10 Characteristics of a Well-Written Review Response

In metrics-based brand management, one of the most important steps of the process is benchmarking.

Having a clear idea of the standard by which your processes, services, and results will be measured can help in any facet of a business, but it is particularly important in areas that directly affect the customer. Review responses on third-party review websites are now a must-have for any business that aspires to have a solid online reputation. Responses speak of due diligence and commitment to delivering a customer experience conducive to retention, loyalty, and growth.  If you have been engaging in a two-way dialogue with your customers and potential shoppers at large through review responses, then you need to know how to craft a review response that addresses customer centricity, brand development, SEO objectives, and message amplification.

We see plenty of review responses which are amateurish in tone, and borderline dangerous. If you are working on implementing a way to evaluate and improve the tone, style, content, and technique of your review responses on third-party websites like Yelp, Tripadvisor, Google+, and OpenTable, then read on as we count down the 10 characteristics of a well-written review, regardless of industry.

  1. A Well-Written Response Can Respectfully Disagree and Provide a Way Out

When someone has a poorly based complaint that is unfair and the result of the customer not having a clear understanding of product or policy, and the business wishes to respond with a clarification that is in direct disagreement with the complaint, it must be done politely. If the truth and the facts are on your side, then you still need to be gracious and frame your response in a way that conveys relational interest with the customer and leaves the door open for additional business. Even if you are 100 percent correct and the customer is 100 percent wrong, it is never a good idea to back a person into a corner without giving him or her a way out. Craft a response that points to the facts but also coveys the value of the relationship. Respectfully disagreeing is all about balance.

  1. A Well-Written Response Banks on Emotional Connections

Both negative and positive review responses are an invitation to establish emotional bonds with someone who is already vested in your business. Write a response that appeals to the needs and wants of the reviewer and seeks to connect emotionally by conveying affinity and shared objectives. Let your customers know that you are on their team.

  1. A Well-Written Response Expands on the Best That Your Business Has to Offer

Did you know that almost 8 out of 10 consumers read reviews prior to engaging with a business? With this in mind, and taking into account that most shoppers will at least read five customer reviews, the way you respond is likely to define whether the shopper is likely to convert into a customer. Craft responses that not only tackle the issues the reviewer brought to light, but also expand to discuss the features that make your business desirable and worthy of patronage time and time again. Did the reviewer highlight your killer Mimosa?  Consider expanding on your response by talking about your happy hour and Sunday brunch. A shopper is far more likely to read your response than to head to your website and review your overall offering. Give the reader a taste of things to come, and hopefully capture his or her attention and business.

  1. A Well-Written Response Is Brand Sensitive and Consistent

We really need to give a special emphasis to consistency across all responses. Consistency in review responses can be achieved by making sure every single reviewer is treated equally and given the same level of attention, the same types of remedy, and the same options. In addition to making sure there is equanimity in how businesses deal with customers, those responding to reviews must make a concerted effort to always stick to the brand voice and find ways to encourage top-of-mind awareness.

  1. A Well-Written Response Aims to Restore Relationships

Customer acquisition is pricey, and marketing budgets are best utilized in expanding a business instead of dealing with a high churn rate. Responses that seek to restore relationships and right wrongs by setting the stage for a second chance are evidence of an online reputation heading in the right direction.

  1. A Well-Written Response Is Crafted with Clarity

A review response will be read by a variety of people from many backgrounds. Stick to language that is conducive to clarity and simplicity. Refrain from industry lingo, colloquialisms, or verbosity. There is great beauty and effectiveness in responses written with simple and intentional language.

  1. A Well-Written Response Follows Host Policies

Smart business leaders know how to play by the rules. The best way to get ahead in the online-reputation game is by making sure you are familiar with the policies and procedures associated with each of the host websites. A response that follows the host-website rules will be quickly moderated and approved for posting, allowing for a more agile interaction with the reviewer. Learning and following the rules will give you a competitive advantage and help you maintain a good standing with the host.

  1. A Well-Written Response Is Grammatically Correct

Conciseness, clarity, and proper grammar are essential in conveying professionalism. Make it a point to edit your responses and, if needed, have a second set of eyes look at each response prior to posting. Poor grammar impacts credibility and leads to confusion.

  1. A Well-Written Review Response Is Relevant

You need to listen to the voice of your customers carefully and intentionally. More than we care to report, we find review responses that have no relevance to the issues raised by the reviewer. Instead, the brand representative tasked with responding to reviews uses a template and responds per the star ratings. If 4+, the template expresses gratitude; if less than three stars, the response is a generic apology. Lack of personalization and relevance to the issues or compliments raised by the reviewer is borderline criminal and a terrible reputation-management faux pas. The tone of your response and level of attention to detail expressed through relevance shows your commitment toward customer retention and loyalty. If you are going to respond, then do it as if you had the customer in front of you, looking eye to eye. The reviewer deserves your respect as conveyed by how you decide to package and deliver your review response.

  1. A Well-Written Response Is More Than Words

We love to leave the best for last. If there is one thing you can do to cause a great impression, it is to actually follow through. Do what you promised in your response, particularly if you are dealing with a disappointed customer. A review response that is not backed up by actions is worse than no response at all. Let your word be as good as money.

Author: Crystal Shuller –  Article originally published on Review Trackers blog.