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A good or bad reputation can mean the difference between a business thriving and expanding, or closing their doors for good. In the digital age, a business’s reputation is controlled by consumers using online review platforms like Yelp, Google and Facebook to announce the quality of their business publicly. The good news is that this lets businesses easily monitor and manage their online reputation, a power they can put to good use by responding in a timely manner to the reviews they receive.

While negative reviews often get this most attention, positive reviews are as or more important! It’s important to respond to positive reviews to thank customers for taking the time to review your business and to encourage others to do the same.

With 92% of consumers reading reviews online, businesses can’t afford to sit on the sidelines. An effective response will help ensure that a happy first time customer becomes a regular, and 70% of complaining customers will come back if you resolve the complaint in their favor. The first step is engaging with them.

Since only 1% of users actively create content, it’s a pretty big deal when a user creates positive content about your business (Yelp). This customer enjoyed their experience with the business so much that they actually took a chunk of their personal time to tell you, and subsequently the online world, all about it! So whether you thank them for visiting the business, or for writing the review, it’s important to show your appreciation. While only 1% write the reviews, 92% of consumers read them, which means a good word written on a public review platform is a big drop in your business’ reputation bucket.

It’s simple. Thank the customer, name drop, promote and tell the customer what to do!

Say thank you and be specific.

No one would let a compliment pass them by in real life. Apply that same principle to a review response! And make sure to reiterate your customer’s compliment. This lets the customer know that a real person took time out of their day to acknowledge them, and that feels good. In addition to being mentioning something specific from their post, be concise. Other potential customers are more likely to read your response if it is short and to the point. Write in your own voice – this is not an essay or formal text!

Respond quickly. Responding to a review months after it was posted is almost as bad as not responding to it at all. A late reply means the reviewer likely does not care about their experience at your business anymore, and the slow response time makes it look like you didn’t care about it either. Responding in a timely manner shows attentiveness and a level of caring that your customers will appreciate. If possible, tag the reviewer to further show your appreciation!

Did the reviewer thank one of your servers for their exceptional service? You should thank them, too, in your response. An employer that cares about their employees will seem more genuine, and consumers will appreciate your level of humanity and gratitude. This will also improve staff morale, which in turn will make your business better overall.

Thanks for the great review, Tonia! A lot of love and hard work goes into our scones, so we’re glad you and your taste buds enjoyed the experience.

Use the business name and keywords.

You want positive reviews to be seen by consumers searching your business. Similarly, relevant keywords in the review will also improve the search ranking, and get the positive word seen by other potential customers.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to drive your business up in search results—positive reviews work wonders in search. By repeating the business name in your response, the review is more likely to appear in search results. Referring to your business name, location and category (restaurant, coffee shop, hotel, etc.) helps index that review online. Build business credibility and increase social proof online when you respond to reviews.

Thanks, Marcy! Here at [Business Name], we care about making a match that lasts, and strive to be the best [pet store] in [city name].

Market, market, market.

Opportunities like this don’t come around every day, so make the most of a positive review by throwing in a dash of marketing. A lot of eyes will be on this response, and now’s your chance to get the reviewer to come back for more, and coax other readers into wanting a taste of your business as well. You can mention a new feature, promotion or even just some of the work that went into their great experience.

Is your business famous for a certain secret sauce? Are you having a promotion next month? A review response is a great place to get the good word out. When someone raves about the great job your carwash did on their car, promote the benefits of a membership card. If they like your chicken wings, tell them how great a side of onion rings complements that menu item. Recommend a particular beer or drink that pairs well with a dinner they have enjoyed.

Share your views in your social media channels, on your website, and even in your email blasts. It’s free marketing material. Your happy customer testimonials can attract new customers to your business. Someone who feels undecided in their decision about which business to patronize is more likely to choose the business with the positive review over the one with no reviews or negative reviews.

Thanks for stopping by, Chris! The fettuccine alfredo is one of our most well-loved dishes, so we’re glad to hear that you loved it too. If you’re a big pasta fan, why not come try out our new spaghetti carbonara?

Give your customer a task.

Not as scary as it sounds. End your response by inviting your customer to take action with their review.

Suggesting a return visit for more great experiences, or asking them to share the review shows that you’re engaged in their satisfaction and care about their business. Spreading the word yourself is great, but it means more when it comes straight from the satisfied customer, so ask them to share! Or encourage a different action and invite them back for another great experience. This will encourage not only the reviewer, but also anyone who reads the review to visit your business.

Invite them to try something different the next time they visit, or bring a friend! Incentive this even further by offering them a discount, a buy one/get one offer, or a freebie on their next visit. Referring a friend to your service could mean giving them some sort of finders fee, perhaps a discount off their next purchase with you, or simply a cash reward.

Next time, try pairing the coffee with one of our blueberry muffins for a truly delicious start to your morning!

As you can see, there’s a ton of potential hidden in a positive review response. With a little bit of effort, your response to online views can result in an increase in your customer base, customer loyalty, and company’s SEO. At a price of zero dollars, you can’t afford not to take advantage of this powerful marketing strategy. Instead of counting on one paid advertisement to do all the work for you, each review is an opportunity to sell your business!