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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Online Reviews and How to Respond
  • 23 October 2018
  • Rebecca Delaney

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Online Reviews and How to Respond

In today's digital landscape, it’s very easy for people to share their feedback. Gone are the days of writing formal letters and sending them snail mail to the corporate office for a business organization.

With websites and apps like GlassDoor, Yelp, Google, and Facebook, employees and customers can offer their critique of a company, their products or service – good and bad. As a small business owner, it’s important that you pay attention to this feedback online because it can impact your business!

According to one survey published in 2017, 97 percent of consumers look for a business online, and 85 percent said they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Based on your handling of these reviews, your business can either thrive or tank.

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Here are some best practices on social media reviews and how to respond:

Set aside time to check reviews

Mark your calendar every couple of days to spend 15-30 minutes checking up on your online reputation. Make sure that you’ve established ownership of your business listings across the different platforms mentioned above so that you can set up to receive alert notifications when someone leaves a review or comment about your business online. You need to make it a regular practice and in most industries, if you wait a week to respond, you’ve waited too long.

If your business fits into a specific niche, be sure to expand the sites that you monitor to include any industry specific forums that might also exist where customers can share feedback.

Don't delegate responding to social media comments

It may be tempting to hand this task off to an employee, but as the owner of your small business, you should be responding to both negative and positive comments online. If the customer had a specific complaint about a staff member, convey that you will address the concern with that individual.

A response from the business owner shows customers that you are committed to managing, protecting and improving your business and customers' experiences, and that you take customer complaints seriously.

Let customers know your name and position within your response (e.g., “As the owner of [company name], I appreciate your business and your time in sharing this feedback. I’m sorry that you had this kind of experience and I have already addressed the situation with the associate that worked with you. We hope that you’ll give us another try. ~[your name]”)

Keep your response short and professional

Oftentimes, as a business owner, you will recall each and every detail of the transaction that the customer went online to complain about. Your response to that customer online is not the place to share all of those details. Proving who was right and who was wrong is not the point here.

Your goal in responding to reviews is to let customers know that they’ve been heard, that you’re listening, and that you care about customer’s feedback. With consumers reading an average of seven reviews before trusting a business, your response is not just for that one customer who left the review, it’s for the hundreds of other prospective customers that will be evaluating reviews and your responses – and will decide whether or not they want to do business with you based on what they see.

Take the conversation offline

One of the worst things you can do in a negative online review situation, is to go back and forth with a customer in a tit for tat online dispute. When you continue to engage in this type of negative discussion, which can escalate with each response, you’re putting a lot of dirty laundry out there for the world to see – which won’t help earn you new customers that happen to see it.

In your initial response, ask for the customer to contact you directly and provide a phone and/or email so that they can (e.g., “As the owner of XYZ company, I appreciate your business and your time in sharing this feedback. I’m very sorry that you had this kind of experience and I would like to like to make sure the situation is properly handled. If you can please contact me directly at [phone number] or via email [email address], I would love to speak with you about the matter. Sincerely, [your name]”).

Be sure to respond to positive comments too!

Online reviews are usually very positive, or very negative. You don’t see a lot of “everything was okay” type of reviews. As a passionate owner of your business, try not to get bogged down in negativity.

When someone posts a glowing review, be sure to thank them! As you’re talking with customers, let them know that you’d appreciate it if they took a moment to share their experience online – because you’re really trying to focus on building up your online reputation. Many times, customers are more than willing to leave a review for a local small business.

If someone takes the time to share a positive experience online, it’s best practice to thank them for doing so, and for their patronage. Responding personally to a happy customer also strengthens loyalty and your relationship with that customer.

When you respond, be sure to include the name of your business and its location to boost SEO (e.g., “Thank you [customer name] for such wonderful feedback! We appreciate your business at [your company name] located in [city] and look forward to serving you again soon.”).

When you do respond, don't cut and paste, or automate

It’s important that you’re facilitating that one-to-one customer experience in your review responses. While you don’t want to share all of the details of the transaction, you do want to make sure your response is unique to the review itself. Avoid simply copying and pasting the same canned response to every review. If the platform shares the customer’s name who left the review, feel free to address the customer by name.

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Keep a big picture perspective

Some days, it can feel draining to read through and respond to reviews – especially after you’ve been helping customers all day long. As hard as it is, try not to take the reviews personally. Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and we don’t know all that is going on in someone’s life that unfortunately, your business might have gotten the brunt of.

The good news, is that as you accumulate more and more reviews across the different platforms, they help provide search engine equity for your business. That is, having online review helps you improve your search ranking.

You wouldn’t ignore a customer that walks through your door, so avoid doing this in the online space. Go online and do an audit of what your online reputation says about your business. Look for trends in the reviews to identify areas where you might be able to make adjustments to improve the overall customer experience. And when you respond to reviews, demonstrate authenticity, be human, apologize when appropriate, and listen.

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