How to Respond to a 3-Star Rating or a Neutral Review

How to Respond to a 3-Star Rating or a Neutral Review

This week, we’d like to shift gears and focus on an often-overlooked aspect of review response: responding to neutral reviews, such as 3-star ratings on Google or Yelp.


We’ll explain why it’s important, how to do it effectively, and how our review response service can help your business.


Why Should My Company Respond to Neutral Reviews?

According to a recent survey, approximately 18% of consumers — nearly one in five — did not receive an owner response after reviewing a local business in 2020.


According to the same survey, only 35% of consumers received a response “for every review they wrote,” compared to 21% who received responses to “over half” and another 21% who received responses to “at least one review.”


In an ideal world, 100% of consumers would report receiving responses to every review, not 35%. So, what’s going on here?


Why do so many reviewers receive responses to some but not all of the comments they leave for businesses?


There are many possible explanations, ranging from COVID-related understaffing to unclaimed Google Business Profile (GBP) listings.


One possible explanation is that businesses prioritize negative or positive reviews while paying less attention to neutral feedback such as three-star ratings.


For example, search “how to respond to reviews” or “responding to reviews” and compare how many hits include the words “positive” or “negative” in their titles versus terms like “neutral” or “3-star.” Is there a distinction?


Perhaps your company is currently pursuing a similar strategy.


After all, isn’t dealing with unhappy customers and negative reviews more important than responding to lukewarm comments?


No, not always. While it may appear that the most extreme reviews should be prioritized, that type of selective triage strategy is insufficient to give you a competitive advantage.


On the contrary, it is critical to respond to all of your commenters, regardless of their initial tone or attitude toward your brand.


Here are four reasons why you should treat neutral reviews as seriously — and as diligently — as you do 1- and 5-star ratings:


  1. Responding to any kind of review — positive, negative, or neutral — “can help build customer trust,” which affects your bottom line. But don’t just take our word for it; that was directly quoted from GMB.
  2. Responding to reviews can boost your local SEO, potentially allowing you to rank higher in “local pack” results (meaning the top three results relevant to a search).
  3. Neutral reviews can provide opportunities to promote services, discounts, or other exciting company news that would be inappropriate (or impossible) to include in negative review responses.
  4. Last but not least, consider another quote from Google: “When you reply to reviews, it shows that you value your customers and their feedback.” Being friendly and helpful in your response can turn a neutral attitude toward your brand into a positive one.

The majority of unbiased business reviews fall into one of Three Categories


  1. The balanced and objective review. The reviewer says something positive about your company, but also something negative: they’re pleased with one aspect of their experience but disappointed or frustrated with another.
  2. The true unbiased review. The reviewer expresses neither positive nor negative feelings, instead writing something like, “This place is okay,” or, “The service was alright. Not bad, but not spectacular.”
  3. The review of non-sequitur. Occasionally, you may receive a customer review that seems completely unexpected. Its contents could be cryptic, bizarre, or downright perplexing, such as a comment about something completely unrelated to your company.

Let’s take a closer look at some strategies and considerations for responding to different types of neutral reviews.


Responding to a Neutral Balanced Review

This type of review combines a positive and a negative comment into one, requiring you to respond to both.

That means you must strike a sometimes difficult balance between graciously accepting praise, sincerely apologizing, and providing satisfying solutions.

If you focus too much on the negative in your response, it will undermine and overshadow the positive comments about your business; if you focus too much on the positive, the reviewer will feel as if you didn’t read (or worse, willfully ignored) elements of their comment.

So, how do you strike the proper balance? While each response must be personalized, the following four basic elements can help provide the foundation for a successful review response:


  1. A word of thanks. Greet or acknowledge the reviewer, establishing a friendly, personal tone for the remainder of your response. “Thank you for sharing your feedback, [Reviewer]!” for example. OR, “Hello Joey, thank you for rating and reviewing [Business Name].”
  2. Your gratitude. You should thank the reviewer for their comment in general, but you should also specifically acknowledge the positive aspect of their review. You could respond with something like, “We appreciate your kind comments about our [detail the reviewer was pleased with],” OR “We’re truly grateful for your comments about [Employee Name] and will make sure we share your compliments with them!”
  3. Please accept my apologies. You can phrase your apology in a variety of ways, but you should make an effort to smoothly transition between acknowledgment and apology. For example, after acknowledging the positive, you could write, “We’re glad you’re happy with [our customer service / pricing / location / etc.] but are sorry to hear you’re having trouble with [the reviewer’s issue],” OR “We sincerely apologize for [the reviewer’s issue] and want to ensure you receive the great service our team is known for providing.”
  4. Following up. Consider thanking the reviewer again and inviting them to contact your office or team so that the problem can be resolved. “Please contact our office at your earliest convenience and a member of our team will be glad to assist you,” for example, OR “Your satisfaction is important to us, [Reviewer Name], and we look forward to getting this resolved for you quickly!”

Responding to a True unbiased review or Non-Sequitur Review

A true neutral comment, such as “acceptable” or “decent,” necessitates a slightly different approach. Because there is no specific complaint or issue to address, your response should instead aim to demonstrate that you are eager to provide the exceptional experience for which your company is known.

Your goal is not to solve a problem, but rather to reassure the reviewer that you are open to their feedback and sincerely want to provide them with the best possible customer experience.

To achieve that goal, try to include the following three elements in your response to a truly neutral reviewer:


  1. A word of thanks. This is similar to Step 1 above, but after saying thank you, it’s time to take a different approach.
  2. A word of encouragement. While you are not required to apologize, you should emphasize your willingness and ability to improve by encouraging the reviewer to provide additional feedback. For example, you could write, “We’re glad you were satisfied with [your experience / visit / relevant product / relevant service] and would love to hear some additional feedback on how we could improve our service even more.”
  3. A formal invitation. Inviting the customer back is a great way to demonstrate confidence in your company while also providing friendly service. You could, for example, end your response with, “We hope you’ll visit us again soon so that we can deliver the exceptional [feature / product / service / experience] you deserve!” Alternatively, simply state, “We hope to have the opportunity to serve you again, [Reviewer]!”

These techniques can also be used in non-sequitur reviews. Even if the comment is random, nonsensical, or irrelevant to your business, your response gives you the opportunity to demonstrate professionalism and courtesy — not only to the original reviewer, but to anyone who reads your response.


Hire us to help Monitor, Manage and Respond to all your online reviews.

If this sounds like a bigger project that your company can handle right now, don’t worry we can handle the work for you.


Reputation Booster provides a dedicated review response service that guarantees personalized responses to 100% of your reviewers within 24 hours of receipt. 


We also provide custom review management services, which can be used independently or in conjunction with our response feature, depending on your needs.

Allow Us to Assist You in Increasing Your Online Reputation.

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