How to respond to positive and negative online reviews

Online reviews are important for any business. With the current situation, they’ve even become essential when you own a local business. More than ever, people are searching for businesses and products online. Having positive reviews and ratings will help you stand out and attract traffic to your site. But what should you do when you have negative reviews? And do you need to do anything with the positive ones? Here, I’ll explain why and how you should respond to online reviews.

For potential customers, online reviews are critical. Every one of us would check out reviews before booking that expensive holiday home in the south of France. It’s how we determine whether a site or business is trustworthy.

Online reviews are also important for SEO. For a few years now, there’s an overall consensus among SEO experts about reviews being a ranking factor for local search. You should read our Local search and local SEO ultimate guide for more information on the impact of reviews on your local rankings. Or learn how to grow your business with ratings and reviews.

Why should you react to positive and negative reviews?

Reviews tell you what other people, your customers, think of your product. If you respond to reviews, you’re showing your customers that you care about their opinion. And that’s something they will appreciate. It will also make your business stand out from other companies, as a lot of them do not make an effort to respond to online reviews, especially when it comes to negative reviews. Apart from that, responding to reviews will help you gain the trust of new customers.

If you write a response to a review, you’re not only writing to the person who wrote the review. Your response will be out there for all of your potential customers to see. Handling reviews with grace, gratitude and a little bit of wit, can have a huge impact on the way people perceive your brand.

To which reviews should you respond?

Reacting to reviews appears to be a wise thing to do. That does not mean you should respond to every single review. In my opinion, you should react to negative reviews. Responding to negative reviews will show potential customers how you handle problems and solve solutions to dissatisfied customers.

I would also react to very positive reviews, especially if the response is elaborate and detailed. Responding to positive reviews will give you the opportunity to promote your brand and show your passion for your company. Responding to positive reviews is not that hard to do and also quite fun. Just make sure to be enthusiastic and not respond to every positive review with the exact same response. Be genuine and thankful in a way that fits your normal way of communicating as a business. It’s the negative ones that need a strategy.

How to respond to negative reviews

How do you respond to those negative reviews? What should you do and which pitfalls should you avoid? I’ll share seven tips on how to handle them!

1. Keep calm

It’s never easy to get a negative review. In some cases, it can feel unfair. Perhaps the tone of the review is harsh, personal or condescending. Your first reaction will most likely be an emotional one. Perhaps you’ll get angry or very frustrated. In such a case, it’s wise to take a moment before you write your response.

2. Have a plan

Negative comments and reviews will always come up at one point in time. It’s a good thing to prepare yourself for it. You could have some standard replies ready. Be careful never to use the same answer more than once. Always adapt a reply to the specifics the situation requires. Having some nicely drafted sentences ready can help you to formulate the response in the heat of the moment.

3. Own the problem

A negative review means that someone has had a bad experience with your business. Maybe they didn’t like the food you served in your restaurant. Of course, this could be due to their lack of taste, but such a response will not be satisfying to your potential audience. In most cases, start with apologizing for their negative experience, even if it’s not (entirely) your fault. You are sorry that they had a negative experience. You are sorry the food did not taste good.

If something went wrong because of a mistake on your site, tell people that, own up to your mistake and apologize for it. If someone did not get their dessert and is pissed off about that, investigate the specifics of the situation. Did you, in fact, forget about their dessert? Admit to your mistake, apologize and try to fix the problem. In this case, invite them back to have dessert another time.

Everyone makes mistakes and people are really forgiving if you are willing to show your human side. Own up to your mistakes, apologize and try to come up with a solution.

4. Let someone proofread your response

You’re never an objective author of responses to negative reviews. You’re involved; what might sound reasonable to you, might sound crazy aggressive to someone else. If you’re not sure about your response, letting someone else read it first (someone objective) can be a good idea.

5. Short and sweet

Don’t write responses that are too lengthy. Make them short and sweet. Nobody wants to read through a reply of thirteen paragraphs. Even if someone personally insults you in a review, you should never get personal. Try to remain professional and polite, at all times.

6. Don’t get trapped in long discussion

Never get trapped in lengthy discussions. Reply once, maybe twice if necessary, but stop replying after that. Nobody wants to read a complete discussion between a dissatisfied customer and a business. Or maybe some people do like to read such a thing, but it does not reflect well on your business.

7. Take the discussion offline

Someone had a bad experience with your business and you are able to solve it? Try to contact them outside of the review-channel. Ask them to get in touch with your sales or support department. Did people not get their dessert? Invite them over to your restaurant. People can’t get in touch with your support department? Help them to make a connection. Respond to their negative review, letting them know that you’ve contacted them personally, and take the discussion elsewhere to solve their problem.

After responding to negative reviews

If you have had some negative responses, you’ll probably want to bury them underneath a big pile of positive ones. Maybe you’ll encounter customers that have positive experiences. By all means, invite them to leave a review. You’ll notice that a lot of people are willing to do that!

If you can solve the problem with a dissatisfied customer, you can also ask if they are willing to edit or remove their review. You should only do that if the air is cleared between the customer and your business.

Read more: How to get ratings and reviews for your business »

Coming up next!

4 Responses to How to respond to positive and negative online reviews

  1. Tyni
    Tyni  • 3 years ago

    Keep calm is def the number one step lol
    Taking discussion offline means you truly care aside from having a permanent lengthy discussion. Smart consumers really dive into the reviews after all.

    • Camille Cunningham
      Camille Cunningham  • 3 years ago

      Hi there! You’re right, taking the discussion offline makes it easier to really get to the core of the issue your user is experiencing and fix it :)

  2. Tony
    Tony  • 3 years ago

    Nice article about responding to reviews! Safekeeping it as a guide. Tried sharing it directly from here to a friend’s messenger but realised you guys don’t have any sharing widgets here! That’s surprising, how come???
    I will do it the old way of copy/pasting the URL..!

    • Willemien Hallebeek
      Willemien Hallebeek  • 3 years ago

      Hi Tony! Awesome you liked the article! We did have sharing buttons in the past, but since they were hardly used on our blog we decided to remove them to prevent clutter :-) Sorry for the inconvenience. Glad you’re still sharing our post though!