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Online review response authenticity is important. In this post, we discuss 9 steps for ensuting all your customers receive an authentic review response.
Here at Widewail we have always believed in the power of review response.
More than that, we’ve stressed the importance of responding to reviews in a genuine, honest and human way. Doing so increases your review volume, improves your website’s visibility, and ultimately results in more business. Replying to reviews builds trust between a prospect and your business, while exuding authenticity for the rest of your potential target market to see.
In this blog, we will discuss nine steps you can take to ensure all of your customers receive an authentic review response.
1. Respond quickly
Online review management should be a regular part of your business’s schedule. Whether you assign the task to a single employee or partner with a service provider that responds on your behalf, you shouldn’t allow reviews to go more than a few days without being answered.
Responding to happy customers quickly bolsters their positive impression of your business and makes them more likely to return.
For upset reviewers, waiting weeks to respond could cost you the chance to earn back their trust, or even reignite anger they had long forgotten. You must efficiently manage online reviews like you would other critical aspects of your business.
2. Handwrite responses
When was the last time you received a handwritten letter from a friend? Chances are you remember - you might have even kept it as a keepsake.
The personal nature of a handwritten note makes them stand out from the typical email or text message. While you can’t answer your reviews with ink and paper, it’s important to at least type out individual responses. Legitimate reviews deserve a thoughtful, genuine response.
Automation and templates have their place, but taking the time and effort to craft a unique answer to every review will add a truly authentic and appreciated touch to your online presence.
3. Refer to details in the review
Another way to prevent your responses from sounding like a machine is to repeat specific information from the reviews themselves.
Use the reviewer’s name, mention the people they worked with and the products they purchased, bring up relevant upcoming sales and address any specific complaints - even if that’s just by offering to get on the phone with them..
Details like these prove that an actual human is reading the review, and considering that over 80% of customers prefer engaging with a human over a robot, that’s important.
4. Use keywords appropriately
According to Local SEO Guide, reviews with keywords are the second biggest SEO factor for determining the local pack order. While business owners can’t control the content of their reviews, they can control the responses - which are also a major SEO opportunity.
Don’t take this as permission to pack your responses with every keyword that comes to mind. At worst, customers will assume that you’re more concerned with your website’s rank than their business. At best, they will find these responses awkward and unnatural.
Without sacrificing the quality of your response, use keywords as appropriate and, with consistent effort, the SEO benefits will come.
5. Take action first
If you’re faced with a negative review, the first step is to reach out to the customer directly. A phone call or in-person conversation will provide a much better opportunity for communication than a back-and-forth online, despite the quality of your review management service.
When you eventually do post an answer online, be transparent about your efforts to contact the customer and share the steps your business took to resolve their concerns.
Hopefully, the combination of direct outreach and online follow-up will encourage the customer to change their review. As an added bonus, future readers will get an inside look at how your business handles challenging situations. When responding, be authentic in your words, actions and intent.
6. State the facts
There’s always a chance that your business will receive a negative review from a former employee, a competitor, or an ill-intentioned “customer” that doesn’t warrant an apology. If you need to dispute what is written, take a calm approach.
Saying something snarky or attacking someone personally isn’t the type of authenticity you want to project.
Instead, speak with your team to gather as much detail about the incident as possible and then state the facts in a neutral manner. This will demonstrate to future readers that there are two sides to the story, and that your business prioritizes honesty and professionalism above all else. It will also help maintain your ideal Google star rating.
7. Offer to do something, and mean it
Apologizing for the same mistakes over and over will quickly reveal a pattern on your review sites. For people researching where to make a purchase, seeing a business claim that they will address an issue and then never doing comes off as extremely disingenuine.
If you receive critical feedback, promise your customer that you will take steps to improve — and then actually take them.
This will not only make your business better in the long run, it will also show potential patrons that you stand by your word. Best of all, it may lead to fewer negative reviews down the road.
Timely and frequent interactions will often increase online review volume as people realize there’s a business owner paying attention on a daily basis and their feedback will actually be addressed.
8. Sign replies with your name and contact number
Replies to negative reviews should almost always include contact information of the team member or department that is willing to help. Maybe this is your customer service representative or a manager.
Either way, you’re showing your reviewer and prospects that there is an individual behind the words who cares about making things right. Promoting honesty and authenticity in business starts with being willing to take steps to resolve a customer’s concern.
9. Authentic replies aren’t only for negative reviews.
Positive reviews merit a genuine reply as well! Have fun with these and don't spend all your review management efforts on the negative feedback alone.
If a positive review really makes you smile, share this fact with the reviewer. Authentic replies for positive reviews can match the tone of the review itself and exude the true appreciation you have for your customers.
On the other hand, if a review’s content is neutral, don’t reply with an over-the-top response. Feel free to "read the room" and match the tone.
* Originally posted on December 1, 2020 and updated on October 24th, 2022.
Hey, Jane here. Thanks for reading. Next, I recommend Widewail's review response examples guide. The response team and I have responded to 270,000 reviews since Widewail's beginning. In that time we've developed, practiced, and perfected the techniques explained in this guide. Learn review response from 19 real-world examples, covering how you can handle 19 unique response scenarios. Download the Guide 👇
I’m a New Jersey native who joined the Widewail team during my brief stint in Burlington. Now living in Jersey City, I currently serve as the Response Team Lead and Content Specialist. My background is in writing and my work has been published by Thrillist, Reductress, McSweeneys, The Rumpus, and more. I occasionally update my own blog No Meat, Some Potatoes, and in my free time I hang out with my dog Jake.
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