5 Principles for Responding to Customer Reviews

Customer Review

It’s essential for businesses to understand how to respond to online customer reviews, but knowing exactly how to go about it can be tricky.

A Harvard Business review study (originally published here) examined over 20 million online reviews across TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotels.com and Orbitz. After analyzing the length and content of manager responses for each online review, the researchers came up with five principles to enhance a business’ online reputation regardless of platform.

1. Reply to positive feedback with simple, short responses. The study found that managers need to be careful even when replying to positive reviews. Responses that were too customized ended up being perceived by consumers as too promotional and inauthentic.

2. Delay your replies to positive feedback. By waiting to reply until a positive review gets bumped to the second page of feedback, you can benefit from thanking a reviewer without negatively influencing future reviewers.

3. Reply to all negative feedback. Negative online reviews influence consumer buying decisions — sometimes strongly enough to completely avoid a business. By responding to a negative review, managers can potentially reduce the damage and prevent other negative reviews: Future reviewers will be able to see prior complaint management interactions for a complaint that may be similar to their own.

4. Reply to negative reviews with a specific solution. Communicate any actions you’ve taken to address the problem expressed in each negative review. By acknowledging the issue, you can potentially appease an unhappy customer and show future reviewers that you care about customer satisfaction.

5. Respond to negative reviews as quickly as possible. The faster you respond to a negative review, the faster you can potentially appease the unhappy customer — and future reviewers will see that you’re dedicated to resolving complaints in a timely manner.

These days, customer word of mouth can spread like wildfire. It’s important to take a proactive approach to mitigate potential future negative reviews and maximize the benefits of positive reviews. Responding to reviews isn’t just about improving reputation, it’s about reducing potential damage.

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