1. General guidelines for replying to reviews
1.1. When to reply to reviews?
Always reply if you have the time. You will always benefit from it and have no downsides if done properly.
Imagine you are a happy customer who leaves a positive review. And then you receive a personalised reply from that business you want to support. Would you not want to share what a wonderful experience you had even more? Would you not want to become a returning client?
When replying to positive reviews you have the perfect opportunity to invite a happy customer back!
And now let us imagine the opposite. You are an unhappy customer who leaves a legitimate negative review. You then receive an understanding reply that offers practical steps to improve the situation. Would that not make you feel better about the situation?
Replies to negative reviews do not completely erase the damage to your brand but may improve the impression left on the person who wrote the review and on potential customers who read it.
False negative reviews are trickier. Unless you are absolutely sure they are false, reply like you would to a negative review. This may not remove the review but it will show potential clients you pay attention to your past customers and are constantly improving your services.
1.2. What to do when replying to reviews?
Stick to your brand’s tone of voice. There is no right or wrong tone when replying to reviews. You can show more empathy (“Thank you for sharing your feelings with us”), sound more informal (“I get you’re unhappy”), or be more professional (“We understand you are disappointed with our services”). You could say the same thing in many ways but make sure you stick to your brand.
Also, try to reply as soon as possible but do not rush into it. Take your time gathering all the facts and your thoughts, especially before replying to negative reviews.
1.3. What to avoid when replying to reviews?
Avoid sounding defensive. State the facts you have when replying to negative reviews but keep in mind that most people honestly believe what they write in their reviews. Try to appease them however you can without ever digressing from the facts.
Also avoid using the same impersonal reply over and over again, especially to negative reviews. Your potential clients will notice it and get the impression you are not paying attention.
And do not apologise to negative reviews. Instead, thank the person who wrote the review for sharing their experience with you so that you can improve your services.
Finally, do not write back in a foreign language you do not understand! There are so many horror stories of this going around.
2. How to reply to a positive review
- Start by greeting the person
- Repeat what they have said
- Tell them how you feel about their review
- Invite them back
- Sign off with your name
2.1. Start by greeting the person
Use the person’s name to show you are giving them a personalised reply and paying attention to what they have to say.
2.2. Repeat what they have said
A neat trick from active listening that is also useful when replying to reviews. To show the person who wrote the review that you understand what they wrote, you may include in your reply what they said but written in your own words. For example, if the review mentions they have been using your product every day, you could reply with “Here’s to many more days using our product!”
2.3. Tell them how you feel about their review
Does the review highlight an aspect of your business on which you have been working tirelessly? Do you identify with a feeling or experience the customer describes? Do you remember that specific customer and want to show how pleasurable it was to collaborate with them? Speak your feelings.
2.4. Invite them back
This is the perfect opportunity for you to invite your happy customers back and potentially turn them into returning clients. For example, if a customer is bragging about the delicious carrot cake they had at your bakery earlier that day, why not mention that you bake those from scratch every Tuesday and invite them to eat some again the following week? Or simply say something like “See you again soon!”
2.5. Sign off with your name
People want to talk to people. Do not be afraid of using your name on behalf of your business if that suits your brand.
3. How to reply to a negative review
- Gather all the facts
- Start by greeting them
- State the facts you gathered
- Show them you are improving
- Ask them to send you an email
- Sign off with your name
3.1. Gather all the facts
Before you start writing your reply, gather all the facts about what went wrong during that customer’s experience with your business. Is it something that happened to previous customers as well? Is it something you can work on or is it beyond your control?
3.2. Start by greeting them
Similarly to when replying to positive reviews, Use the person’s name to show you are giving them a personalised reply and paying attention to what they have to say.
3.3. State the facts you gathered
Show you looked into the situation and have a clear idea of what happened and what went wrong by sharing the facts you have gathered during the first step.
3.4. Show them you are improving
There are cases in which the negative aspect mentioned is completely beyond your control (e.g. your hotel is located on the same street as a bar that is really noisy on weekend nights).
However, most times, there will be one or two key steps you can take to improve the situation. Tell the person who wrote the review and potential clients that are reading it how you are improving your services to avoid a repetition of the situation.
3.5. Ask them to send you an email
Always ask the person who wrote a negative review to continue the conversation through email when you reply publicly. This way you will show potential clients that you care about your customers’ experiences and you will be able to gather more information about what went wrong in order to improve your business in the future.
If there is a clear way for you to compensate the person who wrote the review for their poor experience (e.g. exchange or refund), mention it when continuing the conversation in private.
3.6. Sign off with your name
Similarly to when replying to positive reviews, people want to talk to people. Do not be afraid of using your name on behalf of your business if that suits your brand.
4. How to remove a false review
- Treat it as a regular negative review
- Make sure it is a false review
- Check if the platform lets you remove false reviews
- Follow the steps to remove the false review
- Contact the person who wrote the review directly
4.1. Treat it as a regular negative review
Whether the review is true or false, reply to it as you would all other negative reviews. Remember that you are not only replying to the person who wrote the review but also to everyone who is reading it. In this case it is even more important to stick to the facts and avoid taking it personally. Do not apologise.
4.2. Make sure it is a false review
Make sure it is a false review and gather all the evidence you have of that (e.g. screenshots of conversations) before taking further action.
4.3. Check if the platform lets you remove false reviews
You are sure it is a false review and you have proof to back it up. Now what? Most platforms remove reviews if business owners can prove they are false or defamatory. However, there are a couple of exceptions. Check with the specific platform on which the false review was published.
4.4. Follow the steps to remove the false review
Each platform will require different steps to remove false reviews. Generally you will need to report it, open a ticket or send an email asking for the review to be taken down. Provide as much relevant information and evidence as you can without compromising the client's privacy.
4.5. Contact the person who wrote the review directly
An alternative that is sometimes overlooked is asking the person who wrote the review to take it down. I have had success doing this for our clients in the past.
Just try to put yourself in the person’s shoes and assume they believe what they wrote. Then, write them an email or a private message sharing with them why you do not think their review represents your business and the experience of the vast majority of your clients.
If the person made a mistake and can own up to it, you will have one less negative review with half the trouble.