When I'm deciding where to shop, eat, or visit, I often start with online reviews.
And I'm not alone. In 2022, more consumers are reading online reviews than ever before — with 77% 'always' or 'regularly' reading them when browsing for local businesses (up from 60% in 2020).
Online reviews can be a fantastic indicator of a brand's relationship with its customers, which is why they're such a powerful tool for expanding your reach and attracting new leads.
However, from a brand perspective, online reviews can be tricky. You have virtually no control over what someone writes about your brand. Fortunately, what you can control is how you respond to both good and bad reviews to protect your brand reputation and even increase positive sentiments.
Here, let's explore how experts at Help Scout, Aircall, REVIEWS.io, and Ringover respond to both positive and negative customer reviews to ensure their reviews continue to work for their brand … not against it.
5 Tips for Responding to Customer Reviews [+ Examples]
1. Use reviews as a chance to listen to your customers.
Max Bailey, an Aircall Customer Marketing Manager, told me reviews are a chance for you to listen to your customers.
As he puts it, "They are writing to be heard, and it is your job to show them that you're listening."
Additionally, Bailey explains that you'll want to respond to both negative and positive reviews. For instance, take a look at his response to a customer who recently left a review explaining he didn't feel he was getting the support he needed:
Bailey told me, "For negative reviews, pay attention to their feedback and go beyond saying 'sorry' by explaining what can and will be done to solve their issues. It's acceptable to tell the customer that you might not have the solution in the moment, but it is key to share what steps are being made to reach a resolution as soon as possible."
Bailey says it's equally important to think about how your response to a positive review can take that customer's appreciation to the next level. "For positive reviews, listen to what made their experience 'good' and find a way to make it 'great.' A thoughtful response that goes above and beyond to solve a customer's future needs can easily turn a 5-star review into a 6-star one."
Consider how Bailey responded to this 5-star review. The reviewer notes that they're pleased with Aircall and appreciate how Aircall provides the option to include another tool in the program to access a client's file. In response, Bailey sent along an updated list of integrations for the reviewer to check out:
It's important to consider how you might respond to your own positive and negative reviews to show you're listening and taking feedback seriously.
Reviews can be leveraged to improve your customer experience and satisfaction, so they should never be ignored.
2. When responding to reviews, put yourself in the customer's shoes.
Rich Ball, Senior Brand Marketing Manager at REVIEWS.io, told me a review is a great way to start a conversation with your customers.
Ball says, "Many companies don't think to reply to positive reviews, but it's great to show potential customers that you care and build that relationship with them. Even a quick thank you message can go a long way!"
"On the flip side," Ball adds, "we see many companies worry about negative reviews, but negative reviews are an opportunity to show how good your customer service is and that you're responsive to poor experiences."
Rather than fearing negative reviews, consider how you might approach negative reviews as an opportunity to connect with a dissatisfied customer and fix an issue, which can ideally help you win back their loyalty.
Consider, for instance, how one of REVIEWS.io's customers, Bloom & Wild, responded recently to a negative review:
Personally, I've always felt greatly impressed by a customer service representative who goes out of their way to address my negative feedback and ensure I'm treated well.
As Ball puts it, "We have seen that the best way to handle negative reviews is by taking a step back and putting yourself in the customer's shoes. Do some research into the problem they're having, and then reply with a personal response (make sure to apologize and offer a solution)."
Ball adds, "We always advise replying publicly to negative reviews — if done correctly, it will only do good for your online reputation or even encourage the reviewer to change their reviews."
3. Pay attention to social media reviews, and use them as feedback for your product team.
"In some cases, social media can be even more powerful than traditional review sites," Hindeyeh told me.
Hindeyeh adds, "Where one would have to dig through a business's reviews in a traditional review site, a social media post can pop up on anyone's feed. And, as we all have seen, once a post gets enough engagement, the more people see it and the more influence it'll have on the public's perception of your brand. For that reason, it's crucial to know how to address these online interactions."
In particular, Hindeyeh says social media reviews can be valuable feedback for your product team.
"A common complaint on social media is feature requests that aren't currently in your product roadmap. You may be inclined to reply 'We're working on it', but that's a false promise. Instead, be honest and let them know you're sharing it with your product team. At Help Scout, our Product team tracks interest for feature requests that come in from multiple channels. So keep that line of communication open as that social post could be valuable product feedback."
For example, take a look at how HubSpot recently responded to valuable input from a customer who is requesting a post approval process for HubSpot's social scheduling tool:
Along with acknowledging HubSpot "hears Alix's complaint loud and clear", HubSpot's social team took it a step further by sharing a community forum page so Alix can get her suggestion heard by the right people — HubSpot's Product team.
Ultimately, it's important to consider how your customer support team and product team might align to ensure you're providing customers with both short-term and long-term fixes for their product complaints.
4. Use positive reviews as an opportunity to market your product.
Doug Mulvihill, a Marketing Manager at Ringover, told me that his team believes responding to positive feedback is just as critical as replying to negative reviews.
He says, "By responding to positive reviews, you're not only demonstrating that you're listening, but that you also value your customers. If you reply to your positive reviews, you give yourself the chance to… well, let's not say to boast, but to pat oneself on the back."
For instance, consider how the Ringover team responded to this recent review left on TrustPilot:
Doug adds, "Responding to online reviews isn't just good customer service, it's a free and positive way to market your product, service, and business."
For instance, if you respond kindly to a positive review, perhaps your engagement will help boost the review on social channels or review pages. And, best of all, other prospects will see that you respond and care about your customers' input.
As Doug reminds me, responding to reviews can help your Google ranking, as well: "By responding to positive reviews, you're also helping to increase your visibility in Google search results, especially for those local searches that are so important for local independent shops, bars, and restaurants."
5. Acknowledge and validate your reviewer's feelings.
There's nothing more frustrating than telling someone how you feel about something and having them respond, "I really don't understand what you're talking about."
Which is why, when responding to negative feedback, you'll want to take the time to acknowledge and validate your reviewer's experience — because, ultimately, even if you don't agree, you can't tell them how they feel is wrong.
As Help Scout's Saphiya Hindeyeh puts it, "When responding to negative posts, a good rule of thumb is to assess, then address. While it's good to respond in a timely manner, the quality of the response is more important than the response time."
She adds, "Essentially, your reply should acknowledge and validate their feelings, explain what might have caused the issue without sounding defensive or making excuses, own up to the mistake, and explain what you're doing to solve it."
Of course, you don't want to apologize if your brand didn't have control over the issue at-hand — but you still want to take responsibility for any actions you're planning on taking to appease the unhappy customer.
Hindeyeh told me, "How you respond depends on the context. For example, if there was a third-party system outage (which is happening a lot more nowadays), that's not something you need to apologize for, but you should explain the situation and what you're doing about it."
Ultimately, positive and negative reviews are largely a matter of perspective. Your customer support team can spend time feeling frustrated by negative reviews and ignoring them entirely, or they can view negative reviews as constructive feedback and an opportunity to highlight how helpful, responsive, and considerate your brand really is.
And, while you can't please all unhappy customers, your review responses can go a long way towards showing other prospects how your brand handles difficult situations — which could help foster a deeper trust between your brand and its audiences.