That’s how many customers say online reviews factor into their buying decisions.

  • 90% read online reviews before visiting a business.
  • 88% trust these reviews to help them decide on their purchase.
  • And 84% trust online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation.

Don’t have any reviews? 8% of customers don’t care.

The other 92%? They care quite a lot.

When we start a business, something that we’ve poured our heart and soul into is on the line for praise and criticism. Customer feedback can be wonderful. And it can be painful. Either way, it matters.

But… Every review is an opportunity for growth.

Yep, even the most awful ones.

We can’t control what people say about us, and we certainly shouldn’t delete bad reviews when they inevitably appear.

What we can control is our response.

In fact, how we react to a review matters just as much as the review itself.

Because our response is a snapshot of something much bigger: our values, our service, our personality, our brand.

A snapshot visible to millions of people.

Here’s how to respond effectively

  • Address a person by their name
  • Thank the customer for taking the time to share their thoughts
  • Keep it simple. Speak as in real life, and with short sentences too
  • Be specific, and don’t repeat yourself. Don’t use automated, copy/pasted replies.

What not to do? Don’t defend yourself. It doesn’t work.

Being defensive will not just alienate the customer who wrote the critical review, but also all others reading it.

Your reply can change the customer’s mind — and everyone else’s in the process….

So how to do it better?

Make it genuine

Don’t just say “sorry.” Show that you mean it.

Take full responsibility. Let your apology reflect that you a) accept the issue b) will resolve it and c) will ensure it doesn’t happen again.

A reply that is genuinely warm and considerate will take the wind out of the angry customer’s sails.

Don’t leave it to the intern

Fetching coffees, fact-checking… there are plenty of tasks that should be passed down the ranks. Replying to negative reviews isn’t one of them.

An apology will carry more weight when it comes from up high. The involvement of a senior staff member shows that we take an issue seriously.

Respond quickly — but not too quickly

This is a tricky one. Take too long to respond, and the unhappy customer (plus anyone else who’s reading) may think we are trying to sweep the bad review under the carpet by ignoring them.

But if we are too hasty, our spur-of-the-moment response can be overly emotional — or factually incomplete.

Pause. Think. Reply. Be accurate and helpful.

Plus, bad reviews are good for business

Bad reviews…

  • Manage expectations, giving customers a realistic picture of what they can expect from our product.
  • Prove our positive reviews are real. If a business has only good reviews, something’s off…
  • Help us improve. Customers are telling us how to refine our product and communicate with them better.
  • Provide free business insights. Companies spend $1000s on market research — but this criticism costs nothing.
  • Equal more conversions. When browsing online, most customers actively seek out negative reviews over positive ones.

From my own experience, the last one is important 👆

You better have bad reviews. And you better have good replies to them. Otherwise, you just look like a scammy spam factory.

Reply to good reviews too

Don’t neglect to respond to positive reviews. These customers are already on our side, so why bother? Here’s why: you could turn fans into brand ambassadors.

Thanking customers who already love our business is a win-win tactic. They feel appreciated, which will strengthen their loyalty. We just get a free referral, so why not express our appreciation?

How to get more reviews?

  • Say “Please”. 70% of people will follow through with a review when asked. You can solicit a review in an email following a transaction, in a subtle pop-up, as part of a remarketing campaign, or in person. Make sure the request is as unobtrusive as possible.
  • Make it easy. The harder it is to leave a review, the less likely people are to do it. With every extra step you add to the process, someone will decide they can’t be bothered to complete it. Having an option of simply clicking a star-rating and posting is a great place to start. Oh, and make the process mobile-friendly, so that users can write reviews on the go.
  • Say “Thanks”. A review is a favor. Many businesses offer incentives to encourage reviewing, reward loyal customers and drive growth. These take many forms, from a simple promo code to the chance to win a prize in exchange for a review.

How to turn haters into fans and fans into brand ambassadors


PS. Let’s stay on topic. I want to practice what I preach. Can you please review this newsletter? A few words is all I’m after. Just hit reply and write whatever comes to mind. Good or bad. Thanks!