How Responding to Online Reviews Helps Your Brand

In generative search experiences, reviews matter more than ever. AI search results include the qualitative feedback that customers leave on your brand.

By Lauryn Chamberlain

May 24, 2024

4 min
How Responding To Online Reviews Affects Your Business Reputation

For as long as there have been businesses, reviews have played a significant role in the customer journey. (The first known customer complaint dates back nearly 4,000 years.)

Today, search is the main way people seek out reviews: 95% of people consult online reviews before buying a product. But while the importance of reviews hasn't shifted, search itself is changing with the introduction of generative AI. And it's clear that in generative search experiences, reviews matter more than ever. The qualitative feedback that customers leave is placed at the forefront.

What does this look like in practice? Below, you can see an excerpt from Bing's generative search experience, which automatically shows searchers excerpts from reviews at the top of the SERP when they search for a restaurant location.

Mockup image of Bing generative search results including customer reviews in AI generated responses.

Essentially, people no longer need to read multiple reviews to know what customers think about a brand. Instead, AI is going to tell them.

Here's what that means for you — and how you can gain an edge by managing and responding to your reviews.

Step 1: Ready your review management strategy for generative AI

Research shows that having a robust digital presence, with coverage across an extended network of publishers, is critical for brands to win in search today. This is largely because generative search experiences pull information from all across the web (including many small publishers outside of Google, Apple, Bing, and Facebook). If brands aren't actively managing their information broadly and consistently, AI-led models are more likely to present people with inaccurate information following a query, or, worse, not surface information about them at all.

Reviews are one key facet of your digital presence. As a baseline, make sure that your NAP information is correct across every place customers could leave a review. (Again, consistency of brand information across all channels is key.)

Then, to increase your chances of surfacing in AI-generated answers, you need rich, qualitative feedback from your customers across reviews sites.

How can you help encourage this? By providing thorough responses to your existing reviews. This shows customers that you care about their feedback, making them more likely to engage or to leave more detailed reviews in the future. It's also a positive signal to both customers who come across your reviews and to search engines/AI-led models.

Step 2. Respond to reviews. Here’s how.

Which types of reviews should you respond to?

In an ideal world, you should try to respond to all of the reviews you receive. That said, prioritizing those that have the highest impact on customer experience (and SEO performance) is a good starting place. Yext research* suggests responding to:

  • ALL reviews 3 stars and below

  • Reviews 4 stars and above that contain detailed comments

Which sites are the most important? Again, in the age of generative AI, the answer is "as many as possible." But make sure to take into account your vertical, and where your customers are most active, to see the maximum benefit.

Regardless of platform, an effective review response is prompt, thoughtful, and assistive. Provide information that a customer might be seeking, and in the case of a negative review, apologize earnestly and offer the customer a chance to return.

Keep in mind that this only works if you have a process for who on your team(s) addresses the reviews that need a response. It should be a customer care team, a local manager, or a trusted partner — and determining who is responsible is an important part of building your reputation management strategy as a whole.

Click here to learn more.

Review personalization best practices

  • Address each customer by name

  • Acknowledge their feedback: call out specific points they made or parts of their experience that they chose to highlight

  • If they had a negative experience, be empathetic. Apologize, and make your apology about the specific issues they faced. (If possible, offer a path to reconciliation)

  • If an issue is significant, take things offline and provide an email address or phone number for them to discuss with you

Addressing both positive and negative feedback shows a commitment to customer service, which impacts how customers perceive your brand and their willingness to do business with you going forward.

The review response impact

Monitoring and responding to reviews so you can address complaints and provide a better customer experience has a significant impact on your brand reputation. It can help you turn bad news into good news, create customer advocates, gather insights, and at its best, differentiate you from your competition.

Finally, with the rise of generative AI, the qualitative information found in reviews is more important than ever for surfacing in search experiences.

"If you want your guests to return, then responding to reviews is going to be critical to build your reputation and avoid people going to a competitor," said Will Hanaran, Digital Marketing Manager at Fazoli's. "Responding to a customer can be the quickest way to fix something and give the customer the feeling that they are being listened to."

To learn more about how reviews are key to surfacing in search — and what to do next — read our checklist.

*Yext research, 2020

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