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Best practice tips for answering online reviews

Your business or company digital footprint includes your website, social media platforms and – online reviews. At Foremost Media we can make sure your website is awesome; you’re hitting all your social media benchmarks, but we can’t control what other people write about you online.

We can, however, give you the best advice and advise you on the best practices for handling online reviews that may or may not put your business in the best light.

No one is perfect and no matter how hard you try, how long you agonize over the details and your customer service – you’re going to get a bad review on Google, Yelp or Bing or one of the other sites.

It’s our philosophy that you shouldn’t ignore them even though it's tempting. It's similar that person knocking on your door trying to sell you something and you just won’t answer and they’ll eventually go away. That doesn’t happen on the internet. Reviews are always there so you might as well just take a deep breath and deal with them.


Answering a review shows you are making a conscious effort to make sure you are paying attention to all your customers. Your competitors might be going with the “ignore that review” philosophy so it will impress people if you don’t ignore the reviews. And how ever you feel about reviews, studies show 84% of people trust online reviews and take what is said as a sort of personal recommendation for that company or business.

Most of the time the customer just wants someone to listen to them. Responding shows you listened and it shows others you are a customer advocate – you care and you pay attention. People who find your business or company on the internet and see a bad review at least know you are paying attention and, perhaps, fixing a situation so they know you will be concerned about their experience. So, here are some of our best practice tips for answering online reviews to help you answer that bad rap.

Take a breath before you answer. If you are really aggravated by the review – get a third party to read it to make sure your tone is not snarky or confrontational. Answer in a timely fashion – set a rule for yourself like, I’ll answer reviews within 48 hours. Make sure if you’ve got a number of employees that are on social media that one person is delegated – if it’s not you – to answer.


Answering a review

Read the review – note the times and the exact specifics on the incident as well as any mentions of witnesses or others that were there. There are countless examples of people giving a bad review to companies and it’s just not true – like they mention something that happened on the day the business is closed, or they specifically mention a person who doesn’t work there! Those are relatively easy to handle – something like “we’re sorry you had a bad experience but our establishment is closed on Mondays (or Tuesdays or whatever) so it must have been another business not ours.” See, that wasn’t that hard – don’t say they are an idiot for getting the business wrong, it’s sort of implied.

Now if its an actual bad review for you, remember what ever you write is public and its going to stay public so its best to try and get the aggrieved party to go offline so you can address the issue. Ask them to e-mail you, call you or stop into the business when you are going to be there.

That goes a long way to building customer trust because even if the person never answers you’ve shown others that you are paying attention and you care.

Say you are sorry, but don’t immediately offer compensation. That can make is seem like you just want to throw money at them to make the issue go away. Thank them for the feedback, say you are sorry they had a bad experience and ask them to give you another chance.

You can push back if its something factual, for example, “I’m sorry we were not clearer that it would take four weeks before that product you requested could be delivered.”

If you did make a mistake and the bad review is your fault – own it if there were no extenuating circumstances. Like this – “I’m sorry your wait time for a table was 35 minutes because we accidentally overbooked. We know how frustrating it can be to wait and we’d like you to give us another chance.” But if there were other issues, you can say that – “We’re sorry your wait time was 35 minutes but the power outage for the entire block was beyond our control. We’d like you to give us another chance.”

If you’ve addressed the issue and the person is satisfied, politely ask them to amend their review.


Sometimes nothing helps

Sometimes no matter how hard you try a dissatisfied customer isn’t going to be appeased. Absolutely do not engage in a back and forth online. A general rule of thumb is two responses and then let it be.

Get positive

Answering reviews with a positive attitude goes a long way. Keep your tone civil, don’t be sarcastic and if personal attacks are included in the review, like “the badly dressed counterperson didn’t understand the menu” take the high road. Your answer would be something like “thanks for your feedback, we are trying out a new training program and new employees will be tested on the menu before they do counter duty” is great way to answer.