand directly, that could get you in trouble. It could be an employee writing a review from their business computer or getting friends to write reviews without ever having tried your services. It isn’t worth it. The chances are 99% of your clients are happy with your service or products they just need a nudge, get your staff to actively ask happy customer to review you!
  16. Removing or Editing Resolved Negative Reviews.  You have done the legwork and have managed to get a customer who was unhappy back on side, now you need to ask them to fix their review or remove it. Some will do it without you needing to ask but some won’t think about it or forget. It’s okay to remind them to, so put a note in your calendar for a month later to check if it’s done and follow up if necessary. Once it is done thank them in an email or a call. It is actually beneficial to have some negative reviews, as it demonstrates how you handle mistakes or bad situations, which breeds trust. You don’t need to get all of them removed, just ones that might be incorrect or particularly negative.

Useful links:

Review, what are they really good for?

Google Reviews Policy:

To respond or not to respond, that is the question: