Responding to online reviews: The good, the bad, the funny

Reviews are an essential point of contact between your company and your clients – and a highly trusted source of purchasing guidance for prospective customers. For optimal growth, you need an online reputation strategy that guides you as you respond, manage, and generate reviews that appear online.

Responding to positive reviews

Don’t ignore happy customers. When buyers take the time to praise your business, finding time to thank them is the least you can do. And it’s smart marketing because prospective buyers see that you value your customers.

Responding to positive reviews doesn’t have to be a chore. Preparing a few templates in advance can save you time, but make sure to customize each response so it doesn’t look automated and indifferent. A copy-paste response turns a potential positive impression into a negative one.

Make sure your response highlights your key marketing message, and take care to customize your response by acknowledging specific points mentioned in the customer’s review.

These are excellent responses. As you can see, the owner of this restaurant communicates key points while mentioning specific elements of customer reviews. In the first case, it was the server who handled the order. In the second, he acknowledges praise for a new menu item.

He also incorporates a call to action and points his customers toward the restaurant’s social media accounts. That’s smart. It boosts engagement with the current customer while giving prospects a new avenue for exploring the restaurant’s offerings.

Even customers who leave five-star ratings may have specific criticisms or suggestions for improvement. No matter how small the complaint might be, you should address it to make sure your satisfied customer is feeling heard.

The issue can even be something that’s out of your control, as in this example:

As you can see, the staff is aware of the problem. The company points out that it is a citywide problem and highlights ways the company is working to resolve it.

It’s a good idea to mention ongoing improvements, new features, and new products even when responding to a positive review from a customer who seems totally satisfied. This will help you keep customers looking forward to visiting  your business in the future.

In addition to boosting customer loyalty, positive reviews represent a good opportunity for upselling. Satisfied customers are great prospects. Do them a favor and let them know you have more to offer. Just remember not to be pushy. You’re writing a thank-you note, not a sales pitch.

Responding to negative reviews

Managing negative reviews requires sensitivity, effort, and deliberation. Your strategy must include quick responses. If there’s an issue that can be resolved, time can be a critical factor. The longer you wait, the more neglected your customer will feel. And late responses leave a bad impression on prospects.

If a negative review is the result of a misunderstanding, do your best to explain the situation from your perspective and offer a solution if possible. If an error occurred on your end, be sure to acknowledge it and show that you are prepared to go the extra mile to make things right. In addition to the public response, follow up with the customer directly if possible. And check in later to make sure your solution left them satisfied.

The hospitality industry can be a particularly harsh one when it comes to negative reviews. There are a lot of moving parts, and a single staff member’s slip-up can result in a bad experience for customers.

In the example shown above, the owner isn’t making excuses. He demonstrates that he is committed to resolving the situation personally and using the customer’s poor experience as a teaching opportunity for his staff.

In many cases, negative feedback is the result of mismatched expectations: Customers expect something that your business doesn’t or can’t provide. Be sure to show empathy by relating at the human level even if there’s nothing you can do regarding the business.

No one is immune to bad reviews. In the exchange shown above, one of the market’s most popular SEO gets unpleasant feedback. Notice how the substantive response shows understanding, delivers more information, and offers help. This can be enough to change the customer’s opinion of your company and its offerings.

Above all, don’t take negative reviews personally. You’ve invested blood, sweat, and tears in your business. It hurts when a customer leaves a harsh review full of criticism that you feel is undeserved. At the end of the day, that’s not something you can control. What you can do is respond promptly, be polite and empathetic, and resolve recurring problems or errors.

Take a breather if you need one. Keep your cool, even if the negative review is absolutely baseless. Your business will benefit if you always respond calmly.

Adding humor to your response

Humor and comedy are highly subjective, and no one can give universal advice on when it’s appropriate. Humorous responses can be effective, but don’t try to be funny just for the sake of it. Above all, don’t joke about the customer’s complaint. You must show that you take it seriously.

That doesn’t mean that humor is off-limits. Some of the vendor responses on review websites are laugh-out-loud funny. You can emulate these messages sparingly. Note that these vendors reserved their funny and sarcastic responses for customers who were dishonest or impossible to please.

Some of the best comic relief comes from the service industry. But no matter what business you’re in, you can surely relate to this:

And then there are marketers who use humor as an art form. We love examples from Amber Share, whose book and Instagram account are dedicated to negative reviews of America’s national parks:

Whichever approaches you employ in your online review strategy, you could probably use some help. That’s where Reviewshake comes in! Sign up for a free trial now and start responding, managing, and generating online reviews today.

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