Key business takeaways
- Respond to every customer review
- Select your review response method intentionally
- Respond in a timely manner
- Keep your cool when responding
According to BrightLocal, 88% of consumers say they’re more likely to use a business if they see the owner responds to reviews. It’s no longer just about what consumers say about your business—it’s also about what you say back.
Responding to reviews shows people you care about your customers. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your customer service practices and build trust with future customers. But like all great marketing tools, it requires some strategy to get it right.
Not every review is five stars, and it can hurt when someone doesn’t recognize your hard work. You’re not alone in feeling that. But customer loyalty is not just about your star rating, and critical feedback can also be helpful, according to local business owners like Dennis Akers, owner of The Candle Pour.
“If there is a negative review, it’s a good teaching moment,” Dennis said. “No matter what it is, even if we didn’t do anything wrong, it’s still a good teaching moment. So we do address that. We try to respond to every single review to say, ‘Thank you.’”
These tips for responding to customer reviews will help you navigate even the trickiest feedback.
1. Respond to every review, both positive and critical
If a customer gave you a compliment in person, you’d thank them for their positive feedback. The same concept applies on your Yelp Page. You provide all your customers with great service, and responding to positive reviews is an extension of that—so be sure to thank your biggest fans. On the flip side, responding to critical reviews is important for recognizing areas of improvement in the customer experience and highlighting that you’ll be taking action.
Take it from Yelp reviewer Reggie M., who said that a positive review response is like getting an autograph from a favorite celebrity: “[On Yelp,] the business owners are celebrities. When the celebrity reaches back out to you to say, ‘Hey, that meant a lot,’ that encourages you to keep responding, to keep writing, and that what you do matters.”
It might seem like a lot of work, but the reward is worth it. In a recent survey commissioned by Yelp and conducted by Material, 56% of respondents said an owner replying to customers’ reviews would make them trust the business more.*
Through your Yelp for Business account, you can respond to your customers to let them know you appreciate their kind words or constructive criticism. And remember, positive reviews are something to celebrate, so share them with your staff, social media networks, and beyond. You can even use your customer’s feedback as a free marketing tool to promote your business—just make sure you ask permission first.
On every platform, I comment back on every review—good, bad, or ugly—because I think it’s very important. Why would you only respond to the negative? You have to reach out to the people that took their time to give you a positive review and let them know that you appreciate them.Vadim Nayman, Bagel Master
2. Select your review response method intentionally
You can respond to reviews on Yelp in two ways: public comment or direct message.
- A public comment appears directly below the review you are responding to and can be viewed by anyone who is looking at your Yelp Page. That means your public comment doesn’t just speak to the reviewer, but to all potential customers looking at your page too.
- A direct message works like an email communication between you and the reviewer. It’s a great way to get more information and have a direct conversation with the consumer.
If you’re responding to a positive review, a public comment is a great way to thank the reviewer for taking the time to share their experience or highlight something in the review that you want to amplify. Personalize your response with the reviewer’s name and at least one detail from their review.
You can also use public comments to respond to critical feedback by addressing a reviewer’s concerns and highlighting your customer service and your business’s policies for future customers to see.
But in some cases, such as addressing critical feedback, it may be appropriate to follow up with a direct message. We recommend starting with a public comment that is personalized to the review before sending a direct message—with critical reviews, it’s important that other users can see and understand you are taking the time to address concerns. If needed, you can also send a direct message to learn more about the customer’s experience. Just remember, direct messages are still a reflection of your business, so keep it professional and avoid argumentative or aggressive language.
Pro tip: If you don’t have time to write a personalized public comment for every positive review you receive, at least send a direct message saying thank you. You can also use the “Thank” button when you’re in a pinch.
3. Respond in a timely manner
For maintaining a trustworthy online reputation, timeliness is everything. A reasonable turn-around time demonstrates that you pay attention to and prioritize customer satisfaction.
Keith Zeiler, owner of Paws on Chicon, thinks about it this way: “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.”
According to BrightLocal, consumers are more than twice as likely to consider using a local business if they see you actively responding to both positive and negative reviews. Meanwhile, businesses that ignore online reviews see a steep drop in trust: 59% of customers said they would not be likely to visit a business that doesn’t respond to reviews at all.
I can tell a lot when I see a business responding [to reviews] about what kind of business model they have. Are they customer focused? Are they calm, cool, and collected in their response? There’s so much you can learn about the company that you’re about to do business with.Yelp reviewer Jennifer W.
4. Keep your cool when responding
When it comes to critical feedback, your initial reaction might be to defend your business. You might want to point out every part of a review that is wrong or misrepresents your business. But before you write that response, take a minute. As Nic Faitos, owner of Starbright Floral Design, suggests: “If you have something good to say, say it right away. If you don’t, take a deep breath.”
Remember to take the high road. Your words are a reflection of your business, and you risk damaging your brand reputation or alienating new customers if you respond in anger. Remain professional, respond publicly, and then take the conversation offline by providing your contact information.
If you resolve an issue offline, don’t forget to leave a public comment to show that you addressed the concerns. This will let future customers know that you take feedback seriously and prioritize customer service. As an added benefit, 87% of review readers say they’re more likely to look past a critical review if they see that the business has responded and adequately addressed the issue.*
I’m not concerned about getting the person to change the hypothetical 1-star review to a 2-star review or a 5-star review. I’m not looking for more stars. I want to talk about that for a moment. I’m looking to express sincerity. I’m looking to express care and I’m looking to express, ‘What can we do to make this right?’Nic Faitos, Starbright Floral Design
5. Follow this easy formula for crafting a review response
- Start by thanking the reviewer for providing feedback about their experience
- Highlight a specific detail from their review, such as the customer’s name, something they are excited about, or an issue you’re working to fix
- Address any concerns, take responsibility if needed, and share your business philosophy
- If needed, conclude by inviting them back or with a way to continue the conversation offline, like a direct message, your email, or phone number
Responding to reviews is a great way to join the conversation with your customers online. It helps reflect your customer service practices, builds buying confidence in consumers, and improves the customer experience. To respond to your Yelp reviews, log in to your Yelp for Business account or download the Yelp for Business mobile app.
As a part of Yelp’s Trust & Safety efforts, it’s also important to note that Yelp’s automated recommendation software works to evaluate every review based on hundreds of signals of quality, reliability, and user activity on Yelp, including Yelp’s policy against solicited reviews. Be sure to steer clear of asking for reviews. For more info, check out this quick, informative video:
*Material survey 2022. This survey was fielded by Material among 2,000 people aged 18+ in the United States. The survey was conducted online during the period of August and September 2022 and has a margin of error of +/- 2%. Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results.
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