March 15, 2019 Last updated March 13th, 2019 1,768 Reads share

The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing With Online Reviews

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It’s no secret that online reviews can make or break your small company. Eighty-six percent of consumers read reviews for local businesses.

Many consumers leave reviews to compliment, leave suggestions for, or complain about a company. Reviews aren’t limited to one platform, either. People can leave reviews on Google, online review websites, your business website, and social media.

If you think monitoring and responding to reviews is too time-consuming to do, think again. Eighty-nine percent of consumers read the business’s responses to reviews. To maximize consumers’ perceptions of your business, you need to know how to respond to online reviews.

Why responding to online reviews matters

Thanks to the internet, consumers have the power. Rather than only influencing their friends’ purchasing decisions, customers who leave online reviews can impact the buying trends of complete strangers.

Now, I’m not saying online reviews are terrible. Reviews give customers the opportunity to share their experiences—both good and bad—at a business. And, online reviews show businesses their strengths and weaknesses. But if you’re absent from online forums and other platforms, a trivial issue can quickly wind up costing you.

The Harvard Business Review conducted a study to determine whether responding to online reviews improves business ratings. According to their study, businesses that responded to customers did boost their ratings.

Responding to online reviews is your chance to be empathetic, genuine, and reveal that you care about your customers.

How to respond to online reviews

How you reply to positive and negative reviews can impact your business’s reputation, online ratings, customer base, and even small business revenue. Approach online review responses with caution.

Use the following do’s and don’ts when responding to online reviews.

Do be authentic

Nobody wants to hear an apologetic or appreciative response from a corporate robot. You know the generic responses I’m talking about:

  • Negative Review Response: Thank you for letting us know. We are sorry for your experience. We hope you give us a chance to make things right.
  • Positive Review Response: Thank you for letting us know! We strive to put our customers first.

Instead of following a response template to a T, individualize your responses for each customer. Consumers want authenticity from businesses. Treat online reviews like in-person interactions.

Start by mentioning the reviewer’s name. Then, reference specific things from their review. If applicable, offer a solution specifically tailored to their complaint. Consider mixing your voice into your response so customers know you’re a real person. Remember, authenticity is key to connecting with reviewers.

When responding to a positive review, explain how grateful you are. You may also detail what your business did to achieve the compliment.

Let’s say a customer left a positive review about a new product. You could respond with something like: [Name], Thank you for taking the time to tell us about your great experience using our new [Product]! Our team worked diligently to produce [Product], and I will certainly pass on your feedback. Best, [Your Name].

When responding to a negative review, extend a sincere apology. Hone in on the customer’s pain point to show you understand where they’re coming from. Don’t forget to offer a solution or demonstrate what you’ve done to fix the issue.

Let’s say a customer is upset that their shipment was three days late. You might respond with something like: [Customer Name], I sincerely apologize that your package arrived three days after your expected delivery date. At [Company Name], we understand how a delay can have severe implications for our customers. This is why we have switched shipping providers, effective immediately. I would love to talk with you in more detail about how we can make this right. Thank you, [Your Name].

Do respond both publicly and privately

If you want to avoid a public confrontation, you might opt for contacting a negative reviewer privately. However, responding publicly to online reviews is essential.

Public responses show other consumers you are attentive to your customers’ needs. Consider responding both publicly and privately.

You can go into more detail and gather further information in your private conversation with a customer. But, you must address the issue publicly so others don’t think you are avoiding the review.

Do make note of the feedback

Online reviews can be powerful tools. Use online reviews to make improvements to your business. Make note of customer reviews, especially if you see more than one customer raving or complaining about the same thing.

Feedback is crucial for small business success. Treat online reviews like a goldmine for learning what customers want. You can use the reviews to make company decisions and develop small business growth strategies.

Don’t get defensive

I’m sure we’ve all seen review responses from defensive businesses. Rather than sincerely apologizing, the business accuses the customer of misremembering the situation and focuses on clearing their name.

You might be very tempted to get defensive when responding to negative online reviews, especially if the review is clearly fake. After all, you poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your business and worked 70-plus hour weeks to build your reputation.

Writing a defensive review response can tarnish your business’s reputation. Other consumers don’t want to hear excuses. Consumers want to know how your business will address the issue.

Rather than getting defensive, respond to reviews with humility. And, don’t publicly accuse reviews of being fake. Most consumers can spot reviews that are exaggerated or not genuine.

Again, look at online reviews as an opportunity to improve business operations. When you view online reviews as constructive criticism rather than an attack on your business, you may draft better responses and do more with the feedback.

Don’t ignore positive reviews

What’s the point of responding to positive reviews? The customer knows you’re grateful they took the time to respond. The review is positive, so you don’t have to do any damage control. Right?


Positive reviews give you the opportunity to retain the customer singing your praises. And, your response indicates that you care about all customers’ experiences.

If someone complimented you or your business in person, you likely wouldn’t ignore them. You would acknowledge them with appreciation. To be authentic and relatable, you can’t forget to respond to positive online reviews.

Don’t dawdle with your response

Responding to a customer one year after their experience doesn’t have the same effect as responding a couple of days later.

Whether you’re doing damage control or showing your appreciation, respond to online reviews as soon as you can.

Waiting to respond to reviews may show the reviewer and other consumers that you don’t prioritize customer service. Commit to responding quickly to all types of reviews.

Delegate mention monitoring to an employee. Or, set aside some time to find new reviews and craft responses. Consider making review responses part of your (or your employee’s) daily routine.

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Mike Kappel

Mike Kappel

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