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How to Respond to Positive & Negative Reviews

Last updated on April 23, 2020
19 minute read
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Beginner, Intermediate
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As a tour, activity or attractions operator, your day-to-day is likely very busy spent interacting with customers and making sure they have the best experience possible, managing employees, and keeping track of every aspect of the business. 

No matter how busy your schedule is, it’s crucial to set aside time for managing your company’s online reputation, namely the reviews received from recent guests. Online reviews often speak for a business before they can speak for themselves since most people research a company through reviews before doing business with a company. Reviews also offer a platform for businesses to have a voice, whether it’s thanking a customer for a positive review or addressing someone’s concerns in response to a negative review.

Did you know that the average local marketer spends about 17% of their time on managing their online reputation (BrightLocal)? Unfortunately, 50% of people don’t have the time to do this at all (BrightLocal). Don’t let your business be a part of that 50%! This guide will give you all the tools needed to understand why responding to reviews is absolutely crucial to your business and how to write the perfect response every time.

Why should you respond to reviews?

Taking the time to respond to reviews, both positive and negative, has a wealth of benefits for a business. Spending a few minutes crafting the perfect response to a recent review shows that the business is dedicated to its guests and wants them to be happy. In fact, it can even make the difference of a few stars on the overall rating. Since the majority of people only do business with a company who is rated 4 stars or higher, keeping that rating up is essential, and responding to reviews can even make negative reviewers change their mind (and hopefully their rating) about a business.

It’s a common misconception that the only person who cares if you respond to a review is the original reviewer. Actually, according to BrightLocal, 89% of consumers read business’ responses to reviews. All eyes are on your business, so taking the time to respond means you’re reaching not just the original reviewer, but the vast majority of potential customers as well. Responding to reviews also helps retain customers. Even if a guest had a bad experience, 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to their negative reviews (BrightLocal). If you want guests to keep coming back, review responses are a useful tool in your arsenal.

Beyond earning customer trust, retaining customers, and boosting online reputation, responding to reviews can positively impact a site’s search engine optimization as well. As we detail in our guide on the importance of online reviews, having a high star rating directly affects local organic SEO, with the potential to earn a spot in the Google Local Pack — the map block that lists a few local businesses in response to the searcher’s query. Responding to reviews also increases a company’s online visibility and can even improve a site’s authority online.

Finally, responding to reviews makes you better at taking and implementing feedback. As a business owner, your top priority should be keeping guests happy, and the best way to get better at engaging with customers is by responding to reviews. Reading reviews, especially negative ones, helps you learn from mistakes and gain valuable insights into your company from a guest’s perspective.

Ready to start managing your online reputation by responding to reviews? Read on for tips about writing responses to negative and positive reviews.

Responding to Negative Reviews

All business owners dread negative reviews. Even if everyone on your team has been doing the best they can, negative reviews happen to all companies, and they’re not necessarily a reflection on your business as a whole. Whether a guest was just having a bad day or there was a misunderstanding between the customer and an employee, bad reviews can even affect businesses with a high star rating.

Before writing a response, it’s important to let yourself feel disappointed or upset by the bad review. Get all of the emotions like anger and disbelief out of your system to make sure you don’t come across as defensive or hostile when you write the response. Don’t let the negative review get the best of you! Focus on turning the situation around by responding calmly and appropriately and offering the customer a solution to the problem.

Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to responding to reviews like a professional.

1. Assess the review internally before writing

So you just received a bad review on Tripadvisor. Before typing away, take a few deep breaths and think about the feedback received. It’s totally normal to feel upset or angry, but try to put some rational thought behind why the person might have written what they did. Try to put yourself in their shoes by thinking about a time you left a bad review for a company or by imagining how the customer felt during their experience. By taking a few moments to digest the review and work yourself up to writing, it helps ensure you will approach the situation from a place of calmness.

2. Apologize

You may not think the review was very fair, or you might think the customer is completely wrong, but apologizing should always be the first step as you begin to write a response. Keep in mind that their experience was their own. Even if you disagree with the facts of the situation, a person’s feelings are their own, and you shouldn’t dispute them.

Take the time to apologize for their unhappiness with your product or service. Approach the review with a calm and collected response. Sympathize and empathize with the guest by acknowledging what went wrong. Expressing the fact that you understand someone’s feelings goes a long way toward defusing a situation. 

3. Get Specific

Writing your apology is not the time to be vague. While you don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty on a public platform (opening a can of worms and possibly creating an opportunity for an argument) addressing specific details lets the reviewer know you understand what went wrong and have taken the time to write more than just a generic response; you’ve actually put some thought into what’s being said.

If possible, this is also a good place to contrast their experience with a company motto or mission statement to show that your business doesn’t stand for the bad experience the customer had. Say something along the lines of we pride ourselves on our customer service, and we regret that we didn’t live up to that standard in this situation.

4. Take Things Offline

Nobody wants to air their dirty laundry on a public platform like Tripadvisor or Yelp. After offering a sincere apology and briefly acknowledging what happened, move the conversation offline by offering contact information and giving the customer a chance to reach out privately. If possible, give the person the name and contact information for a specific customer service representative, rather than just a phone number, as you’ll seem more sincere about wanting to communicate with the reviewer. This also makes you seem receptive to feedback and shows your business takes customer service seriously by having a dedicated person address the complaint.

5. Reassure the Customer & Offer Solutions

After apologizing, acknowledging the situation, and providing the next steps in the form of contact information, reassure the customer the problem is being looked into and offer solutions. This might involve offering a refund or discount on a future tour, or assuring the customer the situation is being taken seriously. Tell them you value them as a customer and are doing everything you can to make sure their next visit is improved. Talking about the future and about their satisfaction is a great way to express how you want to see them again in order to improve their experience with your business. End by thanking them for their feedback and encouraging them to reach out to discuss the situation in more detail.

Example

Let’s say you run a zip line business and just received a 2-star review from a woman who brought her two kids to your zip line course yesterday. She complained because three of the eight zip lines were closed for maintenance and says she was not informed of this before arriving. Below is an example of how you could respond.

Dear guest,

Thank you for your feedback. We are very sorry your zip line experience did not live up to your expectations yesterday. We understand you were expecting all eight zip lines to be open for you and your kids to enjoy and that it was a disappointment to only have access to five of them. At Jungle Zip Line, safety is our number one priority, and we determined that these lines needed to be closed for maintenance due to damage from a recent storm. We really appreciate your business and would love to hear from you in order to make your next experience with us more enjoyable. Please reach out to John, our customer service manager, at 555-555-5555 or johnzip@junglezipline.com. If you’d like to come back and try all eight zip lines, we’d be happy to send you a voucher for another day. 

Thank you,

Steve Zip

Jungle Zip Line Owner

Responding to Positive Reviews

Responding to good reviews is much easier (and more pleasant) than responding to bad ones, but it’s still important to hit all of the key points to make your response worthwhile. Many business owners may only focus their efforts on doing damage control for bad reviews, but responding to positive reviews shows you value all of your guests and care about taking the time to view everyone’s feedback.

Responding to good reviews can help people gain even more trust in your business and makes people feel valued. If you’re unsure what to say, use these steps to come up with a great response!

1. Thank the Customer by Name

First and foremost, greet the customer by using their name when possible. It makes the response seem more genuine, and people like to be recognized by name. Start things off with a sincere thank you, expressing gratitude that the reviewer took the time to share why they had a great experience with your business. This also demonstrates that you take the time to respond to positive reviews and not just those “squeaky wheel” customers. Saying thank you encourages more people to leave reviews for your business since they know you’re likely to respond.

2. Use Your Company Name and Keywords in Your Response

While working on your response, try to find natural places to include things like company name and perhaps some keywords you’re hoping to rank for. Remember that if you want to boost local SEO, keywords in reviews are essential for getting onto the first page of the SERP. Just like your website, only add keywords or your business name when it makes sense to do so. For example, you might say something along the lines of The whole team at Jungle Zip Line appreciates your business and hopes to see you again soon. Check out our article on improving your website traffic with SEO for more details about keywords.

3. Add Some Marketing

There’s no harm in doing a little marketing within your response, especially since you’re reaching a target audience — just don’t overdo it. Responses will be viewed publicly, not just by the reviewer, so add some details about an upcoming promotional event or a behind-the-scenes detail about your tours or activities. Feel free to get creative! Just keep it short and sweet.

4. Invite the Reviewer to Do Something

In order to add some extra incentives and keep your business at the top of the reviewer’s mind, wrap up your response by inviting them to come back and participate in one of your tours or activities. If you want to offer discounts for repeat customers or other perks — this is a place to mention it. Providing additional value to the response is a great way to create a fan base on third-party review sites.

Example

Good news! Your zip line business just got an awesome 5-star review from a group of friends who loved their tour. They specifically complimented how friendly and funny their guide Tom was and how beautiful the scenery was. Here’s how you could respond.

Hello, Rachel (and friends!),

Thank you so much for the wonderful review! Everybody at Jungle Zip Line was thrilled to hear you enjoyed yourself, especially Tom. We always try to make our Costa Rica zip line tours as fun as possible, and we’re so happy you had a great time. Did you know we’re opening a ropes course in addition to our eight zip lines? We would love for you to come back soon and give it a try. Plus, a ropes course ticket gets you free access to the zip lines! We hope to see you again soon.

Best wishes,

Steve Zip

Tips for Writing a Quality Response 

Keep these points in mind whether you’re responding to a positive or negative review.

  • Keep it short and sweet: It may seem like there are many steps to writing a good response, but that doesn’t mean your message has to be long. On the contrary, keeping it short and sweet is best. There’s no need to overwhelm readers with too much information. They’ll just be happy they heard from you in the first place.
  • Don’t sound defensive: It’s natural to want to defend yourself and your employees against a negative review, but it’s important to watch your language so that you don’t come across as defensive. Avoid words like but or however that shift focus onto the customer. For example, saying something like I understand you did not enjoy your experience but we did everything we could makes it sound as though you’re shifting the blame to the customer, which could just offend them more. Instead of using words like but, try to use and (I understand that you did not enjoy your experience, and we are working hard to ensure that we correct the situation).

  • Try to respond in a timely manner: As soon as you notice a new review, it’s best to respond as soon as possible. This will show customers you are checking reviews often and the situation is important to you. Consider using a review management platform, like Podium, that aggregates reviews and alerts you when a new review goes live. Similarly, Google Alerts allows you to track online conversations by specific keywords or phrases in real-time, so you always know what people are saying, good or bad, and can respond accordingly. A timely response makes it obvious that you are a responsible business owner who cares about their customers’ satisfaction.

Next Steps

Now that you have a good idea of what to include when responding to reviews, go ahead and practice on some recent reviews your business has received. Previous customers and anyone who is researching your business will be happy to read the responses — you might even gain some new customers from them! 

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