Helping Win Hearts & Minds on
the Battlefields of Online Media

TYPES of Reviews & Responses


    With attack reviews,
    we seek to torpedo the
    reviewer's credibility

    Not all reviews are equal, and different types require different kinds of responses.

    Completely positive reviews/ postings
    No response needed, or desired, in most cases. Bad advice in trade media stories says. You should respond to every review. This means that for all the positive reviews, you're just thanking people for their reviews. Nobody's interested in reading this. They also won't read your important responses to negative reviews, when you respond to every review. Responding to every positive review makes you seem like an ingratiating, babbling dish rag—a target for review blackmailers.

    If the content of a review really lends itself to raising an important key message, then it's worthwhile. But the response should be succinct and not ingratiating or contrived.For example, the review effuses about how your evening office hours are convenient for making an appointment after work, and you respond, Starting next month, we'll also be open on Saturdays from 10 to 4. Thanks for your kind words. (Note: you need to start with the useful info; otherwise, it won't get read. Thank them afterwards.)

    TripAdvisor is kind of an exception, because from our analysis, responses, especially lengthy responses, can help your rankings within TripAdvisor; but even here, we counsel being thoughtful. Also, some corporate policies demand responding to every review, and if that's the case, we do our best to make each response sound personal, individualized to the review.

    Positive to mostly positive reviews/ postings containing negative critiques
    This is a judgement call. Is the review balanced? Or is it damning you with faint praise? Many negative critiques in positive reviews are best left unanswered. It depends how important they are, and do they get repeated in other reviews?

    If they get repeated in other reviews, you probably have some s'plainin' to do. An example is high price. Everything about your service was great, they say, except the cost. You need to address this in a credible way—usually around the idea about how your service or product is different from similar services and products, that higher quality costs more, and you are not the low-cost provider in your catgory. (We can help you respond to pricing complaints. We're good at it. See our dentist case study.)

    Attack reviews/ postings intended to punish and destroy
    These can be from disgruntled customers. Or sociopaths and narcissists who never became customers, but want to destroy you because you forgot to return their call, or your parking lot was full, or you couldn't immediately seat their party of 8 when they showed up on Saturday night without a reservation. They can also be from jealous competitors.

    Many attack reviews originate from a valid negative experience. But then the customer loses all perspective. Their raging ego takes over and it's more important to hurt the business than anything else—even when offered full financial reimbursement. They can't be reasoned with, or bribed. They are inconsolable. Our contractor case study and healthcare provider case study are two examples of this.

    On review sites with ratings, these are your 1-star and 2-star reviews. The 2-stars are intended to look objective, credible, rather than a rant. So they may be even more calculating and damning than the 1-star reviews. Whether 1-star or 2-star, these reviews are oftentimes cleverly written soas to do maximum damage to your business. It's not that the reviewers are such great writers, but they instinctively know what to say to frighten consumers from your business, and how to come across as being somewhat detached and objective, to be more credible. To this purpose, they say things like, I really wanted to like this place. Or, It used to be good....

    Responding effectively to attack reviews—to counter them and neutralize their impact, and even turn them into marketing opportunities—requires communications expertise. It's a battle for the hearts and minds of the reader. With these types of reviews, there's usually an absolute winner and an absolute loser. Credibility is the body armour. In responding, we seek to torpedo the reviewer's credibility. Our case studies illustrate what we've said here.

    Negative reviews/postings, based on honest experience and intent
    This is the most complex area, with a wide range of scenarios. Regardless of how valid the review or post, it needs to be responded to in a way that minimizes the damage to your business to the greatest extent possible. (And turn it into a marketing opportunity!)

    Sometimes your business screws up, and the customer writes a legitimate negative review. If they write it immediately after their experience, the review may well be the best haymaker they can throw. But then give them a little time, and they calm down. You may be able to reach out to them with a private email and set things right. We will help with private communications to reviewers. The reviewer may write an updated review, or amend their original review.

    Regardless, when there's a legitimate complaint, it's oftentimes best to acknowledge what went wrong and why. But when you do so: 1) do not grovel and be abject, and 2) turn it into a marketing opportunity with key messages about your business.

    Other times, a negative review is just the reviewer's opinion.

    Your restaurant is Michelin rated and your chef de cuisine just won the James Beard Outstanding Chef award... but hey, 22-year-old Suzy Chung didn't like your braised osso buco and thought it was overkill to put both octopus and squid in her friend's Tuscan seafood stew. She took you to task on Yelp with a 2-star rating. Suzie's got Elite status, so she must know what she's talking about. Afterall, she's written more than 4,000 reviews in the past 3 years. She's a reviewing machine. She even reviews gas stations and fast food joints. You're not alone. Here are 1-star Yelp reviews of monumental historical landmarks. This is the world of mob-sourced media.

    Whatever the review, we make your case in the most powerful way we can. Sometimes contrition is effective, sometimes humor, sometimes sarcasm, and oftentimes irony. It depends on the review. Most important is to avoid confusion and defensiveness, which usually results from a point-by-point rebuttal. We have much more effective strategies and communication techniques.

    Blackmail reviews/ postings to intimidate you into refunds, discounts, free products and service, or cash
    If you've not yet been a victim of review blackmail, you'd be surprised how common it is. We're talking about customers who try to scam you. They weren't completely happy with your service, or pretend to be, so they rip you apart artfully, and when you communicate privately with them, they let you know they could be satisfied with a refund, free product or some kind of payment. Then they change their review to be positive or less negative, or remove it altogether.

    (You can see that the private communications with customers are important and sensitive. They might even take your private communication and post it publicly to use against you. It may be helpful to use our services in writing or reviewing/editing your private communications to negative reviewers.)

    Some of the worst cases involve contractors, because so much money is involved. Some clients give in and pay up, because they think it's expedient. For those who don't, we write strong responses. (See our ScamBrat case study.)

    An important point is that the responses on a review-site profile page project an image, and you want to make sure that image does not encourage scam artists. This is why we stress the importance of not appearing servile (the customer is always right) in responses, or to look like you're obsessed with your reviews.