by Dr. Martín Azar, Psycholinguist & Communication Consultant.
First, let’s make one thing clear: Why should you respond to customer reviews at all? Think of every customer review as an open conversation. Your customers are reaching out. What’s the problem with leaving them hanging?
Here are the three most important reasons you should respond to as many reviews as possible:
- To learn how to improve your service. The more you engage in conversations with your customers, the better you’ll understand their needs.
- To create the voice of your company. The words you put in the mouth of your company are a window through which your customers perceive its identity, mission and values.
- To attract more customers. The main driver of customer preference and loyalty isn’t just what you deliver, but how you communicate it. And nowadays this means, more than anything else, online reviews and ratings, which 84% of people trust as much as they trust opinions from family and friends (Inc.).
I’m a Psycholinguist, and I’m collaborating as Communication Consultant with eKomi, The Feedback Company. eKomi collects, verifies, analyses and showcases customer reviews for +15K businesses worldwide. Our clients often ask us for advice on how to respond to customer reviews. I’ve written this article so as to share with you some of the tips our clients have found most useful.
Here’s my first advice. If you’re receiving more feedback than you can handle, focus on the extremes: begin by responding to the exceptionally positive and the exceptionally negative reviews – the ones that have the greatest impact on your brand’s reputation.
Now, in order to make things as easy as possible for you, I’ll teach you how to craft effective responses to both positive and negative reviews with only 3 sentences.
1st Sentence: Your Customers’ Feelings
There’s a reason Coca-Cola doesn’t tell their customers “Buy,” but “Enjoy;” and L’Oreal doesn’t say “Get our creams because we want to grow our customer base” but “…because you’re worth it.”
The reason is a fundamental of marketing: Agreeable companies don’t focus on the feelings of the company, but on feelings of the customers. Conclusion: In order to gain your customers attention and sympathy, begin by acknowledging how they feel.
Positive reviews, diverse as they might be, entail always a compliment. The most direct way to let your customers know you care about their happiness, is to open by thanking their compliments.
Examples: “Thank you very much for…”, “We’re very thankful…”, “We really appreciate…”, “It’s so kind of you…”, etc.
Negative reviews, on the other hand, express dissatisfaction – and, in extreme cases, even contempt and attacks. But remember to never attack back. Best case scenario, an effective attack can leave the opponent out of the debate… But you want to win back dissatisfied clients, not to knock them out. Instead of refuting your customers, try to persuade them.
Opening your response with a direct and sincere apology will give you the best chance of winning back unhappy customers.
Examples: “We hope you accept our apologies…”, “We are very sorry that…”, “We deeply regret that…”, etc.
But be careful not to over apologize: You run the risk of sounding insincere or dramatizing the issue even more.
Instead, make the effort to really learn about the deficiencies of your business that the negative reviews reveal. And thank the information discovered: “Sorry for what happened and thank you for letting us know about this issue…”
This way, by reframing a negative review as a constructive criticism, you’re also reframing the nature of the relationship with your negative reviewer: from antagonism to cooperation. It’s more difficult to stay upset with someone who’s making a credible effort to learn how to better serve us.
2nd Sentence: Your Company’s Role
You’ve acknowledged how your customer feels. Now you need to state your part in it: What you have done or will do about it.
In a response to a positive review, the second sentence is a great opportunity to share information about your business that reinforces your customers’ feelings.
Examples: If you own a restaurant and customers tell you they liked a dish, let them know something about the quality of the raw materials (justification), the process of production (narrative), the popularity of the dish (social proof), or recommend a new product (novelty).
This kind of information doesn’t only reinforce the positive feelings of your happy customers, but it can also give more meaning to their experience, it makes them more likely to recall it later, to share it, and to want to repeat it.
An elementary SEO advice: At this point, remember to mention the name of your company, so that search engines associate your brand with these positive threads as frequently as possible.
But what if you’re answering to a negative review? Apologies do not work until you don’t show real empathy, until you don’t evidence you actually understand the reviewer’s dissatisfaction. Don’t focus on explanations and excuses. Remember, again, that the point is to repair the relationship, not to prove you’re right.
So as to convey you’re putting yourself in your customers’ shoes, focus on reparation. This means you should tell your customers how you will compensate them and what changes you’ve done (or will do) so that it doesn’t happen again.
Examples: “After your complaints, we’ve taken care of making the following improvements…,” “In compensation, we’d like to gift you with a free coupon…,” etc.
The opposite SEO advice applies here: Avoid mentioning your company’s name when responding to negative reviews. You don’t want to increase the association of your brand with negative threads in search engines.
3rd Sentence: Call to Action
Keep an eye on the main goal of every online conversation you’re maintaining with your customers: to get more (and more loyal) customers. The two first sentences are a build-up towards this goal. But its ultimate expression is in the last sentence: the call to action.
When responding to a positive review, use the last sentence to invite your customers to come back and to spread the word.
Examples: “We look forward to seeing you again…,” “You and your friends are welcome to visit our new establishment…,” etc.
In the case of a negative review, there are two options. If the problem has been exhausted in the first two sentences, then you can apply the same call to action used in positive reviews: “We hope to see you back.” If not, invite the reviewer to continue the conversation offline.
Example: “Please get in touch with our Customer Success Manager (name@mail), so that we can talk more in detail about your issue…”
The function of inviting your dissatisfied customers to a private conversation is two-fold. First, it allows you to provide a more personal attention. Secondly, it helps you keep negative threads as short as possible, which reduces the damage to your brand reputation.
Get More Authentic Reviews
In order to be able to respond to customer reviews, you need to obtain them first. No company can stand out today in the web without them. And if you can’t take the trouble of actively collecting, verifying, analyzing and showcasing reviews, I advise you to hire a professional third party to do it for you.
That’s why companies like eKomi have created the service of online feedback collection and reputation management. Book a free consultation with an eKomi specialist so as to start collecting reviews right now:
In this free online consultation we’ll analyze your business’ challenges and show you strategies that have helped other successful companies grow trust, loyalty, reputation and returns.