a man wearing a shirt that says 'thank you'
Say thank you. Too many businesses ruin positive customer experiences through flawed responses to online reviews. PHOTO: Joel G Mwakasege Jr.

Much has been written about the best response to negative reviews. But it’s also important for businesses to craft thoughtful responses to positive and neutral reviews.

With a careless response to these reviews, you risk alienating customers who were initially willing to provide repeat business.

Because you’re also reaching potential customers who are browsing reviews, a poor response also threatens future business.

3 Ways to Ruin Positive CX

Let's take a look at some three and four-star reviews and associated responses. 

You’ll see how some businesses ruin a positive experience through flawed responses while others use the review response as an opportunity to capitalize on the customer’s initial enthusiasm and drive repeat business. 

Don't:

1. Criticize Reviewers for Not Giving You a 5-Star Rating or Paint Your Business as the Victim

A couple rents a place through a service like Airbnb or VRBO. They have a great experience, write what they believe to be a positive review and are probably expecting to hear “Thanks, come again” or something along those lines.

online customer review


Ouch.

From the customer’s perspective, a four-star rating usually indicates an excellent experience, just not perfect. In the example above, there could have been minor issues that the reviewers felt were not worth mentioning or, the reviewers could be like the teacher who never gives a perfect score.

Not only does the owner criticize the customers for not giving a five-star rating, but also implies they have now hurt future business because of the score. Ironically, it’s probably the response rather than the rating that would have the most negative impact on future business.

Contrast the response above with this one:

online customer review

This upbeat response reinforces the customer’s positive experience, enthusiastically welcomes a prompt repeat visit (their next night out) and solicits feedback to further improve (how can we get to five stars).

While business owners crave five stars so the business ranks higher or displays more frequently, customers just want to share their experiences and perhaps help others make a more informed decision.

You may believe the reasons for deducting a star are trivial, but the trick is to not let your quest for a five-star review negatively influence your reaction. However you respond, you should never make a customer regret leaving a positive review.

2. Dismiss or Ignore Reviewers’ Concerns — or Fail to Apologize

Here's a customer who thought the flowers she ordered were beautiful, even though they weren’t exactly what she expected. The business owner doesn’t apologize, dismisses the customer's concern with the excuse they were busy, and focuses more on his problems than the customer’s point.

online customer review

In contrast, this business owner immediately apologizes, acknowledges the customer’s concern (framing it in the desire to send the freshest flowers), offers a clear method of contact, and a new bouquet.

This is a textbook approach to recapture the customer’s initial enthusiasm and encourage future purchase.

online customer review

It’s amazing how many businesses don’t respond to three-star reviews. These customers often say they would be willing to give the business another try, so your review response is the perfect opportunity to pull customers back and convert them to fans.

In addition, while three-star reviews aren’t considered positive from a rating perspective, they are often a goldmine of constructive criticism that can help your business.

If you spot trends related to slow service, inaccurate orders, poor communication, and so on, these are fixable issues.

3. Demean the Reviewer

While it’s perfectly appropriate to correct misconceptions or factual errors, demeaning a customer is unprofessional and not helpful.

Here's a customer thrilled with the “five-star” cleaning. The owner’s response fails to capitalize on that enthusiasm and instead descends into a rant that surely resolves any indecision the reviewer had about recommending them.

It’s hard to imagine the business objective for this response to the customer’s review.

online customer review

Remember Your 3 P's

Besides avoiding these three sins, remember to follow the three P's of review responses: Be Prompt. Be Personal. Be Professional.

  1. Be Prompt — Responding to reviews within one week ensures the experience is fresh in the reviewer’s mind and provides a new touch point which may generate referrals or repeat visits.
  2. Be Personal — Mention the reviewer by name, and/or reference something from the review.
  3. Be Professional — Avoid petty references, personal attacks and rants.

As an aside, just as with negative reviews, it’s worth doing a sentiment analysis to ensure the features you’re promoting match your customers’ experience.

You’ll also want to be sure you’re capturing all the positives customers value — they may notice some advantages that are not in your marketing message.

As you respond to your reviews, particularly those of three- and four-stars, it’s important to think about the business objective for your response. With a thoughtful response, you can build on the positive aspects of your customers’ experience and drive repeat business.

Your response to a customer review is a lasting impression — be sure it’s a positive one.