Best Practices for Review Response

There’s a lot you can learn from online reviews, and they can be a valuable tool for improving your customer service. Handle them incorrectly, however, and you could be left with a PR nightmare. There’s no need to be intimidated: review response can be expertly handled if you understand a few key points.

It’s important to understand that today’s consumers are savvy. They don’t want templated responses but instead prefer to feel like they are communicating with an actual person who hears what they’re saying and cares. Some automation up front isn’t necessarily a bad idea, especially depending on how many reviews you receive on a daily basis, but personalization is the key to creating a meaningful exchange that promotes goodwill and understanding.

How can you accomplish a personal discourse? Here are six things to keep in mind when it comes to responding to reviews.

Know Your Customers

It’s important to have a basic understanding of the types of people leaving reviews and the comments your company receives. One way to do this is to keep a log of your past reviews for reference. Notice repeat reviewers, and look for patterns in your reviews. Is there a complaint that’s popping up repeatedly from different customers? Make sure that one gets your full attention.

Categorize & Prioritize

Look at it as a kind of triage: categorize your reviews by sentiment, urgency, and so on. Remember that your reviewers are your customers, and what they’re saying is important to them or they wouldn’t have taken the time to write a review. Handle the most urgent issues first, but respond to all of your reviews within a pre-determined timeframe.

Have a Plan in Place

Use the categorization to create an action plan that uses reviews to improve your business. Who should you notify? If the review is positive, does someone need to be commended? If it’s negative, you’ll likely need to let more people know, especially if it contains sensitive information or refers to specific employees. Sometimes the review will originate from an ex-employee, and you should have a plan for that possibility as well.

Know the Frame of Reference

Make sure you have a list of ongoing replies and an FAQ document of some sort from your company before writing a reply. Before writing a reply, check out the reviewer, learning as much as you can about the person in order to understand his or her point of view. See if you can view their social profiles. Have we talked before? Have they used our product or services? Knowing a little bit more about the customer can help you evaluate whether your reply needs to be public or private.

Offer a Personal Response

Here’s the crux of the matter: people want a personal connection with a human being. That’s why auto-response and templated responses do not work when it comes to reviews. Write a response that feels genuine, thanking them for taking the time to write the review and addressing any concerns they have in a supportive manner.

Make Sure Your Response is Appropriate

Think about this: the response you give is not simply going to the reviewer but to the entire online community. People who are interested in your business, people who are already your customers, and even your competition could potentially read your response. That’s one reason to always remain cordial, even in the face of criticism. Another thing to consider? When the review is positive, craft your response to include your business name, location, and any applicable promotions. When it’s negative, avoid including that information, or any other words that could land a bad review in a search result for your business. Sometimes, a customer needs a heartfelt apology. Other times, a friendly emoji will suffice.

Online reviews are an integral part of the decision-making process for most products and services, and your company’s reputation depends on how you handle those reviews. At ReachLocal, we believe that the human touch is important in creating meaningful, lasting and trustworthy connections with your customers, and we offer three different levels of personalized review management for businesses looking to improve and monitor their online reputation. Contact us to learn more about review management and how we can help you manage your business’s online reputation.

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Dennis R. Wilson Jr.

Dennis Wilson is the director of social media at ReachLocal. He was born in Spain, raised in Texas and has been a long-time resident in the social media sphere. He has worked with hundreds of clients ranging from local service providers to globally-known brands. In his free time, Dennis spends time with his wife and three kids as a music teacher, baseball coach, professional make-believe tea party companion and pseudo-MacGyver.

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