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May 21, 2024

10 Ways to Bring Authenticity to Your Online Review Responses

Online review response authenticity is important. In this post, we discuss 10 steps for ensuring all your customers receive an authentic review response to their feedback. 

At Widewail, we have always believed in the power of communication. No matter how well you communicate up front, negative customer experiences happen, making negative reviews inevitable for your business.

While you only have so much control as a business owner, how you react to negative feedback is all up to you, and it can mean the difference between a won and lost customer. In many cases, responding intentionally can even help turn a negative review into a positive one.

So, before we move on, be sure to remember: in terms of response content, tone, follow-through and overall empathy effort - you have total control over your online review authenticity.

By taking a prompt and thoughtful approach to review response, you build trust between customers and your business. You also appear more authentic to the rest of your target market. Overall, actively responding to and monitoring reviews will help you increase your review volume, improve your website’s search visibility, and grow your business. 

In this post, we'll discuss ten ways to make your review responses more authentic and supportive and ensure you and your team are in the best position to foster positive customer experiences. 

  1. Respond Promptly
  2. Be Empathetic
  3. Personalize Your Responses
  4. Acknowledge the Issue
  5. Take Responsibility
  6. Offer a Solution
  7. Follow Up
  8. Use the Customer's Name
  9. Match the Tone of the Review
  10. Show Appreciation

1. Respond quickly to all reviews—positive and negative

Online review management should be a regular part of your business’s schedule. Whether you assign the task to a single employee or decide to invest in a reputation management partner to respond on your behalf, reviews should be answered within a few days. 

Responding quickly to happy customers bolsters their impression of your business and makes them more likely to return. It also amplifies your customer’s successes and boosts a positive company culture.

For upset reviewers, waiting too long 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 still important to author individual responses. 

These days, so much of the business process has become automated, so it’s important to take opportunities to provide personalized service. Your customers take the time to share their experiences—they deserve a thoughtful, genuine response from your business.

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.

Online Review Authenticity

3. Refer to details in the review

Another way to prevent your responses from sounding mechanical is to acknowledge 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 person is reading the review, and when
over 80% of customers prefer engaging with a human over a robot, that’s hard to ignore. 

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 to amplify positive business experiences and help your business compete with search engine rankings.

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.

For negative reviews especially, prioritize resolving customer complaints over rankings. Without sacrificing the quality of your response, use keywords as appropriate and, with consistent effort, the SEO benefits will come.

5. Take action first

When you receive a negative review, the first step is to reach out to the customer directly. Timely support is essential when a customer brings up an issue, so if their contact information is readily available, speak with them first. 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 strategy.

When you do post a response online, be transparent about your efforts to contact the customer and share the steps your business took to resolve their concerns.

Hopefully, this 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 to resolve things

6. Be empathetic and appreciative

Whether it’s a negative or positive review, thank your customer for sharing their feedback. Acknowledge their feelings and express understanding of their perspective. When someone is frustrated, simply empathizing with that frustration can go a long way in turning an experience around.

7. 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. While you should report reviews that contain slanderous information, it can also be helpful to respond to the review and clarify the context of the situation for your customer base. 

If you need to dispute what's 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

8. 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 not follow through comes off as disingenuous.

If you receive critical feedback, promise your customer that you will take steps to improve — and actually take them.

This will make your business better in the long run and show potential patrons that you stand by your word. Best of all, it can 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 and their feedback will actually be addressed.

9. Sign replies with your name and contact number

Replies to negative reviews should almost always include the contact information of the team member or department that’s willing to help. 

Maybe this is your customer service representative or a manager. Either way, you’re showing your reviewer and your prospects that there’s an individual behind the words who cares about making things right.

Promoting honesty and authenticity in business starts with listening to the customer and taking the necessary steps to resolve their concerns. 

10. Celebrate the positives

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 show the genuine appreciation you have for your customers.

Incorporating these 10 strategies into your review response strategy demonstrates a commitment to the customer experience that will increase satisfaction and actively work to position your business as a trustworthy choice. 

*Originally posted on December 1, 2020 and updated on May 21st, 2024.

Hey, Jane here. Thanks for reading. Next, I recommend Widewail's review response examples guide. The response team and I have responded to 1,000,000+ reviews since Widewail's beginning. In that time we've developed, practiced, and perfected the techniques explained in this guide. Learn review response from 56 real-world examples, covering how you can handle 56 unique response scenarios. Download the Guide 👇

Download the Book: 56 Review Response Examples


Jane Garfinkel

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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