After much research and real-world testing, we believe that the Review Response Team at WebPunch has perfected the secret sauce of responding to online reviews and we’re ready to share it with the world.
Our Team has grown by leaps and bounds over the last couple of years as people have begun to rely more and more on online reviews. Some of the old-timers on our team laugh about how days and days used to go by without any online reviews getting posted. Those days are long gone! Today, your company’s reputation IS your online reputation.
Grab a cup of coffee (our team’s choice of morning beverage) and settle in while we tell you what we’ve learned about crafting the perfect review response.
Why Respond to Reviews?
Before we dive in, we’d like to share a brief overview of why we feel that responding to your reviews is vital. When one of your customers takes time out of their schedule to go online and post a positive review for your company, it’s a big deal! It’s like that person has given you a virtual high-five and if you don’t respond, you’ll be leaving them hanging. Don’t leave them hanging!
In May of this year, Google announced that it will now be notifying customers when a business responds to their reviews. Remember when people used to send personal handwritten thank-you letters? When you take the time to respond to your online reviews, it's like the modern thank-you note! Our WebPunch stats show that 83% of consumers feel that their voices have been heard when the business responds—It’s customer engagement at its finest!
You can see in our internal stat below that only 32% of businesses respond to their online reviews. By taking the time to send a reply, your business reputation will be leaps and bounds ahead of your competition!
The History of Review Responses
I like good strong words that mean something."
- Louisa May Alcott
In the beginning, we believed the best thing to do when responding to a review was to repeat many of the reviewer’s words back to them. The reason we did this (and still do), is that the first rule of Active and Reflective Listening is to repeat and paraphrase back to your customer what you’ve “heard” them “say.” Side note—this works well in all relationships!
There was also a time when we were encouraged by Google to include keywords within the review response to help with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) results. For example, if the review was for a house cleaning company, we would include words like “clean” and “home” and phrases like “house cleaning.” The goal was to write a response that would help increase the chances of your business coming up in a search when those keywords were typed into Google. We still recommend including the name of your business in your response as well as a keyword or two; however, it’s best to not go overboard with keywords since the response may begin to sound inauthentic.
Being daily immersed in the online review world has taught our team a lot, and perhaps the most important lesson is this: the online terrain is always changing, moving, and shifting. We’ve had to be willing to adapt and learn new things. If we were to share all the meeting notes we’ve taken over the past several months and years, you’d see that a lot of intentional and deliberate thought has gone into our processes and methods. Some of us (clears throat) are professional over-thinkers and our team is always discussing the best way to approach review responses.
Gratitude: First and Foremost
We’ve come to really understand and deeply believe that the overarching theme of responding to online reviews has never changed, and that theme is gratitude. Your customers have chosen YOUR business over all your competitors and you just can’t help but feel thankful. If you’re not creative with words and aren’t sure how to respond to your online reviews, writing a simple “thank you” is a good first step. This lets your customers know you’re thankful for them and that you appreciate them.
Here’s a wonderful example of how to lead with gratitude:
Here are some of our most recent internal notes about responding to reviews:
RESPONDING TO REVIEWS
Basic Summary: Treat each review response like a conversation. Back to basics, baby!
Positive Reviews with Comments
Show gratitude and thankfulness instead of focusing on the business.
Be personable and warm, showing the brand’s personality.
Listen to the voice of the reviewer.
Each response should sound like a handwritten note.
Respond to things that the reviewer states in their comments.
If they mention a specific tech or service person, acknowledge it.
If they mention something specific, acknowledge this in the review.
Positive Reviews with No Comments
Basic Summary: Gratitude and mention company name.
Keep the responses short and sweet.
Don’t overwrite or add details that we don’t know about.
Basic Summary: Represent the brand well and calm the customer.
Our goal is to mitigate the damage of a negative review.
We help owners craft responses to negative reviews that tell their side of the story and reflect their business in the best possible light.
We help turn detractors into promoters; our responses are geared toward problem solving, acknowledgement, and conflict resolution.
Go for a Conversational Tone
There’s professional—and then there’s stuffy. Consider the way you would talk to your customer in person and approach your review response that same way. If it doesn’t sound like something you would say in real life, the response won’t seem as genuine. It helps to think less about trying to write the response you think you should write—what comes from the heart is the most authentic response you could offer your client and they’ll appreciate your honest sentiments.
From our own internal research, we’ve discovered that most people don’t read beyond the first couple of sentences so we recommend including the essence of what you’re trying to convey in the very first part of your response (after or along with gratitude, of course!).
Here’s a fantastic review response written in a conversational tone:
Tackling a Negative Review Response
A negative review can be trickier. It’s hard when someone criticizes your business and you may need to give yourself the gift of time before you take it on. It’s perfectly fine to take a moment and think about how you’d like to address the complaint. Try to approach the response with as much compassion as possible and we are big proponents of offering to make things right. It’s a great idea to lead with your apology since it’s the very first thing people will read. It’s also perfectly okay to not share every detail of your version of the events—edit, edit, edit. Short, sweet, and simple is our motto.
Perhaps one of the most important things you can offer the reviewer who has criticized your product or service is your personal information. Share your phone number and/or email address and invite them to contact you personally. This helps showcase you and your business in the best possible light and reveals that you want to work things out with your customers.
Responding to your negative online reviews puts the ball back in your court and provides you with the opportunity to make amends.
Words are powerful and can even affect change. One of our clients received a one-star review on Google and we were all frustrated because the review wasn’t technically from a customer, which violates Google’s policy. However, proving whether or not a person is an actual customer or not can be difficult. So, we flagged the review but in the meantime, we crafted and posted the following response. Upon reading our response, the reviewer soon updated their review AND upgraded their star-rating to a five. Words matter and these words helped turn a detractor into a promoter!
Here’s an example of how to approach a negative review:
Even if you feel like there’s no hope of finding a resolution with the customer who posted the negative review, your response is still extremely important because it will be seen by future customers who come to your page. Potential customers will see that even when you’ve dropped the ball, you're willing to go the extra mile to make things right. The public knows that no one is perfect—we all make mistakes. It’s what we do after we fail that can make all the difference.
Our Review Response Team has spent the last few years perfecting the recipe to our secret sauce and we hope you find our insight helpful. Responding to your positive and negative reviews is one of the most important and public ways you can show your gratitude to your clients and ensure that you have customers for life. Follow our recipe and you’ll be sure to come up with your own rockin’ review responses!
Karin Siccardi is a Reputation Defender, Blogger, and Proofreader/Editor at WebPunch. Originally from Oregon, she migrated to Tennessee where she lives with her husband, four children, and the family dog who lounges at her feet as she enjoys the luxury of working from her home office. An avid reader, she enjoys all wordy things as well as coffee, chocolate, and wine.