Dissecting Review Responses – How to Respond to Reviews Properly

Dissecting Review Responses – How to Respond to Reviews Properly

Now that almost every business has a digital presence, getting online reviews is a normal part of everyday life. Still, it can be challenging to know how to deal with feedback from your customers. There’s always a temptation to deny damaging accusations, contradict the review, or in some way look less-than-admirable when responding.

Despite the risks, responding to reviews is an opportunity dealerships shouldn’t waste. Many car-buying advice sites actively tell consumers to look at dealership reviews. It can help you build your reputation, attract shoppers, and reassure your clientele that you care about them. Avoid the biggest missteps by not allowing inexperienced employees to handle reviews on your social accounts or website. Having response templates for each review type will empower your social team to manage reviews properly and avoid harming your reputation.


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Respond to Reviews: General Principles

The worst thing you can do is ignore a review altogether. The second-worst thing is to be flippant or dismissive. Begin all responses with gratitude: thank the customer for taking the time to reach out, regardless of whether the review is positive or negative. Always acknowledge the customer and their experience.

Use the customer’s name wherever possible. Since many reviews are written through a Google account, there is often a “real” name attached to the account. Address your reviewer however they signed themselves. Using “Dear Reviewer” or “Dear Customer” risks alienating not only your reviewer, but all customers who read your response.

Potential customers routinely comb through reviews for a product or service before making a purchase. For instance, 91% of consumers aged 18–34 trust online reviews as much as they trust their family and friends’ recommendations. Overall, 89% of consumers read business’ responses to reviews, and 29% always do.

If you don’t address your feedback, you miss the opportunity to soften negative reviews or enhance the visibility of positive ones. Timing matters, too: 85% of consumers think reviews more than 3 months old are irrelevant, and 40% only care about reviews that are 2 weeks old or less. The person who wrote the review wants an even timelier response: 52% of consumers expect a business to respond to their review in 7 days or less--especially if it was a negative review.


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Reliable Review Templates

There are times to mirror the tone of your customer review, such as when they’ve written a humorous review. At other times, you’ll want to soften an overly gushing tone to bring a sense of realistic expectations back to the review section. When you receive a highly negative review, it needs a specific and delicate touch. Having templates to match different review types will help your social media person (or team) create effective, consistent responses to every kind of review.


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The Gusher

This kind of reviewer just can’t stop raving. They may use superlative phrases like best, most amazing, or finest. While it’s great to see a positive review, you have to rein in your customer expectations just a bit. If you let rave reviews build up insane expectations unchallenged, you run the risk of future customers looking for a level of service you can’t realistically deliver.

Example:

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Here’s a format you can use to respond:

Dear [name],

Thank you for taking the time to leave a review! I’m so glad to hear that you thoroughly enjoyed your vehicle-buying and service experiences at our dealership.

Since you’re one of our best customers, we always look forward to seeing you. Come back anytime to receive the same great service we give to all of our customers!

[Manager name or initials] [date]

This response subtly hints that you didn’t go above and beyond only for this customer, and their high praise is partially a matter of perspective. It also denotes that you try to help everyone feel this satisfied when they leave your dealership.

Below, a dealership nails the perfect short-and-sweet response to a thrilled customer:

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The Nit-Picker

This kind of customer has overall nice things to say, but makes sure to throw in a few negative elements. Maybe you didn’t have their desired vehicle color in stock, or you ran out of creamer for the free coffee. Don’t be alarmed, because this is the perfect opportunity to display your commitment to customer service.

Observe:

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A great response would be:

Dear [name], 

Thank you for taking the time to leave a review! I’m sorry to hear that your experience with our new and used cars wasn’t up to par with your previous experiences at other dealerships. We are looking into what it would take to make sure that all of our vehicles fully gassed when leaving the lot.  

We value your patronage, and we want all of our customers to be more than satisfied with the service we offer.  We hope to serve you again. 

[Manager name or initials] [date]

This kind of response acknowledges the problem, thanks the reviewer (instead of blaming them) for making you aware of the issue, and promises to resolve the problem with specificity. This kind of proactive response reassures not only the reviewer, but also prospective customers, that you take concerns seriously and are willing to address them with real action.


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The Sorta-Annoyed

This reviewer may have been having a bad day. Even if you met their needs promptly, external factors may have added to their frustrations and colored their experience. They are venting their annoyance, and they want you to know about it. 

The worst thing you can do is blame the customer. If something happened that you can point to as a truly temporary problem (perhaps your site was loading slowly due to server issues), then you can mention that, and say that it’s now resolved. Otherwise, don’t make excuses for the problem; only offer solutions and reasons why it isn’t likely to happen again.

Observe this example:

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The dealer’s response was pretty generic, and didn’t address the specific problems in the review:

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A better response might have been:

Dear [name], 

Thank you for taking the time to leave a review! I’m so sorry to hear that your experience with your power steering replacement was so dissatisfactory. We have taken another look at our part suppliers to see if we can increase the consistency and quality of our parts. Since the parts were faulty, let me see what I can do about discounting the labor for installation. That sounds very frustrating for you, and I’d like to make it right.  

We value your patronage, and we want all of our customers to enjoy their time with us. We hope you’ll give us another chance, and we look forward to serving you in the future. 

[Manager name or initials] [date]

As always, meet the problems head-on and show that you’re addressing their concerns. This may (hopefully) result in your reviewer editing their rating, but at the very least, you will impress future customers with your willingness to take responsibility.


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The Slice-and-Dice

This quasi-professional reviewer has refined tastes and a large vocabulary. They like making their options known, and doing it in a way that impresses people. They’re likely to use strong language and state things as facts that are probably a matter of opinion. This is one review type to be very careful with. You can’t promise to fix unfixable problems (such as the free showroom wi-fi being slightly too slow) or changing the “too-glaring” colors on your website. 

They might even rake your sales employees over the coals despite everyone behaving admirably. If this is the case, don’t throw anyone to the wolves. You could offer to make sure someone else assists them in the future, gently implying that there was just a mismatch of personalities on the last occasion. You can very subtly frame the customer as hard-to-please, but never call them out as such.

We can’t know if the events here are objectively told, but it’s definitely a zinger:

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A good response might look like this:

Dear Dave, 

Thank you for taking time out of your day to review our dealership. We are very sorry to hear that your experience with our used car appraisal process did not meet your expectations.  We do everything we can to serve our customers and gain their satisfaction. Our goal is to make sure every customer has a great car-buying experience with us!

Please be assured that we’ve taken your words into account, and are working on making sure our website appraisal better matches the in-person one going forward. Next time you visit us, the manager will personally assist you to ensure that there are no problems.   

We value your patronage, and we want all of our customers to enjoy their time with us. We hope you’ll give us another chance, and we look forward to serving you in the future. 

[Manager name or initials] [date]

Tread carefully with this kind of customer, because they might demand special treatment that falls outside of what you can reasonably deliver. If your response fails to satisfy them, you can also ask them to reach out to a manager for a direct chat, and offer a discount or bonus toward a future vehicle purchase or service visit. By offering compensation for their poor experience, there’s a chance they will amend their review to something more positive.


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The Never-Good-Enough

If you receive an angry rant from someone who simply can’t be pleased, or accusing you of things that didn’t quite happen, it’s tempting to ignore it. It’s also tempting to reply with a detailed explanation of exactly how they are incorrect. Resist the urge to do either one of those things. If the blows against you are truly unwarranted, it should be obvious to readers without you pointing it out. If it’s not obvious, you can hint slightly, but never directly butt heads with the reviewer.

Here’s an example:

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The dealer in question did a mediocre job responding. They say they tried to help, and avoided directly accusing the customer, but basically said, “we can’t fix what you don’t bring us.” 

This isn’t the worst possible response, but could definitely have been better:

Dear Betty, 

Thank you for taking time out of your day to review your experience with the vehicle you purchased from us. We are sorry to hear that you didn’t receive the level of service you expected. We reached out to you several times to set up an appointment, but something must have gone wrong, and we weren’t able to connect.  

Perhaps there was a mistake when we took down your contact info. We’re going to double-check that from now on to make sure this never happens again. Please reach out to us and we’ll try to address your issues.   

We value all of our customers and are saddened if someone leaves our dealership less than pleased with us. Hopefully, we can do better and gain your approval the next time you stop by. 

[Manager name or initials] [date]

With this kind of response, you are taking the customer seriously, not going on the defensive, and still promising to serve this customer to the highest standards in the future. If the reviewer is really laying it on thick, you don’t have to roll over and plead guilty, just like this dealer didn’t. Still, being overly defensive gives credence to the bad review, and this response teases that line just a little.


Conclusion

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Hopefully, you don’t get many 1-star reviews, but when you do, handling it with tact and confidence will show your customers that you really care about their concerns. 


Dealing with reviews can be challenging, but it’s an under-utilized way to show your customers your commitment to serving them.

How do you currently handle customer reviews?