The Basics of Responding to Reviews

Collin Holmes
by Collin Holmes 26 Jun, 2017

Fifty-two percent of customers who have left a bad review expect to receive a response from the business within seven days. This was a study conducted by Convince & Convert back in 2012. Now, in 2017, the appropriate response rates are under 24 hours.

The Internet has become a hotbed for word-of-mouth (WOM) communication and consumer activism. Customers' reviews and other forms of user-generated content are influencing enterprises' online reputations, search engine rankings and ultimately the success of their business. What companies don't know, is that in addition to monitoring what people are saying, managers also need to be responding to reviews: letting both the world and the search engines know that they're listening, they care and they want to be/do better.

Customers that received a response from a company after posting negative feedback about their experience, 33 percent turned around and posted a positive review and 34 percent deleted the original negative review. This is a huge motivation for businesses to take a proactive role in harnessing and managing consumer complaints online. The impact is three-fold: (1) customers want to be heard, (2) shoppers want to see that the company cares and (3) search engines want to see the business engaging with customers on their sites.

Staying active online and responding to reviews influences how both customers and search engines view businesses. Both translate review responses into trust. This trust then leads to higher local search rankings and more potential customers.

A third-party study recently conducted by Chatmeter found that 40 percent of shoppers will trust a business enough to visit and make a purchase, only if they have a 4-star rating or higher.

Today's consumer trusts the opinion of their online peers and is using ratings and reviews to determine the quality of a business. Review responses only help to further communicate the quality of an enterprise.

Which reviews should businesses respond to and how?

You may already know the answer to this question: respond to both happy and unhappy customers. Responding to positive reviews shows customers that the company appreciates their business and the effort they made to vouch for them. Responding to negative reviews shows everyone that the business is willing to acknowledge any frustrations and even make changes to improve the overall customer experience.

Positive Reviews:

  • Thank the customer - If a person complimented someone else in real life, they would say thank you; it is no different on the Internet. Show them gratitude for their business and the time they took to write a review.
  • Get specific - Generic responses are alright, but touching on something specific to their review adds a more personal touch that customers will appreciate.
  • Entice them to come back -  Whether the business tempts them with a new product or just lets the customer know they can't wait to see them again, give them a reason to come back.

Example: "Hi [Insert Name], thank you for your review! We're glad you enjoyed your burger and had a great time with your server Jessica! Next time, you should try our patty melt - it's made with the same 100% grass fed beef!"

Negative Reviews:

  • Apologize and thank them for their feedback - Negative reviews help corporations make changes to improve current business practices. Apologize for the unsatisfactory experience and thank them for giving honest feedback.
  • Respond appropriately - Remember that the conversation is public and never blame the customer or attempt to argue with them.
  • Invite the conversation offline -  Don't go back and forth with an unhappy customer on a public review site. Ask them for more details to ensure it doesn't happen again and provide them with contact information so they can get in touch with customer service.
  • Short and Sweet - Don't ask questions and don't say more than absolutely needed. The idea is to handle the review as quickly and politely as possible.

Example: "Thank you for your feedback, we're sorry your experience wasn't up to your standards. We would like to hear more about your experience to ensure this doesn't happen again. Please contact us at, [555-555-5555] or email [] and we'll try to resolve your issue as soon as possible."

Enterprise Review Management and Responding

Responding to reviews begins with knowing and addressing the problem, which is a difficult challenge by itself. It is relatively easy for a small business owner to stay on top of all their reviews, but how can regional and national brands receiving hundreds of reviews every day keep up?

Someone like Kohl's has 1,200 stores, which equates to thousands of pages they would have to monitor daily for new reviews. That can't be done manually. Even if a business only has 50 stores, that would mean opening over 1,000 Web pages to look for new reviews. It's not just about monitoring, however, businesses really need a full review management platform.

When shopping for a review management solution, here are some features to look for:

  • Review monitoring across at least the top eight local sites. Also, make sure they monitor any industry specific sites (e.g., car dealers, they should track key sites like Dealerrater, Cargurus and Edmunds).
  • Daily alerts keeping everyone from the top down up-to-date with their reputation and the reviews that are relevant to them.
  • Enterprise reporting capabilities that allow business managers to manage/compare stores by region or customized groups.
  • Manage workflow with the ability to enter notes, communicate within the organization and quickly filter content to show uncompleted tasks.  
  • Show responses in the platform and daily alerts so others can track and monitor responses.
  • Review generation to generate more reviews and continue building an online reputation.

There are several great enterprise solutions out there. Do some research online by searching for "Review Management."

A company's online reputation is one of their most valuable assets. It creates loyal customers, facilitates WOM and influences new customers to visit stores. By not responding to reviews, you run the risk of increasing your customer churn by a significant percent. Online reviews should no longer be seen as a static and one-way flow of information. Rather, it is important to interact and engage with customers, create an open channel for communication and build trust in the online community.

About the Author
Collin Holmes, founder and CEO, started Chatmeter in August, 2009. Prior to Chatmeter, Mr. Holmes was VP of Product Management and Marketing at V-Enable (now xAD). His extensive experience in the local search industry, both online and mobile, provides a solid foundation for the direction of the company. He has worked in leadership roles at several other startup companies and held other notable positions in product and marketing roles at Akamai Technologies and AT&T Wireless. He earned his MBA from San Diego State University and a BA from UC Riverside.