Responding to Reviews: Do's and Don'ts

Reviews can make or break your company. Positive reviews can give your brand credibility, spread the word, improve local SEO and generate leads and sales. On the other hand, even one negative experience can damage your reputation and drive potential customers away.

Today’s consumers rely heavily on online reviews to help them research businesses and make purchasing decisions. Those that enter your store or visit your website were likely influenced by a review they read. Here’s why:

● According to Pew Research Center, 82% of U.S. adults at least sometimes read online customer ratings and reviews before they make a first time purchase--40% always or almost always do. 

● A survey conducted by Dimensional Research found that 90% of consumers who looked at reviews said that positive ratings influenced their decision to buy a product or service.

● On the other hand, 86% said they decided not to buy a product/service because of negative reviews.

● If you have a low star rating, 87% of potential customers won’t even consider doing business with you.

● Consumers trust peer opinions and reviews much more than brand-generated content--even if the review is written by someone they’ve never met. A study on local businesses found that 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

● A YouGov report had similar results and found that 87% trust them as much as opinions from friends and family.

● In a 2015 global Nielsen study, two-thirds of respondents said they trust consumer opinions posted online.

Most consumers read up on your business before ever interacting with you directly. They are more trusting of reviews than ads or brand content. Plus, reviews strongly influence buying decisions, so it is critical to have a system in place to monitor and respond to reviews quickly.

Your response to reviews is just as, if not more important than whether it was positive or negative. When it comes to responses, it can easily jump from the good, the bad and the ugly. A bad review can turn ugly fast, if it isn’t handled properly.

It can be hurtful and frustrating when someone criticizes your business online, especially when they seem rude and cutthroat. However, a poor reply will only reflect badly on you.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to remember when responding to poor reviews.

Do:

Respond promptly. 

People expect a quick resolution, especially when an experience was unsatisfactory. On some social media channels like Twitter and Facebook, customers expect a response immediately. Social Media Today reports that 7 in 10 Twitter users expect responses from brands--72% expect it in less than an hour for complaints. As a rule of thumb, try to always respond within 24 hours or less. 

Say sorry.

Whether or not your business messed up, it is important to show that you are sympathetic. Start off by apologizing for the poor experience and look for ways that it can be improved or rectified.

Your apology has to be genuine, though. Saying, “We apologize that you think we’ve made a mistake,” sounds condescending and passive-aggressive. You aren’t admitting a mistake, but suggesting it is all in their head. A sincere apology shows that you care about your customers and their experience even after a purchase has been made.

Be polite and professional.

Remember that when you respond, you are on a public stage. People want to see how you handle issues with customers, so you have to be the one that takes the high road. Don’t resort to name calling or angry back-and-forth comments, even if a reviewer does. Stay calm and professional.

If there is false information in a review, it doesn’t mean that you can’t correct it. However, do it in a civil way that is meant to help the customer understand. If you can’t come to an understanding online, offer to take the conversation offline to better explain.

Offer resolution.

Most people reach out for a resolution, and at the least, acknowledgment of an issue. Try to find a way to address the complaint and make up for it. If multiple issues were pointed out, address each in your response. Your ability to handle conflict-resolution gives people insight into your customer service and appreciation.

Don’t:

Be defensive or make excuses.

Your business can be your baby, so it’s easy to jump into defense mode. However, denying that a problem exists looks like you don’t value your customers’ opinion. It can also seem shady and dishonest.

Try to cover it up with fake reviews.

Fake reviews can be easy to spot, and 91% of people suspect that a business with a lot of positive feedback could be writing reviews themselves. In the end, they will do more harm than good. It violates some sites’ user policies and hurts your reputation. If you want to increase your star rating, encourage loyal customers to post honest and real opinions.

Get in a heated battle online.

If you can’t come to a resolution or the problem becomes too complex to explain online, ask the customer to contact you directly. A phone call between the two of you may be a better way to explain and resolve the issue.

There may be times when you question the authenticity of a review. However, even if you suspect that it might be fraudulent or written by a competitor, treat it as you would a customer complaint. You can flag the review on most sites, but if it isn’t taken down, then at least people can see that you tried to come to a resolution and responded professionally. .  

You should reply to positive feedback as well. In fact, ask customers to leave feedback and reviews. More positive and legitimate reviews can help to outweigh bad or inaccurate ones. To boost the power of good ratings:

Say thanks.

If a customer put in the time and effort to leave a review, it is important to show your appreciation. At the least, show customers that you value their feedback and time by saying thank you.

Reinforce the positive.

If a customer writes that they love specific parts of your business--whether it is the quick customer service, a great location, comfy seating or a tasty dish on the menu, it can be an opportunity. You can give them a behind-the-scenes insight. For instance, if you grow some of the ingredients yourself or if you designed the furniture, tell them. It reinforces what makes your business unique and makes customers feel included.

Often, people leave a negative review because they just want a business to acknowledge the problem, apologize and take steps to correct the issue. You may not be able to please every unhappy customer, but it shows potential customers how you do business. A genuine review can give you insights into how to improve your business, even if it isn’t pleasant to hear.

Do you have a strategy for online reputation management? A system for acquiring, tracking and responding to online reviews? If not, it may be time to set one up.

There may be no way to control what is said about your business online. However, you can shape the conversation. To learn more on managing your brand’s reputation, connecting with customers and growing your business, reach out to 10twelve.