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Review response strategies from 5 small business leaders



Your online presence is a reflection of the work you do with customers every day. You likely have a strategy in place to navigate customer feedback in person, so why not do the same for your reviews? A review response strategy can help you respond to feedback—both positive and negative—and turn it into a business advantage. 

These five small business leaders—from florists and plumbers to pet shop owners and tailors—all have their own unique approaches to online reviews. Some business owners, like Nic Faitos, take several days to craft a thoughtful response to negative feedback. Others, like tailor Korri Burton-Universe, focus on motivating their staff with positive reviews.

Which strategy resonates with you? Take a peek at the playbook below.

1. Share feedback with your team

Whenever the cocktail bar CALA earns a positive review, owner Robert Meir makes sure to share it with his team. Customer feedback that mentions specific team members not only gives employees a morale boost, but also motivates others to aim for the same type of recognition. 

“I think a lot of owners just take it and go, ‘Okay, great’ and move on,” Robert said. “I try not to. I take it to the staff and I say, ‘Hey, look! Someone said something great about you!’ because it makes them feel good. And then they strive to do better.”

2. Show off your positive reviews 

Business owners can always use a little positive reinforcement too. Korri Burton-Universe, owner of the bespoke clothing company Uncommon Closet, has a unique idea for turning Yelp reviews into inspiration: Create a “lookbook” out of positive reviews. 

Korri said: “We’ve been putting together a little book of good reviews—both as a, ‘Hey clients, when you’re waiting around, here’s this cool book you can look at,’ but also, ‘Hey Korri, you’re having a bad day. Read this.’ [Positive reviews] make me really happy because I know most people don’t review. But it means that those people had such a stellar experience that they felt the need to tell strangers how cool we are. And that just makes my day.”

3. Start with a simple ‘thank you’

Unsure how to respond to customer reviews? Keith Zeiler, owner of Paws on Chicon, follows one simple rule: Always say thank you. “If someone is taking the time out of their day to write a review for you, the least thing you can do is acknowledge them,” he said. “The least you can do is say ‘thank you.’ I always like to talk to them about their experience and how much we appreciate them.”

Keith adds: “It’s all about how people are going to treat your business and see your business. If you’re just letting things sit there with no response, [as a customer,] I’m more likely to go to a business that acknowledges me and says, ‘Thank you for taking the time to write a review.’ Because no one has to do it. And for them to do that means a lot.”

4. Take your time responding 

Negative reviews can hurt, especially if the feedback is unfounded—but it’s important not to respond from a place of anger. Nic Faitos, owner of Starbright Floral Design, encourages business owners to take their time processing and responding to negative feedback. “If you have something good to say, say it right away,” he said. “If you don’t, take a deep breath.” 

“I reply to all the negative reviews personally, and the write back is never immediate,” he adds. “I let it sit for a day or two. Secondly, I’ll write the reply in Word, on a document that cannot possibly accidentally be posted. And I’ll read it. I’ll reread it, and then maybe edit it. And then finally, I will post it.”

5. Explain how you’re taking action 

Your review response is also an opportunity to show off your customer service. Josh Campbell, owner of Rescue Air Heating and Cooling, favors a two-pronged approach: Listen, and then take action. 

“[Reviewers] want people to listen,” he said. “I’ll listen to them, and I’ll be like, ‘I’m taking action on this. I’m going into my company. I’m going to build a better company.’ Every time I thank them for it: ‘Thank you for the 1-star review. This is how I grow. Without you bringing these mistakes to my attention, I would never know they were occurring. You’re a layer of accountability for me to build a better business.’’’

Interviews by Emily Washcovick; photos from Yelp


These lessons come from an episode of Behind the Review, Yelp & Entrepreneur Media’s weekly podcast. Listen below to hear from these business owners, or visit the episode page to read more, subscribe to the show, and explore other episodes.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.

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