How to respond to reviews online

Engage your customers

Chances are, someone has looked at your business’s online reviews before deciding to buy from you. As a matter of fact, 97 percent of consumers read online reviews, and 85 percent of them trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family. As much as people rely on reviews for social proof that your business provides a quality product or service, they also pay close attention to how you respond to reviews — whether positive or negative.

On most review sites, like Google, Yelp or Facebook, consumers see an aggregate review score of one to five stars followed by itemized reviews and testimonials from each customer. Since consumers now read an average of seven reviews (up from six in 2016), it is safe to assume they spend an extra moment examining how you respond to reviews to get a better sense of the way you behave as a business owner.

The way you respond to reviews helps them determine if you’re someone who will fix a problem right away or point them to paragraph 11, clause 3 of your terms of service in an effort to prevent a return. Basically, they decide if they like you — and subsequently want to buy from you — based off how you respond to reviews.

3 P’s when you respond to reviews

Respond To Reviews Ps
Photo: bethiekat / CC BY-ND

When we work with our small business clients to grow online reviews, we provide templates for responding to both negative and positive reviews. Along with these templates, we also teach them the three P’s of responding to reviews:

  1. Prompt — Respond within one to two business days.
  2. Professional — Use proper spelling and grammar.
  3. Positive — Stay upbeat in your response, no matter how nasty the review.

It’s important to follow the three P’s of responding to reviews. Responding promptly demonstrates that you are on top of your business. Remaining professional enhances the perception of quality for prospective customers. Staying positive, even if faced with expletive-filled, hyperbolic nonsense, shows consumers that you care about the satisfaction of your customers and will work with them to make things right.

Staying positive and calm when someone takes a jab at your business is tough, and you might have a tendency to take feedback personally, which is natural.

After all, you built this business from the ground up. When someone writes a negative review, it’s as if they insulted your firstborn. The key is to remember that every action you take goes on public record, so step back, take a breath, and think about how you want to be perceived before your fingers flitter in a fit of fury over the keyboard.

Once you subscribe to the three P’s of responding to reviews, you are ready to use the following templates. These templates were built as a guide and do not need to be copied word for word. In fact, you should add your own “flavor” and tone to the templates, so it sounds like the response is coming from you.

Template for responding to positive reviews

Respond To Reviews Positive
Photo: Adam Jang on Unsplash

Look at your response to a positive review as another marketing opportunity. Not only do you look good to the consumer, but you can also upsell based on their comments. Let’s say you receive the following review:

I just want to thank Jake for helping me launch the website of my dreams. I’m now proud to give out my business card because I know I look good online.

Part 1: Thank the customer

Be sure to refer to something or someone they mentioned. Add an aside or a remark that is playful but still professional:

Hi FirstName, thanks so much for taking the time to write a review about your account manager, Jake — we think he’s pretty amazing, too.

Part 2: Add your company name and focal keywords

Avoid “stuffing” too many keywords, and even if you are only one person, use the word “team” or “family”:

The BJC Branding team is happy to hear that you enjoyed building your new WordPress website with us.

Part 3: Highlight a service and include a call-to-action

Include a direct call-to-action, like calling or emailing (instead of “go to this website” or “fill out this form”). Show others reading the review how easy it is to work with your team and get started:

When you’re ready to showcase your online reviews on your website, call us, and we’ll get you set up in a jiffy.

Putting it all together

Hi FirstName, thanks so much for taking the time to write a review about your account manager, Jake — we think he’s pretty amazing, too. The CompanyName team is happy to hear that you enjoyed building your new WordPress website with us. When you’re ready to [try a new product OR add something to your existing product OR check out our latest service], call us, and we can get you going.

Pro tip: Be sure to include your business name and focal keywords since positive reviews are indexed in search engine results. This gives your positive reviews a better chance of showing up when people search for your business or product/service names.

Template for responding to negative reviews

Respond To Reviews Negative
Photo: keyofnight / CC BY

Look at your response to reviews that are negative as a public relations mechanism. Not only do you acknowledge and respond, you provide a way to resolve the issue. Let’s say you receive the following review:

This restaurant is horrible. The hostess was so rude, the server was more rude, and the food was just plain offensive. I’ll tell everyone I know to avoid this place like the plague.

Part 1: Apologize and thank the customer

Make them feel as if their feedback is valued, and always be positive:

Hi FirstName, we are sorry to hear about your experience, and we really appreciate you sharing your feedback with us.

Part 2: Highlight one of your strengths and add an additional apology

Whether it’s customer service or the quality of your service/product, always highlight a positive attribute. Apologize again to show that you are taking the high road:

We consider our customers as part of the family, and we are sorry we missed the mark when you last joined us.

Part 3: Introduce yourself and provide them with a direct line of communication

Establish yourself as a leader at the business by stating your title, and include a direct line of communication like phone number of email:

My name is FirstName, and I am the YourPosition. I’d be happy to speak to you personally to try and make things right. Please contact me at (phone number or email address).

Putting it all together

Hi FirstName, we are sorry to hear about your experience, and we really appreciate you sharing your feedback with us. We consider our customers as part of the family, and we are sorry we missed the mark when you last joined us. My name is FirstName, and I am the YourPosition. I’d be happy to speak to you personally to try and make things right. Please contact me at (phone number or email address).

Pro tip: Be sure to not include your business name or focal keywords since negative reviews are also indexed in search engine results.

Respond to reviews with professionalism

With templates like those above, you should be able to respond to reviews promptly, professionally and positively. Save them in a text editor and copy and paste when the need arises. Even though it’s probably been far longer than one to two business days, go back and respond to all of your reviews today so those 97 percent of consumers can see what a good, upstanding business owner you truly are.

Bryan Caplan
Bryan Caplan helps businesses elevate their digital marketing. A national speaker for Google's Get Your Business Online program and award-winning CEO of BJC BrandingBryan travels the country, presenting on a wide range of digital marketing topics to help small businesses grow and succeed. Bryan has provided digital marketing strategy to well over 1,000 businesses since 2010 and is a guest lecturer at Suffolk University School of Business. He is also a contributing columnist to several publications including GoDaddy, Constant Contact, BusinessTown, and the Boston Business Journal.