Best Practices for Responding to Reviews on Google, Facebook & Yelp

Learn 12 best practices for responding to reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp. Responding to online reviews is part of customer service just as much as answering the phone and responding to messages and emails.

Responding to online reviews is part of customer service just as much as answering the phone and responding to messages and emails.

Our customers need to know that we're listening and ready to help them if there's a complaint, especially since reviews and responses are publicly posted.

When I see businesses failing to respond to positive feedback, failing to respond to negative feedback and failing to manage their brand’s reputation — I see a competitive opportunity for my clients.

Online reviews provide valuable customer feedback and responding to those reviews improves customer relationships, elevates the perception and reputation of your business and may even generate buzz. You’re also helping potential customers who are reading your public responses.

In this post, I’m going to share 12 best practices for responding to reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp.

1. Be Professional

List of positive adjectives for responding professionally

Is the customer always right? No, but the more you invest in your customers, the more they’ll invest in your business. Show you’re genuinely interested in your customers and want them to have a positive and memorable experience.

A Professional Response

  • Polite
  • Friendly
  • Respectful
  • Grateful
  • Empathetic
  • Optimistic
  • Committed
  • Sincere

Pro Tip
Use the customer’s first name to convey a friendly, but polite response. Also, vary responses to avoid sounding like a template.

2. Be Clear, Concise & Error-Free

While responding to reviews from your mobile device is incredibly convenient, good-intentioned responses can easily be miscommunicated (i.e. misunderstood, not understood or misinterpreted). You may not know the background, native language or education level of the customer who wrote the review.

For best results, use contractions, proper punctuation, capitalization and avoid acronyms. Write at a nine-grade reading level.

Pro Tip
Proofread your review before posting to ensure it's clear and free of spelling and grammar errors. If necessary, use the free version of Grammarly.

3. Acknowledge Positive Reviews

Example of how to respond to a positive review

By acknowledging positive reviews as well as negative, you can demonstrate that you value all feedback. Besides, responding to positive reviews is a second opportunity to continue to develop a relationship with customers and further cement your brand as the preferred choice.

For example, a business owner might respond to a satisfied customer by simply saying the following:

“Thank you for the lovely review, Beth! We look forward to seeing you and your family every Saturday!”

4. Ignore Petty Complaints

Example of a petty complaint

Being able to accept criticism is part of business. Not every customer is going to love your product or service and some will always complain.

For example, if a customer wrote, “The salt shaker was cracked” or “They were closed on Black Friday” — ignore petty complaints like this. They’re trivial and most potential customers reading these reviews will disregard them.

Pro Tip
Watch out for petty or minor complaints that become trends. If several reviews mention there was too much mayonnaise in the sandwich, then you clearly have an issue that needs to be addressed.

5. Address Major Complaints

Example of how to respond to a major complaint

Complaints might be posted in the form of criticism, errors, mistakes, unfriendliness, dissatisfaction, unknown business policies, etc. It's also possible that someone is harassing or trolling a business with the intention to damage their reputation.

Being able to switch from business owner to diplomat is essential in order to maintain your brand’s reputation. Managing delicate situations isn't just to address a particular customer, it's also to satisfy potential customers who are reading reviews and responses on Google (Search and Maps), Facebook and Yelp.

Address major complaints by apologizing. Ask specific questions to get more information or clarification and satisfy the customer next time or move the conversation to a private channel.

For example, a business owner might respond to a dissatisfied customer by writing the following:

“Wendy, I apologize for the experience you had at this location. We’d like to learn more about your visit and make things right. Please call us at 678-555-1212.”

Transferring serious complaints to phone or email demonstrates your determination to address complaints and moves the conversation to a private channel. As a result, most customers will appreciate this dedication and potential customers reading these responses will conclude that the business was committed to resolving the complaint.

Pro Tip
If you believe a review is inappropriate, flag it on Google, report it on Yelp or report it on Facebook.

6. Summarize Multiple Complaints

When a customer has multiple complaints in a single review, avoid addressing each complaint, point by point. For example, imagine a customer made multiple complaints like the following:

“Ever since new management took over the staff is rude, the tables are dirty, the trash is always full. They close early on Thursdays too! New management has even stopped accepting point cards! I'm never going back!”

Instead of addressing each complaint, the business owner could keep his response short and effective by addressing the entire review.

“I'm sorry that we've disappointed you, Kathy. We always strive to maintain a friendly and tidy store. I’ll personally review each of your complaints to ensure our store is better than ever — and we’ll continue to honor loyalty cards until 2019.”

7. Write for Your Audience

Be mindful that potential customers are evaluating your business based on review and responses. What may feel like a private conversation is actually a public platform on Google, Facebook and Yelp. Write for your target audience — not just a single customer.

Pro Tip
Look at other reviews customers have written. How often do they write a review? Are the reviews mostly positive, negative or mixed? A little research can sometimes provide valuable insights into how you should or should not respond.

8. Share New and Relevant Information

Example of how to share new and relevant information

When appropriate, use the opportunity to provide customers with new and relevant information. They’ll appreciate learning more about your business. For example, a business owner might respond to a review with the following:

“We’re thrilled that you loved our award-winning Key Lime Pie! It’s actually our most popular pie.”

9. Don’t Offer Incentives

I recently visited an AT&T store and noticed the following 2 signs:

“Did you have a 5-star visit with us today? If so leave us a (Google) review and receive 15% off an accessory.”

“Like our Facebook Page to receive 15% off an accessory and learn about exclusive AT&T promotions.”

Offering incentives like money, discounts, coupons, gift cards and more in exchange for ratings and reviews is against the posting guidelines on Google, Facebook and Yelp. Review gating (prohibiting negative reviews or selectively soliciting positive reviews) is also against Google’s guidelines.

Customers need to trust that reviews are honest and unbiased otherwise, they're just a bunch of store-bought ratings and creative compliments. Instead of incentivizing customers, just ask them to leave a review and respond by inviting them back:

“Thank you for the great review, George! We look forward to seeing you again when the next iPhone is released!”

10. Don’t Respond Emotionally

Reviews are customer opinions and you don't want to emotionally respond to a negative opinion even when it’s a personal attack. Not only will customers be more upset and tell others, but an emotional response could be visible on Google, Facebook and Yelp for years — and could significantly hurt your brand’s reputation. Even worse, they could copy and paste your response all over the internet.

If a customer leaves a negative review, wait before responding. Give it an hour, 5 hours or 24 hours. For example, here's an emotional response from a business owner who should have waited to respond:

“It’s your own fault! If you would’ve read the sign at the entrance, then you would’ve known that we don’t allow pets. Blame yourself!”

Here's a response from a business owner that cooled off before responding:

“Hi Pam! I’m sorry we weren’t more clear about our pet policy when you arrived. We have a sign at the entrance that says, “Pets Prohibited,” but it’s clear we need to make this sign more obvious to our customers. When you return, I hope you’ll see how we’ve listened to your feedback and improved the location of the sign.”

11. Don’t Advertise

Have you ever known someone who gives compliments that are disguised as requests? It feels like they always have an ulterior motive. That’s exactly how it feels when a business uses a response to advertise — manipulative.

Aim to be a helpful friend, not an annoying salesperson. Google even states in their recommended policies that “your reviewers are already customers, so there’s no need to offer incentives or advertisements.”

For example, if a customer wrote about how much she enjoyed a latte, the business owner wouldn’t want to respond by posting the following:

“We’re so glad you enjoyed the latte! Did you know that we’re having a Black Friday sale on all our coffee beverages? From Friday at 7:00 am. Our large Pumpkin Spice Latte will be just $2.00. Start your holiday shopping with a latte in hand!”

A better response would be the following:

“We’re so glad you enjoyed the latte, Penny! Come back anytime! We have lots of other coffee drinks you'd probably love.”

12. Use the Mobile Apps

Use the free mobile apps from Google, Facebook and Yelp, so you're able to respond to reviews when away from your computer. Don’t forget to enable notifications.

Pro Tip
If you haven't claimed your free business listings on Google, Facebook and Yelp — then you won't be able to respond to customer reviews.

Wrap Up

You just learned 12 best practices for responding to reviews on Google, Facebook and Yelp. Follow these best practices to improve customer relationships, manage your brand’s reputation and help potential customers who are reading your responses.

Best Practices for Responding to Reviews on Google, Facebook & Yelp first appeared on the Bento Sites Blog by Jeff Shibasaki.

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means that if you click a link and make a purchase Bento Sites will earn a very small commission — at no additional cost to you.

Close-up of Jeff Shibasaki wearing a black hat

Jeff Shibasaki

Jeff's the founder of Bento Sites. He's a strategic web designer that specializes in visual design, content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) on Webflow and Squarespace.