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The Do’s and Don’ts for Responding to Online Reviews

While reviews are often a business owner’s least favorite reading material, it is vital to your brand reputation to understand the best way to respond to online reviews—both the good and the bad. Quite a bit of material is already available on the web when it comes to researching how to respond to reviews, and negative reviews, in particular. Here at Ruby Porter, we believe taking the right tone from the very beginning is the best way to swiftly diffuse negative reviews.  Taking the right steps will help you not only to keep your current customers, but to show future potential customers that you are open to improvement and have an attentive, personalized web presence. Here are some tips:

  1. Never delete reviews. Your brand will lose trust, and you’ll miss out on the ability to showcase your excellent mitigation skills to future potential customers.
  2. Never bribe people for reviews. While it might be the case you’ve heard of other companies paying folks for reviews, it violates user agreements with companies like Google, Yelp, and Facebook. There are ways that you can encourage users if they, for example, fill out a survey or tag you in a post on Facebook.
  3. Unless reviews are blatantly inaccurate, always respond to both positive and negative reviews. Thank people when they leave you a positive review, and address complaints when people leave you a negative review. It is important not to respond to a review when you are angry, but be sure to do so within 24 hours.
  4. Take the right tone when addressing negative reviews. Thank the reviewer for visiting or using your service, and acknowledge the complaint or issue and apologize that they had a bad experience. You may offer steps for how you plan to ameliorate the problem and prevent it from happening in the future. You could also ask the reviewer for suggestions for how to make things better—but be sure to take the conversation offline and into private messages first.
  5. Once you feel the issue has been adequately addressed, circle back to request that the user update their review or ranking. This may not be possible if you do not first take ownership of the issue, or as Kent Lewis of Anvil Media suggests, “Lean into the complaint” so that the reviewer begins backing off on their criticism.

Here’s an example of a response to a fictional reviewer:

Hi Matt, we’re so sorry to hear that you had a bad experience with our business. We strive to keep our facilities clean and our customer service on point, but we must have been off the day you visited, and for that we apologize. We’re taking steps to make sure we track maintenance issues better, and we’d welcome any advice you have. Feel free to contact us at, and we invite you to come back again so we can change your mind.

In essence, we have entered a new phase of digital marketing in which businesses must be as present virtually as they are physically. Responding to reviews takes away the anonymity that a reviewer may be emboldened by to leave less-than-stellar reviews, and shows that you are proactively managing the customer experiences have online as well as in-person. There’s no doubt this can be a time-consuming and energy-zapping process. If you have questions or you’re looking for a way to push this off your plate, give us at Ruby Porter a call.

Erin has degrees in Philosophy, Linguistics, and Instructional Design, and taught English to international students at the University of Oregon. Prior to joining Ruby Porter, she was Project Manager with a local nonprofit, helping connect high school students to career opportunities, including internships in the tech industry.

Erin loves writing, storytelling, presentations, building relationships, and thinking deeply about brand identity. She plays and coaches ultimate frisbee (Go Birds!), loves cooking, hiking and camping in the PNW, and is an aspiring Cat Lady.

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