What you will learn in this post:

  • Why it is so important for businesses to respond to all reviews, especially negative ones
  • Best practices for crafting and delivering review responses
  • Why and how multi-location brands should use a fully-featured review management tool

Reviews and recommendations have always played a role in influencing consumer decisions. But in recent years, the volume, pervasiveness, and importance of online reviews have skyrocketed. The past two years alone have seen exponential growth in the number of reviews across all industries, especially for specialty stores, service providers, and retailers. And according to ReviewTrackers, 63.6% of consumers say they are likely to check reviews on Google before visiting a business—more than any other review site.

As the quantity and value of reviews increases across industries, businesses like yours are granted a major opportunity; by responding to as many reviews as possible, especially unfavorable ones, you can simultaneously increase customer engagement, bolster your brand and reputation, and retain as many customers as possible. That said, responding to negative customer reviews requires some tact. You must strike a balance between addressing the concern (no matter its validity), asserting your values, and doing so fairly quickly across a variety of review platforms.

Here are the major do’s and don’ts of responding to negative reviews.

Do: Write thoughtful, polite responses to all reviews, across locations.

All reviews, good, bad, and in-between, warrant a response. And for the most part, you should follow the same guidelines for replying to good reviews and you would for bad reviews, with a few distinctions. All of your replies should greet the customer by name (if possible) and address any and all of their concerns in a thoughtful, polite manner. You should also thank the customer for cueing you into a problem and make it clear that the error is not commensurate with your values, and you will be sure to prevent such a problem from occurring again. In closing, encourage the customer to come back and leave more feedback in the future if they would like.

Don’t: Ignore them

Ignoring a review might not be as bad as delivering an emotionally charged, impolite, or sarcastic response, but it is a missed opportunity. Even if you feel a comment is unfair or false, take the time to craft a measured response anyway. The reviewer in question might be a lost cause, but onlookers will appreciate seeing you took the time and effort to engage with them.

Do: Respond in a timely way

Acting fast when responding to negative reviews is one of the strongest customer engagement strategies. Waiting longer than a day or two to reply is better than never getting back to the customer at all, but you want to reach out when the experience is recent. A 24-hour period is the most effective window for responding to reviews. Responding in a timely fashion lets customers know that you are paying attention and truly care.

Don’t: Wait too long

If you let weeks or months go by without replying to feedback, you are indicating publicly that you either do not care, or that you were unaware of the criticism. Either way, customers and online users will take notice, and look elsewhere to businesses who better engage with their audience. Indeed, 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week. However, 63% of those who’ve left a negative review say the brand never responded, according to ReviewTrackers.

Do: Get to know the local review landscape

Multi-location enterprises are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to online review management. Not only must you stay on top of generalized reviews of your brand, but also local business reviews. Every region has its own unique review landscape. For instance, one of your locations might face stiffer local competition than another. You must invest the time and resources in understanding where each of your locations stacks up, and craft responses that make sense within that local environment.

Additionally, there are several review platforms to consider.

Google may be the central location for reviews and rankings, but other key players cannot be ignored. Get familiar with all the social media platforms, industry-specific review sites, and local review resources relevant to each of your locations.

Don’t: Only focus on one or two.

If you only focus on some of your locations and/or review platforms, you will fail to see all of your feedback, and therefore be unable to respond. These are missed opportunities for both local customer engagement and for improving the operations of that location.

Do: Utilize a single interface to monitor and manage reviews

Fortunately, you can clear up the complex local review landscape described above by using a powerful review manager resource that monitors your reviews across locations and platforms and assembles them into a single dashboard. With all of your locations’ reviews gathered in one place, responding to negative reviews suddenly becomes manageable.

Don’t: Manually track reviews

Without a dedicated review management system, your only option for replying to reviews is to first find them manually. This requires an inordinate amount of time and resources that could be better spent actually crafting great responses. There is simply no reason to do this when the tools for automatic tracking are available.

Do: Employ key review management features such as store-by-store rankings, multi-store review request, and response options

The more features for review management provider has, the better. Go for a service that offers features that provide both granular and broad views of your brand’s online reputation.

Don’t: Ignore the power of these key features

The key features listed above can give you insight into how each of your locations is doing on its own and against local competition. They can also help you craft unique but on-brand templated responses to all of your reviews.

Do: Create a set of best practices to drive more proactive reviews management going forward

Implementing a powerful review monitoring tool is just one component of a proper review management strategy. You must also take action within your organization to leverage your reviews and response opportunities. For instance, take steps to enhance your local online visibility so garner more reviews. Additionally, utilize the tools within your review manager to pinpoint which locations are receiving the most reviews and the least, as well as how they are ranking so you know where to direct your attention moving forward.

Don’t: Allow others to manage reviews without a strategy

Managing negative reviews for brands with hundreds or thousands of locations requires a sophisticated strategy managed by a singular tool. Make sure everyone in your company is on the same page with your review management strategy.

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