Responding to online reviews


To respond or not to respond; that is the question.

When considering online reviews of your company, Small Biz Media advocates a policy of careful response to our small business clients. Responses, when done correctly, can provide another marketing opportunity as well as a chance to build goodwill for your brand.

There are a few things you should keep in mind when considering any response:

  • Reviewers are vocal and emotional. You should not be.
    • You, as the owner, need to be professional and courteous at all times. Any response you give can potentially be copied and pasted all over the Internet. Be brief, and stay on point.
  • Your response should be thoughtfully considered.
    • It is too easy to be caught up in the moment and post something that you regret later. Always take the time to craft the response as opposed to writing a few sentences off the top of your head. You will be glad you did.
  • You can usually respond either privately or publicly. Choose wisely.
    • Small Biz Media suggests a routine policy of public response. There may be times however that a private response should be given. An example would be to gather more information from the reviewer to clarify the situation.

Positive reviews

A customer just posted a glowing review! We should definitely respond quickly with a thank you and a gift certificate. Right? Wrong.

At the top of this piece, I said that responses could be an opportunity for marketing, and they are; just not in the most obvious way you might be thinking.

Focus on saying thank you and that you appreciate their business. Any offers of gift certificates or any other rewards could be misinterpreted as payment for the review. Any requests to get them to sign up for mailing lists or suggestions of other products or services is blunt force marketing and marginalizes their kind words.

Remember our first bullet point above; be brief and stay on point. Thanking the reviewer and moving on, expresses to all readers that your company is used to doing things worthy of this kind of review. That is great brand marketing and speaks for itself.

Not so positive reviews

Here is where all of our bullet points come into play. We will take them in reverse order to make sure we have just the response to a negative review we need.

First, determine if you have enough information to respond publicly. If you need more details, then privately respond and ask the reviewer to provide the missing facts. Be extremely careful in your tone and wording. It might be possible to turn this situation around, but not if you make them feel like an enemy from the start.

If you find that your business was at fault, then do your best to make that customer whole again. You probably will want the specifics of that arrangement to be handled privately as well. Afterward, you can post a sentence or two that sums up the resolution.

I’ll give an example of how this might happen.

  • Your service technician tracks in dirt as he is servicing your customer’s water heater.
  • The angry customer posts a review about the experience.
  • You privately contact the customer, apologize for the incident, and offer to have her carpet steam cleaned.
  • After she is happy, you publicly respond to the review with a brief recap of the situation that might be worded like this… “Thank you for being a customer of XYZ Plumbing. We regret this happened, but we are happy that you gave us the chance to resolve the situation. We have taken this opportunity to change our policy to include the requirement that all service technicians now wear cloth booties when entering a customer’s home.

If a negative review is completely false, and your attempts to tactfully work out the issue privately have failed, then a simple post that tells your side is appropriate. Take care to post nothing personal about the reviewer. Stay away from personal attacks at all costs. The less you say here, the better.

Marketing through caring

In either case, positive or negative, the public response emphasized the fact that your company cares about customers. That is brand enhancement and protection, which are two important Internet marketing concepts.

If you are in business long enough, you will get reviews of all kinds. If you remember a few points, and focus on providing a great customer experience, you can make responding to reviews of all kinds another occasion to put your best business foot forward.


Posted in Small business issues