By on

person on computer at night

At ReviewTrackers, we spend significant time researching the impact of online reviews – and review responses – on businesses just like yours.

There are plenty of reasons why online customer reviews deserve a response on behalf of the brand or business. If you are already engaging in active review management, then we want to congratulate you. You are on the path to excellence in building your brand and your reputation. But before we go out and celebrate the success and impact of review responses, we must pause for just a moment and examine in depth not only what makes a great response but also the risks associated with thoughtless responses that fail to take into account the long-term value of the online business reputation of any organization.

A poorly answered review will, in the best of cases, disappoint the reviewer in question, and in the worst of cases result in a public relations conundrum that could go viral and tarnish your brand reputation for a very long time. Unfortunately, carelessness is rampant, and many small businesses have greatly damaged their credibility by answering reviews in a less-than-professional manner.

Managing your online reputation is not a matter of good intentions; it is all about superior execution with the goal of brand development and customer acquisition. Let’s take a few minutes to explore the most common review management faux pas.

Credibility Killer No. 1: The Unprofessional Response

Unprofessional is a cover-all characterization, but one that we want to prioritize as the most common and most impactful credibility killer when it comes to responding to your online reviews. Many businesses are hasty and careless in the management of their online reputation. They fall into the trap of trying to engage reviewers without first drafting a document of best practices, or ensuring the person tasked with responding to reviews on behalf of the business is a good ambassador.

Empowerment, knowledge, and diplomacy are needed to handle each review, regardless of the rating with excellence and a clear, long-term marketing vision in mind. Common mistakes include poor grammar, language barriers, unwillingness to be solution-driven, and inconsistency regarding the level of care that is given to each response, thus conveying preferential treatment to some while neglecting others. 

Credibility Killer No. 2: The Insincere Response

The reviewer, along with others reading your review response, cannot read body language associated with your response. With that hindrance in mind, responders must be incredibly careful not to offend through insincerity and other nuances that might be perceived as a personal attack toward the reviewer.

Your main goal is to draft a marketing message that is brand-aligned and builds consumer confidence. When drafting a response, protect your credibility by living up to the golden rule of treating reviewers the way you would like to be treated if you were on the other end of the engagement. This is of particular importance when responding to less-than-perfect reviews. 

Credibility Killer No. 3: The Angry Response

In the past, we have visited the issue of anger and advised our partners to refrain from responding to customer reviews in a format that is incendiary, disrespectful, and unkind. We cannot stress the importance of restraint, even when faced with reviewers that are mean, untruthful, and borderline defamatory. Follow the advice of wise moms across the globe and be the bigger person. Stick to a response that is empathy-driven, seeks to tackle all the issues, and provides the reviewer with some sort of remedy or apology that is appropriate to the severity and relevance of the issues voiced via the online review. Please note that while there are websites that provide merchants a little buffer time to address a concern before the review goes live, the same rules apply to offline responses. Stick to the book when it comes to kindness and customer focus. While it may be momentarily frustrating, it will pay off in the long run.

Credibility Killer No. 4:  The Incomplete Response

We never get tired of reminding our business partners of the importance of research and due diligence. Before you move forward with replying to a review, take a moment to gather all the facts from those involved with the customer experience. A response that is selective, superficial, or otherwise incomplete can offend the reviewer, but most importantly it will make you look highly unprofessional in the eyes of shoppers seeking out consumer reviews prior to making a purchasing decision.

Read the review slowly, and note all the issues brought to light by the reviewer. Tackle each issue in the order conveyed by the reviewer, and always keep in mind that the end goal is making things right. Once you have drafted your response, proof it and make certain that you have covered all your bases and advocated on behalf of your business while taking care of the customer’s concerns.

Credibility Killer No 5: The Impersonal Response

From the start, say no to template responses. This is true for both negative and positive reviews. By posting a template response, you are telling the reviewer and future potential customers that personalized service is not a priority for your business. Even the way you express your gratitude for a five-star review should be personalized and intentional, highlighting at least a couple of the points brought up by the reviewer.

Impersonal responses can be more damaging than no response at all. If you can’t take a couple of minutes to focus on each customer, then you need to go back to the drafting board and reevaluate why it is that you are engaging in review and reputation management.

Check out how NOT to respond to online reviews if you value your customers and want your business to grow.

We are all constantly learning. If in the past you have handled your reviews in a way that is less than excellent, it is never too late to have a fresh start. Take a moment to audit your review responses and look for the behaviors we listed above. If you see any, then learn from your past mistakes. Move forward equipped with a great review and reputation management strategy combined with state-of-the-art online tools designed to make this task easier than ever before.

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.


  1. Mark Dee

    It really pi… me off when I get generic response. It’s like they didn’t even read what I wrote and they think that I wouldn’t notice. It’s better to leave it unanswered.

  2. melg

    Credibility Killer No. 3: The Angry Response

    Often unprofessional, but FUN 😉

  3. Vince

    Customer is always right – this motto is so unfair. An angry customer can say anything – lie, be rude, etc; but your response needs to be in “Thank you” form, no matter if the customer IS really right.