ImagePeople are turning to online reviews for advice—on where to eat, what to order, where to stay, who to call. For many business owners, dealing with these reviews poses a major challenge. Given the increasing popularity and influence of sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google+ Local, and Foursquare, how do you manage—and, if necessary, change—what people are saying on the Internet about your business?


To help you get started, follow these tips on how to respond to online reviews.


Say thank you


These two words go a long way. Regardless of whether customers gave you five stars or one, thank them for taking the time to give you their feedback. Saying “thank you” is also a great first step towards building goodwill with your loyal supporters and harshest critics.


Don’t get into an online catfight

 

Resist the urge to write angry, emotional responses to negative reviews. These criticisms (especially the unfair ones) can hurt, but they’re nothing but a pinprick compared to the damage that an unprofessional, ill-tempered review response can inflict on your reputation. Remember: the internet is written in ink.


Write from the heart

 Don’t give customers reason to think you’re just paying lip service and delegating customer issues to your publicist. A sincere, humanized response to a review is more effective than a generic, buzzword-filled statement. If you can, use first names—“Hey Michael, it’s me Edith from the Royal Chateau and I manage the B&B with my husband Ed”—and show your eagerness to know your customers (and critics) on a more personal level.

Keep it simple

No need to write long-winded responses that explain how you’re right and the customer is wrong. No need to bribe reviewers with freebies and discounts, either. Ideally, your response should be polite, professional, simple, and straight to the point.

Address the issue

Online reviews often shed light on what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and what you can improve on. If a reviewer points out a specific problem that was responsible for making the customer experience unsatisfactory, then tailor your response to show you’re addressing this problem—that you’re “on it”. By doing so, you can reassure the reviewer (as well as other potential customers) that your business values feedback, and that you care about making the experience better next time.