We talk all the time about the importance of monitoring and managing your online ratings and reviews. That’s because thanks to the web, your brand is no longer yours and yours alone to protect and promote. It also belongs to consumers who can (and do) speak out about it freely online.

We also know that for a local business owner, reading and responding to reviews can feel like a full-time job. If you’re doing everything right to get noticed online, reviews should be stacking up on a daily basis. So you’ll need a couple things before you can get to work replying.

Get yourself a solid strategy.

In a recent blog, we walked through building a strategy for monitoring and responding to reviews, what to look out for as potential traps, and even some best practices.

The steps, in case you need a recap:
  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Develop your plan of action.
  3. Draft your response.
  4. Avoid making excuses.
  5. Button up your reply.
  6. Make it right.

Pay special attention to #5 in the list of 6 steps – buttoning up (structuring) your reply. Spoiler alert: Each template below will have a similar structure.

Consider using review response templates for various situations.

Once you have a strategy in place, you need to have an idea of what you plan to say in your responses. When your emotions are running high, or your fingers are running out of steam while typing, coming up with a considerate response for each and every review can be tough.

How you respond will depend on each review’s specific context and content. Basically, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to hook you up with a response template that’ll cover absolutely every situation. However, we can definitely start somewhere. Let’s look at 4 common types of reviews you’re likely to receive and go from there.

1. The Happy Customer

Whoops! Chances are you’ve already made the biggest mistake local business owners make when it comes to skimming your online reviews. Have you been ignoring the generic 5-star ratings, the “We loved it!” comments, and other kudos? After all, why respond when someone’s happy with your business? Because happy customers walk right out of your business and on to someone else every day.

By engaging with the positive commenters, you’ll not only surprise already happy customers with continued positive customer service, but you’ll also attract the attention of other browsers. They’ll see a business owner who’s highly engaged with their online audience. That’s a good look. So this one’s easy – reinforce the positive, and thank them.

The template: Hi, (Name)! Thanks for your positive review. We enjoyed the chance to (whatever you did right). We look forward to seeing you again!

Before you move on, here’s a quick caveat. If you have tons of 5 star reviews, you definitely don’t want to use the template above on every single one of them. Consider using it on the lengthier reviews, and leave shorter, more to-the-point replies on the more generic positive reviews. “Thank you,” “See you back soon,” and “We appreciate it!” (or another iteration of your sincere appreciation) will go a long way.

2. The Hard-to-please Novelist

Many restaurateurs (especially those in fine dining) can remember anxiously awaiting a food critic’s review in the following day’s newspaper. These reviews were lengthy, often hyper-critical, and typically pretty self-indulgent.

Today, any patron who enters your store or books an appointment has the same opportunity to share their detailed feedback via social media or online listings sites. With a seemingly large amount of time on their hands, some customers will leave as lengthy of reviews as allowed – some good, some mediocre and some disappointingly critical. Here’s a pretty foolproof way to respond.

The template: Hi, (Name)! Thanks for your detailed review and constructive feedback. We appreciated the opportunity to serve you, and it sounds like we missed the mark on (insert any negative comments here). We hope you’ll give us the chance to make it right next time.

Here’s where it gets tricky. The Hard-to-please Novelist may want to respond back if you engage them on their lengthy review. If they try to get into a back-and-forth with you online, offer up an email address or phone number they can call, and handle the rest over the phone. That’ll help you avoid a sticky situation of “he said, she said.”

3. The Genuinely Wronged Ones

These are the most complex reviews you’ll need to respond to – the ones that are both negative and at the same time…spot on. If you’ve indeed earned a tough-to-read, critical review, it’s time to own up to your misstep.

Here’s the good news: If someone’s taking the time to leave a review, it’s likely because they are hoping their bad experience can be remedied or they genuinely want to warn others of experiencing the same. If you can jump in with a stellar response that demonstrates great customer service, you have the chance to both win this customer back and impress other consumers who may be scrolling through.

The template: Hi, (Name). We’re sorry to hear about your experience. It’s clear we didn’t meet your expectations, and that’s on us. We’re not happy unless you’re happy. If you’re up for it, please give us a shout at (insert phone number or email address) so we can right our wrong.

4. The Silent (but Deadly) Solo Star

Nothing can be more infuriating than a 1-star review with absolutely no commentary or background information. Unfortunately, some busy customers want to make sure you know they’re unhappy, yet they lack the time to type out exactly why.

We’re about to hit you with some potentially disappointing news. If these folks aren’t willing to put in the time to explain their bad experience, it’s probably not worth your time to respond. The better way to counteract these reviews is to encourage new ones. Drown out the bad with the good. And remember, never encourage positive reviews that are dishonest or unethical.

The template: None. As hard as it may be, bite your tongue!