Sometimes when we’re up late at night, scrolling through business’s reviews, you know, just to wind down for the evening, we start to wonder what to do with all those reviews from years past. Should the business owner respond to them? Should they let them go? Does it look weird if there are no responses and then suddenly all the more recent reviews have a response to them? We're talking negative and positive reviews.
We did some soul searching, since it was, after all, late at night, that time where they say the creative juices really start to churn. Should business owners respond to old reviews?
No. Probably not. But wait!
There are some nuances to this that may make a business owner choose to do so; it kind of depends on what they want to accomplish. One thing is for sure, responding to reviews now and forever will only help a business’s online reputation.
We looked to our very own Ginger Jones to see what she thought about responding to old online reviews. Simply put, a customer that posted a negative review three years ago to which no one responded, well, it’s pretty clear that we’re not getting them back. WebPunch tends not to respond to reviews much older than three months. We like to understand where a company is at currently and look into the warm, sunny horizon up ahead instead of the sometimes dreary past.
From Ginger on responding to old reviews:
"We typically don't respond to reviews that are older than 2 months (3 months would be my max) - because that ship has already sailed and it seems like the business owner did not care and/or was oblivious to what was being said about them."
We think the business owner DOES care but maybe didn’t know how to respond to reviews or didn’t understand the importance of responding to reviews, which is usually the culprit.
If a business owner does choose to respond to reviews, go for it! Let’s just hope you have a few dozen reviews, and not thousands of them like hospitals tend to show on their Facebook accounts. Yeesh.
However, when responding to reviews, don’t expect dear old Betty Ann Gram to come rushing back for another perm after posting her one-star review three years ago when her stylist gave her a buzz cut. Some sites like Facebook and Yelp will notify the user that someone responded to their review. Again, that’s nice, but bon voyage (to the customer-laden ship that has sailed, that is).
In the event that a business owner does want to respond to reviews, it may look good when someone is scrolling through them all. That, however, brings us to another question we are dying to research and/or pontificate on: how far back do consumers go when they’re looking at reviews?
Good question! Personally, me, Matthew, who is writing this, I usually check the first handful of reviews, and then I’ll click on whichever button gets me to see the dirt, the one-star reviews. Those one-star reviews tell me what I may be getting myself into with a company were I to bump up against a worst-case scenario. It also informs me as to whether or not those one or two-star ratings are rational concerns, posted by a nut job, circumstantial, or just a one-off.
Taking that into consideration, that people may be skipping straight to the negative reviews when judging a brand, well that may be fodder for wanting to respond old reviews.
|Review Site||Can businesses respond to online reviews?||Notification sent to reviewer?||
|NO||NO||Porch contacts all customers when they leave less than a five-star review|
|Indeed||YES - with an account||YES||Response is public. Tough to get a customer service rep if you are an employee, but not a business.|
|Glassdoor||YES||YES||To leave a review, account must be validated. Review content may take 24 hours to post while Glassdoor reviews it.|
|Thumbtack||YES - one time to each review & updated review||YES||Reviews notified by public response. Review and responses can't be edited once they are posted.|
|Nextdoor||YES - as a Nextdoor member replying to a post||YES||Users' notifications dependent on notification settings. Nextdoor encourages positive review content. If a business isn't a member of Nextdoor, but gets negative feedback, Nextdoor encourages them to talk with other members to respond in their stead.|
|Better Business Bureau||YES||YES||Customer review platform, launched in 2015, different than business complaint program.|
|Capterra||YES||NO||Capterra says vendors can send their response to the original reviewer and that they encourage vendors to respond to reviews.|
|Airport Parking Reservation||N/A||N/A|
|CitySearch||YES-through private messaging||NO||Consumers are kept anonymous and reviews based on recommended or not recommended with review content.|
|Consumer Affairs||YES||YES - if a brand responds privately||Even if a business resolves a negative review, CA will most likely not remove it.|
|Houzz||YES||YES - privately||B2C communication is done privatly through the "Houzz Messaging Tool"|
|N49||YES||YES||Customers notified of a business response as long as the business has an account and is logged in|
|YellowPages.ca||YES||YES||to respond to a review, businesses must fill out a form with contact information and YP.CA will contact the business within 24 hours to authorize the response.|
|SuperPages||YES||YES - Thrive members||Business owners can respond to reviews and customers recieve notifications if they are Thrive members, not for general searches.|
Whatever the case, all of this brings up the gospel we preach daily: responding to reviews will only help a business. Doing so lets consumers know they are being listened to. Further, in the event that a consumer has a negative experience with a business and writes a public review about it online, that gives the business an opportunity to open up the conversation between business and consumer. In the end, we hope two of two things happen.
1). The customer comes back again and again after the business played its cards right by listening to the customer, accepting blame, agreeing to change, and then asking for a re-do or maybe a freebie.
2). The business owner understands shortcomings in the business’s process so it can search them out and destroy them, ultimately becoming a better, more efficient company.
What’s it all mean? While we, WebPunch, may not dig into a business’s review archives to respond to reviews, doing so won’t hurt (unless you have thousands of reviews per business), and could even be beneficial in capturing those review hounds who dig deep. But, don’t expect to earn back customers alienated long ago. Instead, take it as a lesson that there is no better time than now to start working on your online reputation by responding to online reviews. . .the whole lot of them. The good, the bad and the ugly . . . like now. Go now, go respond to them, right now.
Matthew Van Deventer is a content creator for WebPunch. As a dealer of words he dabbles in journalism and loves a good story, whatever the medium. Matthew lives outside of Denver, CO with his wife, daughter, and pup, Chewy.