I often get asked, when teaching the Local Search (Google Places) class if a business owner should and can respond to reviews as there are often times where the owner wants to explain a situation or give their side of the story.

Recently Google announced that business owners can now respond to reviews left on Google Places.

From the site at http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2010/08/respond-to-reviews-for-your-business-on.html

“Starting today, if you’re a verified Google Places business owner, you can publicly respond to reviews written by Google Maps users on the Place Page for your business. Engaging with the people who have shared their thoughts about your business is a great way to get to know your customers and find out more. Both positive and negative feedback can be good for your business and help it grow (even though it’s sometimes hard to hear). By responding, you can build stronger relationships with existing and prospective customers. For example, a thoughtful response acknowledging a problem and offering a solution can often turn a customer who had an initially negative experience into a raving supporter. A simple thank you or a personal message can further reinforce a positive experience. Ultimately, business owner responses give you the opportunity to learn what you do well, what you can do better, and show your customers that you’re listening.

Before writing your first response, we recommend reading our handy tips on how to respond to reviewers. Then take a stab at responding by following these instructions. If you have not yet verified ownership for your business on Google, please visit Google Places to claim your listing.”

This is a great opportunity for business owners to communicate with their reviewers, remember though don’t have heated discussions online, don’t get mad or personal these reviews are going to be around for a very long time and you want to be professional in your replies representing your business.

If you feel that a review is not compliant with the rules then you can flag it for removal and Google will look into the situation and remove the review if necessary.