Blog Update 8/28/18:
As social media continues to be ever-so integrated into our everyday lives staying on top of your online reviews is more important than ever. Since the publishing of this blog post, we have seen platforms like Facebook continue to utilized location-based services and their handy algorithm to not only suggest your business to nearby or like-minded users but also remind them to tell their friends about their experience and let them know if they recommend a visit… or not.
What people have to say about your business means just as much as the narrative you craft through all of your marketing channels. Though it might seem like you can’t control a narrative told by your audience in the form of online reviews, that’s simply not the case. As this blog post states, by consistently engaging with reviews (good and bad), you are showing the public you value and care about the experience of every customer. Moreover, you’re listening. And that sentiment can go a long way in saying thank you to your fans and promising better for your detractors.
-Anthony Charmforoush, Digital Marketing Manager
Let’s time travel. Do you remember the feeling you got as soon as you finished a big test? Regardless of how you think you did, there was still a bit of excited tension (mostly panic in my case) in not knowing what your grade would be.
Think you did terribly? Maybe you got lucky with the Christmas tree pattern technique on that Scantron sheet. Pretty sure you aced it? Well, I had some past teachers who were known to grade without mercy, so you never know.
Many business owners and managers feel waves of the same anxiety when it comes to being reviewed by their customers. Unlike the school days, however, whether your customers give you an A+ or a big, fat F, you have to respond to online reviews or risk looking uninterested or uncaring. You see, these “grades” are being posted on the largest public corkboard on the planet – the internet.
However, simply responding is not enough; according to a recent study published by the Americas Conference on Information Systems, “Our findings suggest that managerial intervention should be strategic…” There must be strategy and thought put into each response you provide.
Let’s look at the best ways to handle the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to your business’s online reviews.
Three Ways to Respond to Online Reviews
In the best case scenario, your fans are so happy they feel the need to share just how awesome your brand is with the world. By leaving a positive review of your business or product on the slew of social channels out there, your customer is providing something that no amount of advertising can get you: AUTHENTIC WORD-OF-MOUTH MARKETING. This public praise is a valuable gift that should be treated as such, and with every gift a thank you card should be received.
You may let the good reviews and feedback take a backseat to negative reviews, but this is a rookie move. Ignoring a positive review is something like getting a compliment, staring the nice person in the face and walking away without even a smile. Talk about rude, right?
Instead, respond to all positive reviews and thank the reviewer for their kind words while referencing any specific product, feature or employee that they encountered. This shows that you took the time to read their response (a.k.a. showing you care) and also provides the bonus benefit of highlighting what they loved about your business for others to see.
For a bit of added branding and SEO kickbacks, you may also want to reference the name of your business before asking them to come back soon.
We have all been this person. You know, the one who after a bad experience has to immediately write that fiery Yelp review, because your voice needs to be heard and everyone needs to know about what happened.
The unfortunate truth is, stuff happens. Mistakes are made, accidents occur and sometimes, there is just no pleasing people. Though you have to operate understanding that not everyone will be your biggest fan, it is a mistake to pretend your company’s negative reviews don’t exist, especially if these criticisms are valid.
If you receive a negative review from a customer, treat them with care and courtesy. Though you may not be able to fix their negative experience, you still can improve the situation by being kind and understanding in the aftermath. According to a 2015 report by TripAdvisor, 83% of guests in the U.S. who had a negative hotel experience would consider returning to the hotel if they received an appropriate management response. The numbers don’t lie.
Start by apologizing for their experience, mention that this is not the standard that your company strives for and ask that they contact you directly (provide your contact information of course) so that you can resolve the issue with them. The last thing you want is for the entire negative experience to be hashed out in a public forum for all to see.
Keep it short and sweet – there’s no need to bring more attention to a mistake than necessary. Remember, you get more catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
Both good and bad reviews can be great learning experiences for your company. They enable you to easily see what’s working and what isn’t, straight from your customers’ mouths. If you want to improve in anything, constructive criticism is pretty much mandatory.
However, the internet is a big place, people aren’t always the best and sometimes things can get weird. From explicit language being used to threats, chances are you’ll find something difficult to deal with on your business’s social pages at some point.
When this happens what ever is a brand to do? Well, it’s tricky. Each situation should be taken on a case-by-case basis, as upsetting an already distressed customer may end in a PR nightmare.
In most cases, it’s best to open with the same consideration you would with any disappointed or angry customer: apologize for their negative experience and ask them to reach out to you directly via email or phone. If the commenter uses abusive, vulgar or inappropriate language, you can request from the review site that the post be deleted, but note that it is up to the admins of the review site to do so. They are the final judges of if a review post should be deleted or not due to inappropriate language. However, only proceed with this course of action as a last resort. People absolutely hate their comments being censored or deleted, and it may appear to customers that you are trying to cover up your mistake or hide something. At the end of the day, if reviews or comments violate your brand’s ethical standards, are offensive or violent, they may have to go.
You may also encounter those lovely internet trolls, whose only goal is to get a rise out of your customers or your brand itself, offering no constructive or even valid criticism. Always respond professionally. In some cases, you may be able to hide these posts. Facebook, in particular, has the ability to “hide” comments, which doesn’t delete the comment but makes it invisible to the public. This means the reviewer may never even realize his or her comments can’t be seen by anyone but themselves. Never “feed” the trolls by playing into their games. It never ends well.
Whether you’re given an A+ or F-, it’s important to find the value in the direct feedback that online reviews provide your company. Moreover, you should seize the opportunity that online reviews allow for interaction with both those who love your company, and those who your company has let down. It also provides the opportunity to better your product, service, or experience. Just remember: though you may be responding to one person, your conversation is potentially being seen by everyone that may come across your page.
Bottom line: don’t ignore your online reviews. After all, you’ll never know if you passed the test without seeing your grade.