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Online Customer Review Response - Best Practices

Dave has worked in the digital marketing and review response vertical for over 20 years, and enjoys sharing information to help SMBs.

Managing Customer Reviews is Mission-Critical for Every Business in 2021.

A wealth of free "how to get/ask for more online customer reviews" information is out there if you look.

A wealth of free "how to get/ask for more online customer reviews" information is out there if you look.

Online Review Management FAQs

Here you'll find quick answers to some of the most frequently asked questions in regards to customer review management/generation (found on Q&A sites, forums and other places). If you'd like to add your own thoughts, please do so in the comments.

  • "What negative reviews can be removed and for what reasons?"
    Google/Facebook/Yelp will almost never remove a review which appears to be genuine and from a real customer. If you report a review which seems disingenuous, it may be removed on the basis of relevance, conflict of interest, sexual explicitness, hate speech, privacy concerns or various legal issues.

  • "How do I make sure I don't get negative reviews?"
    As Lincoln once said, you can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all of the people all of the time. Every business is bound to get negative reviews from time to time despite their best efforts. Negative reviews should not be feared - they're an opportunity to show your local target market how you deal with frustrated customers. This positive "social proof" can wind up being a good thing. Face your negative reviews head on and in public.

  • "What star rating should I shoot for?"
    We'd all love a 5-star rating, but that's rarely realistic for businesses of any size. Negative reviews are inevitable as mentioned previously. Manage all your incoming reviews in a professional and timely fashion, attempt to solve customer issues in full view of everyone reading your reviews, and (unless you're selling snake oil), a 4+-star rating should be within your grasp.

  • "What's the best number of reviews to have?"
    You want as many as you can get. Review volume, and the frequency with which your company responds to them, is a local Google ranking factor - not to mention it shows potential human customers you are engaged and worthy of their business. If consumers are not leaving many reviews naturally, you should look at strategies for encouraging them to do so. See the next module, "How Do I Get More Online Reviews", for more information.

  • "Once I get 1000 reviews, can't I just stop asking?"
    Absolutely not! As previously mentioned, review volume and response frequency are important "confidence factor" for search engines and human beings alike. Find ways to maintain your company's review generation and momentum, answer them all as if they were coming from a person standing in front of you in your brick-and-mortar store, and show the world you're a legitimate vendor who cares about their customer base.

There you have it. Never stop responding to your online reviews. Never stop looking for ways to generate new ones. Never waste time obsessing over star ratings which could be spent serving your local/national target market.

Review response, management and generation is a mission-critical activity for all businesses in 2021. Treat it accordingly.

How Many Reviews Does Your Business Need?

How Do I Get More Online Reviews?

Search Engine Land's excellent 2020 Local Ranking Survey reinforces the importance of Google My Business and customer review activity to attaining prominent visibility in local organic listings. It's a quick read, so be sure to have a look if you haven't already.

The first step, and one of the most difficult, is coming up with a strategy to get more reviews to manage - which my differ dramatically from business-to-business based on a wide variety of factors. Type of business, service area, brick-and-mortar vs. online... all these nuances must combine into a unique plan that works for your specific circumstance.

There are, however, many guides and lists of best practices available via a quick Google search, so we'd suggest (if you're going to manage review response internally and without a vendor) looking at a wide range before picking and choosing the best ideas which apply to your business specifically.

Get started with 15 Surprisingly Effective Ways to Get More Online Reviews, and then branch out into additional guides as needed. After reading the aforementioned survey, it's unlikely you'll have any reservations about how critical regular review management has become in modern SEO and digital marketing in general.

Feedback on... Feedback?

Do Expensive Products Get More Reviews?

In a Word, "Yes". But Why?

If there's nothing tangible in it for the reviewer who has splashed out for something pricey, what are some of the possible motivations for only leaving reviews on expensive items? We may need to look inward for a few hard, dark truths - and I mean no disrespect. Reviewers should be encouraged as their efforts have changed the online economy, for the better - and hopefully forever.

  • Keeping up with the Joneses: More potentially applicable to Facebook reviews perhaps, as an individual's sentiments are more likely to end up in a feed to be seen by their personal network, but never underestimate a little light narcissism.
  • Self-Justification: After relieving yourself of multiple thousands for a top-of-the-line massage chair, buyer's remorse may be beaten back by an Amazon review extolling the virtues of your new purchase. And then you can show said review to your partner who's about to hit you over the head with the refrigerator.
  • Skin in the Game: When buying something cheap, you're less likely to tell others if it's a pleasant surprise. If disappointed, you'll be hard-pressed to sit down and spend time writing a scathing review. Why? Because there was no real investment - financially, emotionally or otherwise.

It's all about the expectations attached to a price tag. There's a huge divide between a cold taco and a brand new Lexus.

"Customer Review Response" Space on Quora.com

Online Review Response Case Study

Even small businesses with their own internal digital marketing team will struggle to keep up with replying to customer reviews once the feedback reaches a certain velocity. If you need proof that this type of time investment is worthwhile, we'll be listing several studies here on our Hub which should help make a case.

We'll start with this recently published reputation management case study describing how a local car dealership decreased their negative Google reviews by over 50% by ensuring they had the bandwidth to keep up with crucial customer communications.

Remember that, while Google is always exceptionally vague on the details, many industry experts have reinforced how important GMB activity and a timely customer review response strategy is to competitive local visibility. Case studies like the ones we'll be sharing in this module, ongoing, add further proof to the pudding.

Proprietary business-specific data supporting these claims is rare, and case studies are one great way to gather enough assurance the time and resources required are worthy of your individual strategy. Seek it out and act accordingly.

No one wants to run into these guys in a restaurant bathroom.

No one wants to run into these guys in a restaurant bathroom.

How to Manage “Fake” Online Business Reviews

Is there anything a business a can do when faced with overtly negative business reviews that just don’t seem genuine? The deletion of objective customer testimonials is rarely possible on the major platforms, but what are your options when dealing with the ridiculous, mean-spirited and categorically “fake” variety? You’re not alone, they’re an unfortunate reality, and several solutions may be at your disposal.

Despite your best efforts at customer service, and successful encouragement of many positive reviews, you’ve ended up with a negative comment so bad it must undoubtedly be a deliberate attempt to harm your reputation and has nothing to do with the way you conduct business. Is it possible to somehow have it reviewed and removed, or are you now at the mercy of your own personal troll? It's bad enough when these creatures live under your local bridge, but far worse once they’ve graduated to populating your Google, Facebook or any other source of customer sentiment. Let’s discuss how to manage, interact with and (best case scenario) delete these occasional nuisances.

  • I: Identifying the “Fake” Review
  • II: The Initial Reply
  • II: Turning the Other Cheek
  • III: Request for Deletion

Identifying the “Fake” Review

For the purposes of this article, you probably won’t need to be advised how to “spot” whether or not this type of review is fake - we’re only concerned with obvious acts of digital sabotage. These user-generated comments may contain an outrageous claim about a suspiciously non-descript salesperson who likes to assault customers with a barcode scanner, a product you don’t even carry which spontaneously combusted and blew someone’s thumb off, or a personal and non-business related attack against a cashier manger that would make the average person blush. In short, this particular sentiment sticks out like the thumb that wasn’t blown off – and there’s no doubt in your mind someone is up to no good.

The Initial Reply

Once the fake review has been posted, it will be live for the world and potential customers to see. It’s often better to respond to even the most obvious of slanderous nonsense for two reasons:

  1. Your community will see that you have addressed the claim in a professional way. There’s something to be said for ignoring ridiculous reviews, but then it’s just sitting there, unaddressed, which can create additional negative perception and negatively affect consumer confidence.
  2. If you request that a platform delete a review, it doesn’t hurt to show them you first attempted to deal with it yourself. If there is no reply when you reach out, or there are replies which get exceedingly worse each time, this may help determine what a human Google/Facebook etc. support person decides to do.

Turning the Other Cheek

Now that you’ve made the decision to reply to your questionable critic, what about the demeanor and content of that said response? Ultimately this will be up to the business, and great examples of brands handling ingenuine reviews in humorous ways do exist, but for now the recommendation will be to play safe and keep it general.

  • Review: “Last week I went to this joke of a restaurant and was immediately turned-off by a smashed glass entry door and an overwhelming smell of rotting cabbage. The drunk waiter ignored us most of the night and, when he did come to the table, was extremely rude and suggestive. I think he said his name was Steven Smith, that he cheats on his wife and lives at 123 Main Street. Also, the women’s bathroom is haunted by a bearded monk. Zero stars, and I hope the place has already burned down.”
  • Reply: We’re sorry to hear about your experience and will look into these details immediately. If you would like to speak to a manager, please call 555-3355 and ask for Jodi. I’ll do everything I can to make sure your concerns are addressed.

While the potential was there to make fun of the claims and tear them to shreds, the safest option when dealing with a counterfeit complaint is always going to be taking the high ground. Also, on the off-chance this review has any merit, further discussions are likely to take place via a phone call and not online.

Request for Deletion

Both Google and Facebook’s business review offerings feature the ability to request help of various types from customer support. If, after you respond to and attempt to manage the review yourself, or if it’s just too offensive to bother and you want it scrubbed forever – reach out for help from the platform. If the review in question violates the platform's guidelines - it may be much easier than you expect.

Hope these tips were helpful, and please stay tuned for more here on Review Response Best Practices!

Why You Should Respond to Negative Reviews

Free Resources & More Information

Enjoy this list of some of the best online review management resources available online. If you have a suggestion you'd like to see added, please leave it in the comments.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Pyeman73 LM

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