How to Respond to Customer Comments: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly


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Consumer Generated Content and digital reviews are having a serious effect on businesses, with 90% of customers reading online reviews before deciding to make a purchase. While your business cannot control what customers are saying about you on the Internet, you can control the narrative.

How you choose to engage with customers online can turn a negative review into a positive exchange in the eyes of a potential new customer looking up your business and deciding to spend with you or a competitor. A study from Harvard Business Review found that online ratings increased for businesses that responded to both positive and negative comments online. This blog post will advise you how to engage with your online promoters and detractors on review sites such as Google Reviews, Trustpilot or TripAdvisor.

Responding to Positive Reviews

This is the easy kind of review to deal with, so you should respond with gratitude and enthusiasm and hopefully inspire those reading the reviews to interact with your business as a new or repeat customer. A positive endorsement of your company is essentially free marketing, and when you respond to one it brings a personal touch to the experience, showing you care about all of your customers, not just those complaining.

Say Thank You – This should be obvious, but you should thank your customer for leaving a good review. Showing gratitude is always appreciated and shows you care about your relationship with your customers.

Make It Personal – Mention the commenter’s name in your response, making it clear that you are a real person engaging with them and your response isn’t an impersonal copy and paste job.

Optimise Your SEO – Include the name of your business and any important keywords or details in your response to encourage the positive review’s appearance in search results for your business.

Include a Call-to-Action – Make suggestions for the customer’s next interaction with your business. If your business is a hotel – “Be sure to stop by our spa for a luxurious massage on your next visit!” If your business is a retail chain – “Don’t forget to join our loyalty program to avail of extra benefits like early notifications of sales!” This is an easy way to do marketing and let those viewing the reviews know about different segments of your business.

Responding to positive reviews may seem like a task less important than responding to your critics, but it can have a really positive impact on the narrative flowing through your review pages.

Responding to Negative Reviews

86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business with negative online reviews. This statistic shows how imperative it is for you to acknowledge negative feedback with a thoughtful response. While it isn’t necessary to respond to every single customer complaint, it can show your existing and potential customers that you are invested in their experience when you do.

Remain Calm – This goes without saying, but it can be difficult not to take criticism personally. Negative reviews can run the gamut from a genuine complaint about a poor experience to an all-out thrashing of your business. Regardless, it is on you to respond politely and professionally when engaging with your customers, no matter how rude or unfair they may be!

Say Thank You – Just as you thank your promoter customers for giving positive feedback, you should thank your detractor customers for their feedback as well. Even if their comment may not warrant traditional gratitude, you are gaining some sort of insight from their complaint and it can help your business. Something as simple as, “Thank you for your feedback” can make all of the difference to the tone of your response.

Apologise – Saying sorry goes a long way. Even if you do not agree with the customer’s complaint, expressing contrition shows that you are genuinely invested in their experience. But be smart about how you say sorry, saying “I’m sorry you felt that the service was inadequate” does not come across as a genuine apology. You should rather say, “I’m sorry your experience did not meet our high standard of service,” which shows that you care and are accepting responsibility.

Be Proactive – Oftentimes an apology is enough, but in serious cases, you may need to back up your apology with some concrete action. Let the customer know how you will be addressing the problem so that it does not happen again. This may persuade the customer to return to your business, or even better, it may convince potential new customers that they needn’t worry that they will also have a poor experience with your business.

And unlike your response to positive comments, try not to include your business’ name or details, to minimise the chances of the specific review turning up in search results.

Sarah-Nicole LeFlore
Sarah-Nicole "Nikki" is a Customer Success Manager at CX Index, a Dublin-based Voice of the Customer (VOC) Vendor. She contributes her insights on the many benefits of prioritising customer experience to the CX Index blog. She is currently based in London but has lived in New York, Dublin and Paris. She has a B.A. from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT and an MSc from Trinity College Dublin.


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