Social Reviews: Why they are Important and How to Respond

November 17th, 2021 by Isaac Nelapana

We all love when customers love our business, but what happens when a customer is unsatisfied enough to leave a negative review?

In this blog we discuss how you can leverage this opportunity to not only satisfy unhappy customers but also win the respect of potential customers.

Why responding to reviews is important?

85% of consumers now trust online reviews as much as they trust traditional recommendations. If you consider just people in the age group of 18 – 29, that number is 91%. Online reviews have become the main method of influence and social proof in 2021.

Let’s say that you’re looking to get pet insurance for your cat. You really love your cat. She’s been such an excellent buddy during the pandemic, minus the part where she interrupts the occasional Teams Meeting with your colleagues. But a blessing, nonetheless!

Since you don’t really want to spare any expense, you type “best pet insurance australia” on Google and hit search. Then, you see search ads from 3 companies – RSPCA, Kogan and Choosi.

Other attributes aside, you would probably be inclined to explore RSPCA solely based on the fact it has average rating of 4.5 across 1,384 reviews.
Humans are social creatures and generally feel that it’s important to conform to the norms of a social group – a phenomenon otherwise described as “social proofing” by leading social scientist Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

When making decisions, we often look around us to see what others are doing, before making our mind up.

If you think that reviews weren’t important, you might want to consider the following statistics:

  • A study by Northwestern Universitys Spiegel Research Centre discovered that the likelihood of someone purchasing a product with five reviews is 270% greater than a product with no reviews. Further, when reviews are shown for a lower-priced product, the conversion rate increases by 190%. This figure rises to 380% for higher-priced products.
  • Consumers read an average of 10 reviews before deciding to trust a local business. Interestingly, Facebook and Yelp are the two most-trusted review sources for local searches. Google comes in at a close third. Yelp seems to have the strictest rules and regulations, with the average review score on its platform being 3.65, much lower than Facebook (4.42) and Google (4.3).
  • Yelp may be the most reliable place to gauge reviews for customers. An extra rating star on Yelp translates into a 5% to 9% revenue growth, a statistic that only underscores the impact that a Yelp rating has on business’ bottom-line.
  • 57% of consumers will only consider a business if it has a star rating of 4 stars or more.

That’s some pretty persuasive figures when it comes to validating the importance of online reviews for your business.

But you shouldn’t stop at merely collecting reviews. 97% of consumers who read online reviews also read those businesses’ responses to their online reviews.

How a business responds to a negative review can influence the searcher as much as a positive review. Firstly, it displays a sense of authenticity to the reviews. Not all customers can be happy, and a negative review here and there can actually be a good thing for social proof as it can legitimise the other reviews in the mind of the reader.

However, it is vital that you have access to respond to negative reviews to handle the customer’s criticisms in a way that makes other potential customers comfortable that you handle conflict well.

8 Tips on how to respond to Negative Reviews

Understand your customer’s experience with your business before responding.
If someone mentions a problem with a product or service, investigate to see what may have gone wrong.

This is valuable business insight. It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day running of your business that you lose the customers perspective. Take the criticism with an open mind.

Be honest about mistakes made and steps you’ve taken (or will take) to remedy the situation. Further, consider that the customer might be venting their frustrations about something else.

Get a second opinion
To ensure that your response to a negative review is accurate, let an unbiased third party scrutinise it before you post it online.

Double-check your message for grammar and tone by sending the response to several colleagues to ensure that it “reads” well to a third party. Otherwise, you run the risk of your response being interpreted as overly defensive or aggressive, which would neither benefit you nor the customer.

Respond in a timely and personalised manner
Studies have shown that 87% of e-commerce sites don’t respond to the negative reviews, not even on their most popular products sold. This is not a sustainable strategy since businesses experience a 37% decline in customer advocacy simply by not responding to negative reviews.

When an airline responded to a customer’s tweet in five minutes or less, that customer was willing to pay almost $20 more for a ticket on that airline in future. According to Yelp’s Data Science team, Yelp users are 33% more likely to upgrade their review if you respond with a personalised message within a day.

Customers (especially unhappy ones) always appreciate a prompt response. Whenever you receive a negative review, make it your priority. Read the review carefully, put together a quick action plan and be sure to have replied within 24 to 48 hours. Further, document all your responses to negative reviews and construct a guidebook for your business that can serve as a reference point in the future.

Quick Tip – Add Google My Business to your phone so you can see reviews as they come in.

Acknowledge and Apologise
A negative review, either one that contains harsh language or a low-star rating, can feel like a personal attack. In these times, as difficult as it sounds, you must remember to stay professional and courteous. Accept that not every customer will be 100% satisfied. Objectively analyse the situation and avoid lashing out at the customer.

Then, proceed to thank the customer for the review. Even if negative, this customer took the time to provide feedback on your business. It is an opportunity to learn.

Aim to make the customer feel that you care deeply about your relationship with him since over 70% of buying decisions are based on how a customer feels they are being treated. It might still be the early days, but you have a realistic shot at retaining your customer by approaching them sincerely and promising to do better in the future.

“We’re sorry to hear you had an unpleasant experience with us this time, and value your feedback. But we’d love to make it up to you the next time around. Contact us at [CUSTOMER SERVICE EMAIL] to receive a special discount code for your next purchase!”

You can also opt for the following response:
“On behalf of everyone at [BUSINESS NAME], I apologise for your poor customer experience. We aim to provide the best service to all our customers, and as you can see from the other reviews, your negative experience was truly an exception. You have our word when we promise not to let this happen again. Our staff will commit to improving their delivery and give you the star service you deserve, should you choose us again. Please accept my heartfelt apologies in the meantime.”

Showing the customer your willingness to see things their way can make a huge difference in their perception of you. Such compassion and empathy for the customer acts as a great display of business ethics to potential customers, giving them a sneak peek into your business personality.

Additionally – and this is important – you have shown how you handle criticism to anyone else who might read that review. You are writing a response for that customer AND any potential future customer. You have managed to reinforce your commitment to customer satisfaction as well as outline the positives that most customers feel about your business, and this is a powerful brand message to convey.

Consider the type of reviewer
Despite every person having a unique situation, there are certain broad categories into which people fall. For instance, they may be First-time reviewers, Sharpshooters, or Serial Complainers. Understand these categories and be prepared with a tailored response for each category.

  • First-time reviewers. Assess whether the negative feedback is accurate. If it is, make internal changes to fix the problem. When applicable, explain how you will prevent this issue from occurring again in the future. Further, if you disagree with the reviewer’s statements, politely and professionally present your side of the story.
  • Sharpshooters. Sharpshooters are the ones who write brief, but often rushed or poorly worded reviews. Your response to these reviews must be concise, built on clear sentences instead of elaborate ones to reflect the reviewer’s communication style.
  • Serial Complainers. Serial complainers are seasoned reviewers with a track record of leaving lengthy negative reviews for every business, product, or service they use. They are incredibly hard to please and have unrealistically high standards of service, usually not in proportion to what they paid for. In this case, you must tread carefully given that the reviewer is experienced at making businesses like yours look bad online. Look at how other businesses have responded to serial complainers and avoid making the same mistakes they made.
  • Fake Reviewers. Fakers, or fake reviewers are the worst type of reviewers. A faker has never used your business or purchased your product. Despite this, they have a grudge and delight in leaving one-star reviews based on fictional complaints to harm your online reputation. They may be working on behalf of a competitor (or even be a competitor!). If you suspect a review is fake, check your customer records to determine if they have ever used your business. Once you’re sure that you’re dealing with a faker, proceed to flagging the review on Google Maps, or on (Google My Business). If you haven’t received an email from Google stating that they’ve received your request, head over to Twitter and send a direct message to Google My Business.

Add a Touch of Specificity
Always address the reviewer’s primary concern. Doing so shows that you’re paying attention to their review — that you hear them and care enough to tailor your response to their unique situation.

“We’re usually known for our exceptional customer service, and we regret that we didn’t live up to those expectations here.”

Keep it Short and Sweet
Even when the negative review seems a bit unfair, resist the urge to defend every point and prove your case. It may sound counterintuitive, but long-winded responses only serve to legitimise the complaint, and further upset the customer.

Besides, a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal can sound defensive. Don’t ask follow-up questions. You want to avoid saying anything that could invite the customer into writing another negative response.

Move the Situation Offline
As much you want to resolve the issue, never try to fix everything from one empathetic online reply. Instead, aim to take the conversation offline. If this is the first time you are hearing of the complaint, invite the customer to email or call so that you can try to sort out the matter with them.

“If you are open to discussing this further, please call us at (03) 9999 1234 and ask to speak with Jamie, our General Manager. We’d greatly appreciate the opportunity to make things right and work toward earning back your business.”

In conclusion, remember that when you respond to a negative review, you are not just in communication with one unhappy customer.

The truth is you are communicating with a whole bunch of prospective customers who consider your response to past negative reviews before purchasing from you. Thus, a well-written negative review response can increase sales. So, it’s crucial to get your response right every time.

After all, a carefully considered response can turn a negative into a positive for your business.

If you’re a local business that needs help with creating a Google My Business listing, or responding to negative reviews online, we can help.

At Contactpoint, we offer SEO audits, consulting, and monthly local SEO services. We optimize Google My Business listings to help you get the most from this amazing free tool, including crafting perfect responses to negative (and positive) reviews.

Contact our office today on (03) 8525 2082 or send us an email at and we’ll be happy to help.

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2 Responses to “Social Reviews: Why they are Important and How to Respond”

  1. Andrew Campbell Says:

    Great article – well written with good tips! Sadly though, in our experience Google won’t do anything about fake reviews.

  2. Heather Maloney Says:

    Thanks Andrew! Yes, you’re right. It can be very difficult to get Google to take action on fake reviews. We have had some success with this, but it can take quite a bit of effort, including involving lawyers. It would be really nice if the big tech companies could provide easier access for support in situations like this.

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