Responding To Online Reviews – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Travis Sink

Written by Travis Sink
on Tuesday, April 11th, 2017
in General

Monitoring Your Online Presence

More than ever, business owners have to consistently monitor their online presence and respond to customer feedback.  Here’s why.

Everyone knows that perfect local listings improve search engine rank and bring in more foot traffic, especially on holidays and special occasions. But today, we’re going to discuss the importance of another key role these listings play for your company that doesn’t involve NAP (Name, Address, Phone) information – reviews.

Online reviews, whether positive or negative, can have a tremendous impact on your bottom line. Reviews show how the general public views your products, your brand, your service and your employees on a day-to-day basis. They lend insight on what you are doing right, and more importantly, point out what you’re doing wrong.

When it comes to reviews, how you respond is critical. In the best case scenario, you can magnify the perception that you are responsive to customers and appreciate their business. But in the worst, if you handle it well, you could still have the opportunity to get a customer to change their initial review.

So let’s take a look at how to respond to all types of reviews including The Good, (4-5 star) The Bad (2-3 star), and The Ugly (1 star).

The Good: Do I need to respond to positive reviews and how do I go about it?

One of the most common questions we receive at GravityFree is, “Do I really need to respond to positive reviews?” In one word, yes, but a better explanation is that you should try to respond to every review your company receives, whether negative or positive.

It can be time-consuming, but positive reviews are one of the best ways to reinforce your company-to-customer bond after a purchase with existing customers while showing new customers that you care about your customers’ happiness.

As with all responses, you should aim to keep it short and sweet. A simple “Thank you for review, we’re glad you loved your purchase and hope to see you again!” will suffice for most positive reviews.

That being said, don’t be afraid to add personal touches that reflect their comment. An example would be if they mention John Doe and how helpful he was, telling the customer that you will tell John about his outstanding customer service and how happy they were with their work makes the customer feel they are a part of the experience and strengthens that connection with your company.

Any opportunity you have with your customers to reinforce a positive experience, especially directly after a purchase, and that you know other people will also see, is an opportunity you don’t want to miss out on!

The Bad: Responding to people who are on the fence.

This is where things can get tricky because these “in the middle” reviews can be a bit contradicting in their star reviews and comments. For example, consider a floral customer who loves your staff and the product they received, but the delivery was an hour late. This customer may leave a 4-star review with the comment of “flowers were late” or, on the flip side, a 2-star review with a comment of “flowers are beautiful and the staff is great, but delivery needs some work.”

These types of reviews can be some of the biggest learning opportunities for your company, but your response requires a greater investment of time than a positive review.

As a rule of thumb, in these cases, you want to respond to comments of these reviews instead of the star rating. Just like a positive review, you want to reinforce confidence in your products and company with these “on the fencers” so they will be more likely to give your shop another try. Let them give you the opportunity to blow them away with their next purchase.

As an example, a more in-depth response could be, “We’re glad you loved your bouquet, but we’re sorry to hear your delivery did not arrive on time! We would like to speak more in depth so we can determine what went wrong with your delivery to assure this does not happen in the future. Your business is so important and we’d like to rectify the problem so you will consider ordering with us again.”

As with most average/negative reviews, the customer just wants to be heard (we’ll touch on this more in the next section) so letting them know that you actually read their review and will be working to fix the issues they experienced will go a lot farther than an automated response.

If the customer believes you care about their input, are working to improve your services because of their comments, and that you are willing to try and right the wrong, they’ll feel valued as a customer and will be far more likely to come back. These types of responses also instill confidence in new customers who may be building a first impression of your brand via the reviews posted on Yelp or Google Local, making it that much more important to keep the experience positive and encouraging.

The Ugly: Putting out the fire.

And now we’ll talk about the worst of the worst, the 1-star reviews that are often accompanied by a litany of very negative comments. Many of these reviews can be rude, tell customers to go to a competitor, or include slanderous descriptions of your staff or company all in the name of anger.

Responding to these types of reviews is a delicate task, but it MUST BE DONE. A Negative review that is ignored won’t go away, it will only magnify to have a negative effect on your bottom line for months to come.

Here are a few simple guidelines to follow when responding to negative reviews that can help save face with future customers and might bring the reviewer back to your shop.

  1. LISTEN – These customers are mad. Many of them have tried to contact the company about the issue but were either on hold too long, felt the customer service representative didn’t try hard enough to fix the issues, or more importantly “No one is listening to my issues or no one cares.” This review is your opportunity to show that you are listening and want to know how to make the situation right to the reviewer and future customers who may be reading the review.
  2. Never add fuel to fire – Many business owners take severely negative reviews personally and while your first reaction may be to “fire back,” DO NOT DO THIS! The worst thing you can do is try to explain why it wasn’t really the designer’s/driver’s fault or that it was because of a specific reason. At this point, the customer doesn’t want an excuse. They want to vent their anger and BE HEARD!
  3. Take the discussion offline – Chances are, when you speak with this customer they are still going to be angry; so you never want to have the discussion on your Yelp page. Tell the customer you will be reaching out to them via phone personally to rectify the issue. Once offline, you can offer replacements, or a refund or whatever you feel is necessary given the situation. Make every effort to review your sales records so you can contact them directly without asking them to contact you. It looks unprofessional to have a series of responses in which you appear to have no records of who the customer actually is.
  4. Evaluate the resolution – In some instances, it’s okay to ask a previously angry customer if they would be willing to update/delete their review. This does not mean that you should ask this of every customer you speak to. Even after resolving the issue, asking a customer that is still upset could lead to bigger issues if they feel that you “only called them to get me to change the review.”

Generally speaking, the customers that leave these reviews won’t ever walk through your front door again. But, handling the situation correctly can save the reputation your company has worked hard to establish in the eyes of a new customer who is researching florists in your area for their first order.

All in all, reviews can be a blessing to your company or your worst nightmare. Online reputation management is time-consuming and can be exhausting. But the benefits and effects of properly managing your online reputation are well worth the investment. At GravityFree we recommend specific tools that can help, but nothing takes the place of directly engaging with your customer.

Have you had an experience of turning around a negative review or a time when reaching out to respond to a review made a big difference to the customer? We’d love to hear about it!