The complete guide to online reputation management: How to respond to customer reviews

The complete guide to online reputation management: How to respond to customer reviews

Masooma Memon
Freelance Writer

Let’s get this straight: you have to respond to all customer reviews – good or bad.

Even if responding to reviews is a time-consuming, energy-draining task that requires several cups of coffee to get past, you need to pay attention to this essential task. Why? Because prospects trust these reviews to make their buying decision. 

Three out of four buyers say they trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. And here’s the eye-opening bit: four out of five shoppers have changed their minds about buying a recommended purchase after reading negative online reviews about it.

So you know what that means, right? 

You’ve got to respond to online reviews to gain your target audience’s trust. And to make it less headache-inducing for you, here’s a lowdown on how to reply to customer reviews without losing your calm.

Let’s get going. 

Why should you prioritize responding to customer reviews at your earliest?

A couple of reasons:

1. Adequately responding to negative customer reviews in time can help save customers

At times, a negative review may stem out from a misunderstanding. Or, it could be a result of a mistake on your end. In either case, there’s scope for correcting the problem and winning back your customer. But, only if you respond quickly and adequately. 

Thinking you’d rather win a new customer than win back an angry one? Think again. Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining one.

2. Responding to customer reviews can help you create a loyal customer base and some PR and marketing buzz too

Customers who take the time to leave a positive review love it when you respond to them. A thank you note and a visit again invite can even turn them into loyal fans that champion your business.

3. Your customers read online reviews and business responses to them, making their purchasing decisions accordingly.

89% of consumers are reading responses to online reviews. What’s more, 94% say that an online review has convinced them against buying from a business.

By prioritizing responses, you can make sure interested folks read your side of the story – whether it’s a thank you message that pitches you forward as a polite business or an explanation to a negative review, which clears the air. 

That said, you can generate some marketing buzz with positive online reviews.

How to respond to customer reviews: The basics for getting started

So you’ve made up your mind and want to do your best to respond to online reviews. Good call. 🙌 

Moving forward, we recommend you get started by first working out the fundamentals of your plan in the following two steps:

Step 1: Create a review response strategy

A review response strategy ensures that your responses to customer reviews are consistent – using the same brand voice and writing style.

If a couple of your teammates are on the job, this strategy can help you all stay on the same page with your responses. 

Plus, you can refer to this strategy every time an angry customer review leaves you feeling unfocused or you’re feeling unsure of how to write back to an unbiased review.

To begin with, set a few ground rules. For instance, base your strategy on the following characteristics: 

  • Professionalism
  • Accountability
  • Problem-solving
  • Honesty
  • Empathy 

Simultaneously, make it clear: always respond to each review with a thank you.

Another important note: Personalize your responses. For example, address the reviewer by their name instead of a generic “Hey there.” A lack of personalization makes your answer look automated – not a good start to win back customers’ hearts, angry or not. 

Step 2: Prepare to respond at your earliest

Unsatisfied customers want to get their problems addressed as quickly as they write a review for you. Customers who support your business, on the other hand, deserve to be immediately appreciated too.

Practically speaking, you can’t be at different places at one time. Alas, you aren’t The Flash. So if you were to prioritize writing responses, always focus on the negative review first. 

Here’s why: Just one negative article about your product can leave you exposed to a risk of losing 22% of customers. If these were to become three negative articles showing up in the search results, your risk of losing customers increases to 59.2%.

But here’s the catch: with multiple reviews pouring in at a time, how can you tell which review needs addressing first?

Luckily, Levity can help by detecting a review’s tone of voice. 

Put another way, even if your reviews don’t have ratings, Levity can run the bulk of the text content through sentiment analysis to tell you which reviews are negative and need immediate attention.

Track Facebook sentiment in Google Sheets

How to respond to negative reviews?

With your review response strategy ready and AI working to alert you of reviews that require immediate action, let’s walk you through tips to respond to negative reviews:

Stay calm

The first step is always to remain calm no matter how angry or unjustified a review is. If you have to, leave the page and come back to it a couple of minutes later.

Under no circumstances should you display anger, unprofessionalism, and blame-shifting. Can’t think clearly? Revisit your review response strategy.

Acknowledge the issue 

By acknowledging the issue, you display empathy and send the ‘we care for you’ message to your reviewer.

Example: 

“we’re sorry you had to deal with [issue].”

On the flip side, by not addressing the issue, you risk moving forward by belittling your reviewer’s concern, which is not a good attempt at retaining customers.

Ask for clarification and take the issue offline if it’s an extended matter

If it’s unclear actually what happened and you need more details to be able to understand and solve the problem, by all means, request the reviewer to share more information.

At the same time, take the discussion to a private channel.

Example: 

“I’d like to look into this matter personally. But to do so, can I request you to share more details on [issue] on the following email address.”

Share what you’re doing to correct the issue

This step is essential as it aims to solve the issue, telling your reviewer you’re doing your best to get their matter sorted or corrected for the next time. 

Example:

“Thank you for bringing this to our notice. We’ve talked to our [relevant [person/team] and are actively working to solve this issue.”

Take responsibility

If it’s a problem that’s a mistake from your team’s end, take responsibility for it.  You’d leave a far better impression this way. Even win the customer back by doing so.

Example: 

“We’ve looked into this matter and learned that [issue] was a mistake from our end. While we are normally careful about [issue] and don’t have customer complaints about it in the past, we regret to say we’re at fault here. Please accept our sincere apologies.”

If possible, offer compensation

Wherever possible, make amends by offering compensation. It could be shipping another article for free, offering a discount for the next time a reviewer does business with you, and so on. 

Example:

“Let us make it up to you by offering you a [x] discount on your next visit.”

How to respond to positive reviews? 

Like we discussed, responding to positive reviews can help you build a loyal customer community? So how do you win happy hearts further? 

Here’s the action plan:

Appreciate the review

We’ve already discussed that you need to start all reviews with thanks. However, appreciating reviewers can make them feel special. Therefore, become the extra step you need to take to stand out. 

Example:

“Thank you for taking the time to share your kind words with us. They just made our day!”

Talk about a specific point

If the review appreciates a particular product or aspect of your service(s) and you know that it’s popular with others, feel free to mention it in your reply as well.

Example:

“We’re so glad you enjoyed the Chocolate Malt Cake. Lots of our customers love it and we can’t be more thrilled!”

 Pass on the compliment

Does the review appreciate someone on your team that helped them? Say, Mark from the customer service team? If so, tell the reviewer you’re passing on your words to Mark – it’s a genuine way to show the reviewer that you value their comments.

Example: 

“We’re so glad Mark was able to help walk you through the process. Passing your kind words to him on your behalf.”

Promote other products, but only if it’s natural

If it doesn’t come up as salesy, consider suggesting other products/services.

Example: 

“The next time you visit us, be sure to try X – it’s our customers second-most enjoyed dish.”

Tell them you’d love to see them again

That or make a promise to continue serving better. Either way, your words will encourage the reviewer to return, which, by the way, is the point of it all, isn’t it?

Example:

“We’d love to see you again.”

How to respond to unbiased reviews?

There’s nothing much different about responding to unbiased reviews than replying to positive ones.

What you can do differently, though, is:

Dig in for more details/feedback

Where appropriate, request the reviewer to share more details on X or Y that they mention in their review but don’t exactly share their thoughts. This insight lets you understand and respond to their review better.

Example:

“Thank you for taking the time to write a review for us. If you could spare a few minutes, can you kindly share your thoughts on X?” 

Summing up

Responding to online customer reviews doesn’t have to be hard (or, at least, not that hard). By following these tactics, we’re sure you’ll leave a positive impression on your customers’ minds.

But remember: reply adequately and quickly, particularly when it comes to negative reviews. You don’t want other review readers to come across unaddressed reviews. Instead, you want them to see how much you care about your customer’s experience and how prompt you are at sorting any unresolved issues.

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Levity is a tool that allows you to train AI models on images, documents, and text data. You can rebuild manual workflows and connect everything to your existing systems without writing a single line of code.

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