Expert Advice on How to Effectively Respond to Online Reviews

online review advice

In today’s digital revolution, you can assume people will be saying things about your business on the Internet, even if you don’t have a website, and especially if you are participating in social media.  So, maintaining a positive reputation is critical. One major ramification of being online is the potential for a bad review.  Although, some say it creates a sense of truth among those reading the reviews, we all know that a bad review definitely negatively impacts buyers’ decisions. 

When used proactively, social media is the perfect channel for establishing connections with your customers, communicating with them and providing excellent customer service.  The difficult thing for business owners to realize is that this requires full-time attention from a professional.  Business owners should be hiring and training a team to do the daily monitoring, however, the owner should be alerted to anything extremely positive or negative and should be personally responsible for responding to those reviews.

1).  The first proactive step business owners should be taking is to create their own social media accounts so that they are in control over what reviews are displayed online.  The most common social media platforms that facilitate positive customer interactions are Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.  Facebook and Google+ business pages allow business owners to add a Review tab.  Business owners are in complete control of these reviews.  Twitter is often used by businesses to deal with customer service issues in real time as well. 

2).  Business owners should be actively seeking “influencers” within their clientele and asking them to provide positive reviews.  This ongoing work of asking for positive reviews seems to be the biggest obstacle for today’s business owners, even though the more reviews a business has, the more established they seem to be to the reviewers.  The more positive the reviews, the higher the business’s ranking becomes.  One negative review won’t necessarily take you off of a buyer’s list, unless, however, the owner does not respond to it at all or if they do not respond to it well.

3).  Another method business owners should be taking is to publish positive reviews and testimonies on their website.  There are many widgets that will automatically post reviews from your social media to your website.   

4).  Business owners should ensure that a team member is regularly searching the web for opened accounts under their business name and are on top of ensuring an appropriate and effective responses are delivered to all reviews, in real time.

This is especially important because there are also many industry specific, review apps and websites that are known for providing decision-making data for buyers.  Unfortunately for business owners, some of these apps and websites allow customers to create or start an account for your business, without their permission, like Yelp.  This access creates a high risk for unmonitored negative reviews.


When responding, make sure you always:

1.     Respond promptly and accurately.

2.     Show gratitude and respect.

3.     Never respond in an offensive or defensive way.

4.     Include facts instead of opinions and link to factual reference materials to support your case.

5.     Respond in a tone of voice that reflects the company’s culture and values.

6.     Let the person know how you’re connected to the company.



a)    If the review is positive, but false, you need to respond.

b)   If the review is positive and true, you might either just listen or respond with thanks.

Responding to positive reviews should be easy, right? It does sound easy, but it's also surprisingly easy to get this wrong.  When contacting a positive reviewer, your purpose should be simply to deliver a human thank you and let them know you care. That's it. No gift certificates. No mailing lists. No event invites. No reactions to the minor complaint in their review. No requests for them to tell more friends about your business.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but just try to put yourself in the reviewer's shoes and think about whether you would really want anything other than a simple thank you. While a gift or invitation sounds like a nice idea, it can also be misinterpreted as a bribe or payment for the review. Remember, this customer already likes your business -- just use this opportunity to thank them and introduce yourself.


a)    If the review is negative and you feel like the reviewer is a troll you might just listen.

b)   If the review is negative and the reviewer is not a troll but they are ranting or making a joke, you might just listen.

c)    If the review is negative and the person is not a troll and it is not a rant or a joke but it is erroneous information, you should respond.

d)   If the review is negative, the reviewer is not a troll and it is not a rant or a joke, it is not erroneous information but they are unhappy, you should respond.

e)    If the review is negative the reviewer is not a troll, it is not a rant or joke and it is not erroneous information and they are not unhappy, you might just listen.

This is a difficult process for many business owners.  Before responding to a negative review, take a deep breath and think very carefully about what you are going to write. Or even better, don't think too much: just keep it simple by thanking your customer for the patronage and feedback.

Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the gut. We care deeply about our business and it hurts when someone says bad things about our business. For you founders and sole proprietors out there, a negative review can even feel like a personal attack.

The good news is that by contacting your reviewer and establishing a genuine human relationship, you have a chance to help the situation and maybe even change this customer's perspective for the better. There are lots of success stories from business owners who were polite to their reviewers and were accordingly given a second chance.

But please be very careful here: if your reviewer perceives that you are being rude, condescending or disingenuous in any way, there's a chance he or she could get angry and make the situation even worse. Keep in mind that this is a vocal customer who could well copy and paste your message all over the Web.

So just keep your message simple: thank them for their business and the feedback. If you can be specific about the customer's experience and any changes you may have made as a result, this could go very far in earning trust.  


 Posting a Public Comment

Public comments are a way for business owners to add a helpful comment to a user's review. Responding to reviewers' concerns shows that you value their feedback and that you're always striving to improve.

Getting Started

Go to the "Reviews" tab after logging into your business account. From there you'll be able to add a public comment to any review of your business.

Where your Public Comment will appear

Your comment will appear directly following the review that you've commented on.

What should I say in a public comment?

Just keep it simple and polite. Yelpers appreciate honesty and like to know when businesses are making changes based on their feedback.

Are there times when it's better not to comment?

Yes, sometimes it's to your advantage not to comment at all.

If you're upset, you might write something that will reflect poorly on your business. Wait until you've had some time to think about a review; there may be legitimate concerns brought up in the review that you can address in a constructive way.

If you want to thank someone for a positive review, send a private message instead. Comments that simply thank users without providing new information can be perceived as overbearing.

What if a review is completely false? Can I say so?

Sure, though we always recommend trying to resolve issues through private messaging first. If you feel a public comment is necessary, present your case as simply and politely as possible, and do not attack the reviewer under any circumstances. Remember that potential customers will be reading your comment and you want to leave them with a positive impression of your business.

Public Comment Reminders

As with private messaging, we ask that business owners upload a clear photo of themselves to help personalize their message. You can use Public Comments to tell the community what you've done to address a specific concern raised by a reviewer, provide correct information when a review contains inaccurate or outdated information, or provide your version of a difficult situation when you're unable to resolve a dispute through private messaging. Remember to be polite and stick to facts since your comments are public and can be seen by potential customers.

It is never wise to use public comments to launch personal attacks, advertise, or offer an incentive to change a review.

Hope this helps!  Feel free to comment below on your experiences.