- For positive reviews, a simple thank you will do
- Respond to negative reviews with the R.E.S.T. model
- Report fake reviews only if they’re demonstrably false
How, exactly, should you respond when customers post about your business online? The answer depends on the tone and substance of the review. Let’s walk through some scenarios.
How to respond to positive reviews
This one’s easy: just say thanks!
Seriously, no need to overthink here. Your happy customer will appreciate a short, simple acknowledgement, and your response will set a positive tone for anyone who reads the review. No need to spend more than 10 seconds unless you want to call out something specific.
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If you want extra credit, you might find ways to personalize your response for more elaborate positive reviews. For example, let’s say a customer calls out one of your employees for offering exceptional customer service. You could curry good feelings with customers and personnel with a response that offers more praise to your employee for a job well done.
How to respond to negative reviews
When someone posts a negative review about your business, it’s normal to feel defensive or even angry. After all, you work hard to run a great business and it might seem unfair that people can write bad things about it online for the whole world to see.
While negative reviews might seem unfair, don’t respond in anger. That will only hurt your business more, so exercise some restraint. Sleep on it if you have to, seriously! Above all, remember that people have said bad things—fair or unfair—about local businesses forever, but at least now you have a voice in the conversation. Just don’t use your voice to worsen the situation.
To maintain the high ground and do the right thing for your business, follow the R.E.S.T. model to respond to negative reviews:
- Respond quickly: You can minimize the harm of a negative review simple by posting a response in short order. Again, don’t respond in anger, so sleep on it if you need to, but don’t let the review sit without a response for several days or weeks. That sends a signal that you don’t care. However, if a reviews slips under the radar, it’s better to respond late than never.
- Eliminate the emotion: We get it. Negative reviews feel personal, and they might not be fair. Still, take the high road and you’ll be happy you did. Avoid getting personal in interactions with customers on review sites or you might make the situation worse, like this poor business! In our work with hundreds of thousands of local businesses, we consistently see that emotional restraint pays off when responding to negative reviews.
- Say you’re sorry: Again… we get it! Maybe it wasn’t your fault, and some customers just want to pick a fight. Don’t stoop to that level. Without admitting guilt, say something like “sorry you had a bad experience.” Expressing empathy usually takes the reviewer’s guard down and helps other viewers see you in a positive light. You can call out blatant inaccuracies, but do so respectfully and never get into a tit-for-tat rebuttal of every customer complaint. The business never looks good when that happens.
- Take it offline: Negative reviews are an opportunity in disguise because up to 70% of complaining customers will give you another chance if you resolve their concerns. It’s best to do this in a private forum, so be sure to provide a way for customers to contact you directly (e.g. an email address or phone number) so you don’t have a drawn-out public conversation online.
70% of complaining customers will give you another chance if you resolve their concerns.
How to report fake reviews
What if the reviewer is totally off-base in their comments? Or, in rare cases, what if someone posts an objectively false review about your business, either maliciously or by accident?
Your first instinct may be to contact Google or Yelp and ask them to remove the misleading, false, or fake review. That won’t get you anywhere—both are large companies that are impossible to navigate by phone or email. Don’t waste your precious time, especially if you don’t have ironclad proof that the review is fake.
The harsh truth is this: If the review is unfair, misleading, or mean but you can’t prove it’s false or fake, the review site probably won’t remove it. This line from Yelp’s policy on false or defamatory reviews says it all: “we don’t typically take sides in factual disputes and generally allow Yelpers to stand behind their reviews.”
Basically, there’s a very high bar for proving that a review is fake or defamatory, and review sites tend to side with the reviewer. Frustrating, we know, but they’re trying to preserve a sense of authenticity to customer reviews.
Since it’s an uphill battle to remove negative reviews, you’re probably better off trying another approach. The best method we’ve found is to get more reviews to bury negative reviews. In our work with more than 150,000 local businesses, we’ve found that businesses with more reviews tend to have higher star ratings.
Where to go to report a fake review
But what if you have a clear-cut case to dispute a review? Those instances are quite rare, but if you think you have a case, we’ve linked the starting points to report a fake review on major sites below:
Go deeper: Should you pay for positive online reviews? (Womply blog.)
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