How to ask for and respond to customer reviews

Nov 2021

Customer reviews have never been more powerful through a combination of the validation new customers expect to see before purchasing together with their ability to find reviews of your products and services, both positive and negative.

Research demonstrates that online reviews now have a significant impact on purchasing decisions, increasing buying commitment by 270% when there are just five positive reviews. What this means is that poor reviews or no reviews are no longer an option for a business to succeed in e-commerce.

How to gather and manage customer reviews

This can be a problem as reviews can be spread far and wide across multiple review sites coupled with the fact that life is 24/7 and so people can leave reviews at any time and conversely – and many users are just too busy to leave reviews at all.

Keeping track of where your reviews are is also really important otherwise you might miss the chance to counter a really bad review or to promote the write up from a very happy customer.

Know your market

One of the first things to understand is where the majority of your customers operate online for both their research and social interactions – which will help you understand where people are likely to leave their reviews. If there is no option on your website, then they may have to resort to Facebook or Twitter to review your product.

You could miss good reviews which will help your brand or worse, not see negative reviews which will seriously damage your business and which you could have turned into a marketing opportunity.

Data reveals that 76% of reviews are either via Google or Facebook.

Key tips to smashing your customer reviews

  • Don’t leave it to chance – make it easy for your customers to leave a review with a dedicated collection system
  • Perfect the art of asking – this will reflect to some degree upon the product and the tone of your branding. Try and tread that fine line between insisting they leave a review or just being too vague, so you don’t bother. The wording should be carefully crafted to reflect your brand’s tone of voice. Keep it personal and friendly, use emojis and emoticons to make your text relevant and down to earth, you can even incorporate memes. Write like you are talking to a friend
  • Avoid generic script – address customers personally and refer to the product they have bought, this is a good way to also develop brand and product loyalty and promote an ongoing relationship. Make the text specific rather than generic
  • Incentivise customers to leave a review – offer a reward to encourage customers to leave a review, this is a double whammy because it promotes a longer-term buyer/customer relationship and should encourage them to come back to your brand again. Easy inducements include a percentage discount on their next purchase, but you can up the anti by offering more if the review is more extensive. Add an image and get 15% off or add a video and receive a 20% discount – this is called a tiered reward strategy. Multiple reviews should also attract higher levels of reward as genuine and repeated reviews from the same person can add greater kudos. It is possible to integrate reviews with customer loyalty packages like LoyaltyLion, one amongst many on offer, which essentially do all the hard work for you blending brand loyalty and customer engagement
  • • Add reviews as part of your customer feedback – SightMill includes features to follow-up good customer feedback with a request to leave a review; it’s a great way to increase your reviews when users are happy to promote you.

Staying on brand

It is really important that the post purchase engagement is very much on brand as this just another link in building strong customer recognition and engagement. 
  • Incorporate your brand colours into the email or review invitation
  • Use your brand graphics that customers will immediately recognise
  • Keep styling seamless from your business website
  • Use brand voice in the copy and if your brand supports it, push the boundaries with a cheeky request or something that will really grab the reader’s attention

Hitting the target

One of the biggest determiners of whether or not customers leave a review is when they receive the email or invitation. This is called the sweet spot.
Customers need enough time to receive the item and use it, mail too early and your request will be wide of the mark.

Organise follow-up emails for those customers who don’t respond first time around. It can be trial and error initially to find out the time frame that works best for your customers and it does depend on the product you are selling and how far away it is travelling.

A good baseline figure for a first email is around 30 days with a follow up 7 days later if that first request goes unanswered.

How to manage negative reviews

Not every customer is going to leave a positive review, but a negative review is a chance to show your company’s true colours based on how you respond and can turn into a real marketing opportunity. This could be to clarify some issue with the product, to replace it if damaged or faulty or to offer a refund of the customer’s money. An unhappy customer won over can be worth several positive reviews. One of the most important things with negative reviews is to set up a system which flags them quickly so you can manage them before they cause a lot of damage.

So, how do you set up a system which can automatically manage and process negative reviews?
  • Allow customers to leave feedback that is not favourable
  • Follow up with a customer support ticket
  • Include support details in your review request so you can catch unhappy customers fast. Packages like Gorgias support businesses in the task of generating and managing customer reviews, integrating customer engagement in an app which blends review harvesting with customer service.

Whilst it is natural to get upset about negative reviews, keep a cool head and don’t retaliate. That is so easy to do online, and you are bound to regret it the next day. 

If you are not sure how to respond, then issue a holding response which assures the customer that they and their comments are of the utmost importance to the company and will be answered shortly. Provide a time frame and don’t deviate from it as you will lose even more credibility.
Respond calmly and professionally. There are loads of online templates and suggested wordings which you can adapt to your own business.

Never use generic wordings or text which has obviously been cut and pasted, lots of warm words that don’t really mean anything and which ultimately, do not answer the customer’s complaint or query. These are called cookie-cutter messages. How many times have we all received one of those emails?!

Address your negative customer by their name and address their complaint directly in your response. Apologise, sympathise and then take ownership of the problem and offer to resolve it. Never make excuses, own up and confess, it works much better as a strategy in the long run even if there were genuine reasons behind this failure. It also means you can deal with a potential complainant much more quickly.

How important is authenticity?

Don’t be tempted to bulk out data particularly in a new business with fake reviews; online customers are savvy and only want authentic reviews from real people who have actually completed a purchase.

Trustpilot is the name many consumers think of when authenticating reviews. Trustpilot can automate your whole review collection process with customisable invitations and reminders sent out to customers after every purchase.

Treat every customer as your friend

It is important not to be fearful of the review process, remember, customers don’t have to leave a review and it takes time and effort to do so. It takes as much time and effort to leave a negative review as a positive one so you should appreciate these customers too.

94% of consumers have said that a negative review has prompted them to avoid a business altogether so it is important to turn that negative review around into something positive as soon as you can.

Whether you like it or not, online reviews are a fact of life in e-commerce so you need to grasp the nettle and set up a system where you can harvest lots of good reviews and proactively manage those that are less than complimentary.


Many businesses fail with customer reviews because they don’t have a system or the right process in place to manage them. Implementing the right platform takes all the effort and worry out of the review process so you can simply reap the benefits. 

Reviews offer a chance to showcase your company, are an extra layer of communication and engagement with customers which can be used later on to promote loyalty and repeat business and, can highlight those essential weaknesses with goods or services which you really need to know about in order to ultimately improve your brand offering.

Customer experience platform SightMill includes features to help you close the loop between customer feedback and reviews. To find out more, get in touch or book a call.