How to Respond to Online Reviews

If your company receives online reviews* (Google My Business, Yelp, Angi, etc.), here are some guidelines for handling them.

You should always respond promptly and politely, address the reviewer by name, thank them, and add a bit of personalization – unless it’s a fake review. Make the review succinct and grammatically in an active voice.

If it’s a positive review, a simple and polite thank you:

“Thank you [NAME]. It was a pleasure working with you on your project and helping your business.”
“[NAME], I’m glad you like your tchotchke. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave an excellent review.”

If it’s a moderate review, you might be able to re-engage the customer:

“Thank you [NAME] for your business, and my apologies for the mistake. I hope you will contact me at [CONTACT] so I can make this right.”
“[NAME], we’re sorry your experience didn’t match your expectations. Please feel free to reach out to [CONTACT] with any further comments, questions, or suggestions.”

If you do engage the customer and you resolve the situation, you can ask them to update their review. Most platforms won’t let them edit the original review but will allow an addendum.

If it’s a legitimate negative review: First take a deep calm breath, wait 24 hours to cool off, and take another deep breath. Then apologize, simply, without blame or a story. Others may recommend asking for a follow up to fix things, but in my experience it’s too late at this point and you should move on. Omitting the thank you and reviewer’s name here may de-personalize a visitor’s experience.

“I am truly sorry that we did not see eye to eye on this project. Best wishes.”
“Our sincere apologies that your experience didn’t meet your needs. Thank you for your feedback.”

If it’s a fake negative review, a bland response is effective. Again you can drop the personal approach so visitors may feel more dispassionate:

“Thank you for leaving a review. I take feedback very seriously; however, I can’t find a record of any transaction or purchase between us.”
“We think there could be some confusion. We are a furniture store, not a BBQ restaurant.”
“We believe that you are a competitor / fake reviewer. Please delete your review.”

You can usually flag fake negative reviews for removal on a platform, but it will take persistence and still may not work. If the review is particularly egregious or offensive, you can also report it to the FTC.

The single most important thing to understand is that you are not responding to or trying to placate the negative review poster. They’ve already stated their opinion for the world to see and moved on. There is minimal chance that they will review your response to their review or change their mind.

You are responding to the next XXX visitors who see the negative review so that they may become clients. You are trying to give them the warm fuzzies in just a few seconds as they scan the list of reviews. They received their first impression based on a visual cue - ★☆☆☆☆ - then skimmed a nasty diatribe. Now you need to turn that around and leave them if not content, at least neutral.

You should also remember that in our 10 second sound-bite world, you’re more likely to get fully positive and most likely to get nasty negative reviews. Those are the clients who are willing to take the time to post a review.

Lastly, if you do have a number of negative reviews, the best recourse is to request reviews from as many clients as possible that would leave positive reviews. That will:

  1. raise your ratings
  2. push down the negative reviews ‘below the fold’

You also must not ask for any compensation for a positive review. Most platforms will penalize you - up to completely removing your listing.

* Notes:

  • If you want to reply to your reviews, you will need to set up and claim your Business Profile on each platform. You’ll then have access to respond publicly to your reviews.
  • Also, requesting and then gaining reviews from your satisfied clients is critical for SEO - up to 25% of SEO value is potential clients seeing 4+ stars on you business listing and a decent number of reviews.


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