Good. Glowing. Negative. Unfair. Online reviews take on all shapes and sizes. Regardless of their tone, replying to reviews benefits your business in a big way. In this guide, we cover the benefits of replying to reviews, which reviews are important to reply to, and provide tips and templates to help get you started.
- 5 benefits of replying to reviews
- The most important reviews to reply to
- Negative reviews: How to reply
- Neutral reviews: How to reply
- Positive reviews: How to reply
5 benefits of replying to reviews
There are many benefits that come from replying to customer reviews but the following reasons sit at the top of the list. They are strategic, create a long-term business impact, and are customer-centric.
1. Meet your customer’s expectation
If you’re not replying to reviews, you’re simply not meeting your customers’ expectations. 86% of consumers who complain expect a response within 3 days. Subsequently, if you don’t have a process in place for customers to give feedback directly to your business they will be driven to air grievances via online review sites.
There’s no excuse to let customer complaints go unanswered across the web. Use an online review monitoring tool to alert you when a new review is posted so that you can respond in a timely manner. Your customer will appreciate the attention and your bottom line will benefit.
2. Positively influence the conversation
There are more than 100 online review sites and you (likely) don’t control any one of them. The fact that brands can’t control what’s posted is exactly what makes these sites so popular with consumers and frustrating for businesses. But, you can reply to reviews posted to your business profile (as the owner, customer support specialist, brand, etc.) and these replies do not go unnoticed. Among consumers that read reviews, 97% read businesses’ responses to reviews.
Replying to online reviews gives your brand the ability to positively influence the conversation and that’s a big win. You can provide clarity to both the reviewer and other readers (aka your future customers) by offering additional information, context, and most importantly – support. Just like the review is there for all to see, so is your reply.
For this review, Clean Juice does a great job of letting the customer (and reader) know her experience is not typical and will be addressed to prevent it from happening to others. Their reply convinces a reader to give them the benefit of the doubt.
3. Drive brand loyalty
Humans are social creatures, especially those who reach out to your business by leaving a review. By replying, you create a two-way connection that instantly humanizes your brand. 59% of consumers surveyed show a deeper appreciation of brands that respond to customer service questions or complaints via social media. Brand loyalty is driven by emotional connections, so make your customers feel validated, excited, or appreciated by sending a reply.
4. Increase visibility in local search
Google has three main factors for local search rankings; proximity, prominence, and relevance. Prominence is measured using signals including inbound links to your website, user engagement, and reviews. According to Moz, reviews signals are the third most important factor for local pack rankings and #7 for local organic search.
A study from Harvard Business Review showed businesses who replied to customer reviews experienced 12% more reviews. As a result of replying to online reviews, you can impact your review signals and increase the visibility of your brand in local search.
US Storage Centers is able to respond to reviews for over 120 locations from a single interface using GatherUp. Their Google reviews have increased by 167% and as a result, they grab the top organic spot in local search results.
5. Get more conversions
Replying to your reviews online sets off a chain reaction of benefits for your business. First, a review is posted and your reply delights (and possibly saves) your customer. Then, more customers are likely to leave a review if a business replies to reviews. Next, your review count increases and your search ranking improves. Now, you have more customers. As an added bonus, a study done by Location3 shows that quality reviews correlate to more than a 2% higher conversion rate for paid search campaigns. Ensure your business is replying to reviews to convert more customers.
The most important reviews to reply to
Smart businesses put a structure in place to respond to reviews. Based on review volume, human capital, and technology, your process will be unique. Some brands have the resources and a strategy in place to respond to all their reviews. Others are just getting started by assigning someone to the job. But, what all good review management strategies have in common is a priority to respond to all negative reviews first. Next, in order of importance, we rank direct feedback, Google, Facebook Recommendations, and then industry review sites.
1. All negative and neutral reviews
If you do nothing else, make responding to all negative and 3-star neutral reviews your top priority. A negative online review is the result of an experience so bad that your customer has taken the time to post a review. Neutral reviews often come from customers invested in your brand because there’s something they love, but there’s also something that isn’t quite right. It’s important for your brand to acknowledge the review and take responsibility. Your future customers are watching.
Here is a great example of how to reply to a negative review from Austin Bike Tours. Their response to a 2-star review shows empathy, offers a solution, and takes responsibility for the problem. They already have a great reputation with a 4.8 average rating from 49 reviews, but this response shows that they care and will make things right when they do fall short.
2. Direct Feedback
If you have a way for your customers to contact you, such as a form on your website or customer service number, or are actively requesting feedback using email or text, direct feedback from a customer is a call to action. Complaints need immediate attention. They can be a buying signal that a customer wants to continue to do business with you but is feeling so much frustration that they are not sure they can. Plus, taking care of product or service issues is just good business.
When a GatherUp customer was affected by a bug, we made sure to reach out with a reply to let them know the issue was fixed.
3. Google Reviews
Google is the world’s most used search engine, so it’s not surprising that Google reviews have surged in popularity. According to recent Alexa rankings, Google My Business is the top-ranking review website in the United States. Reviews on Google appear next to your listing in Maps and search and responding to your reviews can even help improve your local ranking on Google.
Dispatch Health responds to all Google reviews with a rating of 2-stars or below. In this reply, an executive addresses issues with a new location and invites the customer to contact them directly.
4. Facebook Recommendations
Facebook is the third most popular review site in the United States. The switch from reviews to recommendations in 2018 introduced a text modal to the review process. Facebook requires users to provide at least 25 characters of content in order to post a recommendation. Replying to Facebook Recommendations is an opportunity for your brand to engage with your consumers on an already social platform. The popularity of this site, it’s social nature, and required review content make replying to reviews here a win for your brand.
In this recent negative Facebook Recommendation, Hi-Wire Brewing acknowledges issues adjusting to the impact COVID-19 has had on their business and asks for forgiveness.
5. Industry Review Sites
There are many niche review platforms for industries. For example, we monitor over 50 of them. Meet your customers where they are. Responding to reviews on industry platforms makes your brand a part of the conversation. Plus, sharing a reply leaves a trail back to your business.
Depending on your industry, these sites can be really important. If you are in the hospitality industry, TripAdvisor ranks #5 for top review sites and Angie’s List comes in at #9 for service-related businesses. Make sure you know what sites your customers are using to share their experiences and manage them accordingly.
How to reply to negative reviews
A negative review can be hard to receive and formulating a reply can be daunting. However, a proactive approach goes a long way. Follows these tips to successfully reply to negative reviews.
- Respond promptly. Our survey shows over 55% of consumers expect a business to reply to a review within 1 day and over 30% expect a response within 3 days. Negative reviews demand a swift reply and resolution to show care and action from your business.
- When the review is left publicly, respond publicly. It’s an opportunity to show consumers you’re capable and willing to right a wrong.
- Read the review thoroughly. Using the customer’s own words to personalize your reply.
- Offer a solution. Showing empathy for the situation and being respectful is vital to successful response management, but a solution is at the core of what the customer wants.
- Put the right person in charge. You must ensure that the person replying to negative reviews has the authority to offer solutions.
Here’s a simple 3-step structure you can use to reply to negative reviews.
Introduction and thanks
- Offer a greeting to your customer that reflects your brand style (playful, casual, official).
- Introduce yourself including your title to establish that you have the authority to offer support.
- Say thank you. Thank the reviewer for their time bringing this matter to your attention.
Dear [customer name],
I’m [your name] and I’m the [your title] at [business name].
Thank you for posting a review. I appreciate the time you took to let us know about [review detail].
Apologize and take responsibility
- Apologize. Even if it’s not your fault.
- Acknowledge what happened so that you can take responsibility.
- Address concerns and share a reason for what went wrong.
We’re sorry to disappoint you.
[Share a reason for what went wrong] and we’ve failed to deliver the experience you expect.
Offer a solution or an invitation
- Offer a solution appropriate to the issue and impact of the individual’s complaint.
- Also, if you don’t want to share an offer publicly, invite your customer to contact you directly.
I would appreciate another chance to earn your business. Please accept [solution].
Sincerely, [your name]
How to reply to neutral reviews
Sixty-three percent of consumers will leave a review if their experience was really bad or really good. Even though neutral reviews are less common, they are just as important to reply to as negative reviews. Because customers often include a compliment and a complaint, your reply strategy will address both. Use these tips when replying to neutral reviews.
- Respond promptly and publicly. Just like negative reviews, neutral reviews are a signal that something didn’t meet your customer’s expectations. For that reason, connect quickly to show support and publicly to show consumers you care.
- Celebrate compliments. Let your customer know that you appreciate their positive feedback.
- Resolve issues. There’s something that held your customer back from a 5-star review. Therefore, figure out what their complaint is and seek a resolution.
- Be specific and concise. Address the positive and negative feedback in 100-150 words.
Introduction and thanks
- Set a positive tone using your brand voice.
- Include your title in your introduction so your customer knows you’re there to help.
- Say thanks. Show that your business appreciates feedback.
Hello [customer name],
I’m [your name] and I’m the [your role].
Thank you for taking the time to leave a review.
Recognize and celebrate compliments
- Restate positive feedback
- Thank the reviewer for letting you know about their positive experience
It’s great to know that you are enjoying [review detail].
Validate and resolve complaints
- Identify the complaint and offer an apology or other response appropriate to the feedback
- Based on the nature of the complaint, offer a solution or validate your customer. Also, let them know what you’re doing to improve.
We know it’s disappointing when [review detail]. We’re working on it!
We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you again.
How to reply to positive reviews
Responding to positive reviews is a great opportunity to build a connection to your brand and make people feel good about being a part of it. Many businesses skip this, but the effort can build a lot of goodwill for your brand. Here are tips for replying to positive reviews.
- Replies to positive reviews can be short and sweet. Include a detail from the review for variety.
- Use a conversational tone that aligns with your brand.
- Respond publicly to share in the online conversation.
- Show appreciation for your customer’s time and sentiment.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your positive experience [customer name]!
Show genuine interest
- Make a comment about the experience your customer shared.
- Tell them something about your brand that is related.
We love it when our customers [review detail].
[Business detail]. It’s great to hear that you noticed.
- Offer information of value the reviewer may be interested in.
Because you enjoyed [review detail], I recommend [business detail] during your next visit.
See you next time!
Online reviews are important to consumers and your customers and for that reason replying to reviews benefits your business. There is not a one size fits all strategy for online reputation management. But, with these tips and templates, anyone can get started and everyone can find some guidance.
Reply to reviews to make a positive impact on your brand reputation and even boost your bottom line.
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