Customers aren’t shy about letting the world know what they think of your business, and their reviews matter. How much? An annual survey conducted by SEO and local citation platform, BrightLocal, found that 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020.

Responding to these reviews matters just as much, and software such as Vagaro’s scheduling and booking platform enables you to do so quickly and easily. This can help increase customer retention and community engagement, improve your business’s online reputation, increase its SEO, and provide added marketing opportunities.

Those are huge benefits, but before you dive in, check out our list of common-sense tips to consider when addressing positive and negative customer reviews online

RSVP!

A 2018 Harvard Business Review study found that by simply replying to customer reviews, both good and bad, businesses were able to boost their overall ratings. Don’t sleep on this opportunity. While it’s wise to measure your responses (more on that below), a prompt one is always best for both positive and negative reviews because it automatically shows that you value customer relationships and customer feedback.

Can the Canned Responses

Some businesses use “canned responses,” or pre-made, robotic messages for all of their customer reviews. Avoid these. It can be time-consuming to personally respond to every customer, but try and customize your responses as much as possible – especially for particularly good or bad reviews. Be specific about what went right or wrong and keep things personal. Address the reviewer by their name if they give it and use yours as well.

A little etiquette also goes a long way. If reviewers use titles such as Doctor or Professor, then use them. Gender-based honorifics (Mr., Ms., Miss, Mrs.) are fine, but if the reviewer’s gender isn’t obvious to you, it’s best to just use the name they provide.

Own Your Mistakes

It’s difficult to admit when we’ve made mistakes, but they happen. Promptly addressing negative reviews proves to present and future customers that you are willing to own up to a poor experience, and they will respect that.

Thank the reviewer for bringing their issue to your attention and apologize for their experience. Figure out exactly what happened, when it happened and with whom it happened, and ensure that the issue is being taken care of. If you like, you can offer to contact the reviewer offline to resolve the problem and move forward from there.

Keep Calm, and… Empathize

Emotionally-charged reviews can push you to react instead of responding in a mature, professional way. Remember, you don’t have to be defensive to defend your business. Impolite or curt responses only add fuel to the fire and can harm your business’ reputation. Keep in mind that you aren’t simply addressing one person, but everyone who may have read their initial review.

Tom Cockrell, director of customer success at Vagaro, suggests leading with empathy in these situations. The same rules for customer support, says Cockrell, apply to responding to negative reviews.

“At Vagaro, we teach our folks to always put themselves in the customer’s shoes,” he said. “What if they were alone and unable to get their credit card reader to work while an impatient customer was yelling at them? Always empathize.”

Apologize for the reviewer’s negative experience. Reiterate your business’s core values and commitment to customer service. Make sure they know that whatever happened was not done intentionally and promptly move to resolve the issue.

Keep it Professional

Cockrell stressed professionalism when dealing with toxic or potentially unfounded reviews. Look into their complaint deeply, he said, and get all the info you can about it. Your response should be businesslike, written in advance, proofread and reviewed before being published. In some extreme cases, it’s best not to engage at all.

“Be non-emotional, that’s number one,” said Cockrell. “Be detail-oriented and stick to the facts, because you’ll need to have proof to refute an unfounded review.”

Spot the Fakes

The good news is that not all of those negative reviews are real but attempts by outside actors to harm your business. Fake reviews can be tough to spot and difficult to remove, however, and they need to be dealt with. The good folks at the Digital Marketing Institute have compiled an easy list of red flags to watch out for when trying to spot fake reviews, and steps to take in removing them.

The Vagaro platform’s review-response feature removes this problem by verifying who actually used your business. That means that there’s no way for someone to comment unless they’ve bought a service or product from you.

Focus on the Positives!

It’s just as important to respond to positive reviews as it is to negative ones. Doing so shows that you value customer satisfaction while giving you a chance to pat yourself on the back and build buzz around your business.

Agree with the reviewer and express gratitude for their kind words. Then you can mention specifically what went into providing such great service: “We’re glad to hear that you liked our reception area. We take pride in making our customers feel welcome and cozy when they arrive.”

This is also a great opportunity to advertise another product or service: “We’re so glad you loved your pilates class; be sure to come in for a spin class sometime.”

Also, be sure to share all that customer love you receive! Give credit to a specific team member for a job well done by tagging them in your response. Staff appreciate positive reinforcement, and you may get future clients interested in working with them.

 ——

Customer reviews are more than just a peanut gallery, and they shouldn’t be ignored. A growing number of people depend on them when searching for local businesses, and how you respond to them says a lot about yours.

Vagaro users now have the capability to respond to their reviewers. Watch this easy-to-follow video illustrating how to use the review response feature on the Vagaro platform and keep our tips in mind.

P.S. If you own or manage a business that charges rent and fees, learn more about how you can do that with Vagaro’s new Automatic Rent & Fees feature.