Reviews can have a dramatic effect on a business. This is especially true with online reviews, where any complaints are both permanent and easy to find. Every business needs a strategy for dealing with online reviews. Here are some tips:
Reviews Can Be Unfair
This is just an unfortunate fact of running a business. Someone can go online and greatly exaggerate (or even outright fabricate) a story about your business. Even worse, people are far more likely to go online when they have a complaint instead of when they have something positive to say.
Review sites aren’t always very easy to deal with, either. Yelp warns businesses that they “shouldn’t ask customers to post reviews on Yelp.” Google+ states you should never “offer money or products to others to write reviews for your business.”
Also, your business might be listed on several review sites without your knowledge. Many business owners are surprised to learn that review sites don’t need their permission to create a page. A page could already exist – and it could be harming your reputation.
How to Respond to Negative Reviews
Restraint, restraint, restraint. No matter how over-the-top the review is, you want to maintain your composure and professionalism. Ever heard of Amy’s Baking Company? They’re perhaps the best example, ever, of how NOT to respond to customer criticism.
Instead, here’s what you want to do:
· Respond Quickly
Reply to the criticism directly on the review site. Unanswered criticism sends a message that you don’t care about customers.
· Offer Personal Care
When you reply to the criticism, don’t offer solutions. Instead, ask the customer if it would be alright to contact them by email or phone in order to discuss their issue. You don’t want to get into a lengthy back-and-forth with an angry customer in a public forum.
· Attempt to Fix the Problem
In some cases, this is easier said than done. Still, you should make every reasonable effort to solve the problem.
· Post a Follow-Up
If the problem is resolved and the customer satisfied, you want to return to the review site and provide an update. In some cases you might even find the customer also posts an update – and that can have a powerful, positive effect on potential customers.
What to Watch Out For
There are legitimate ways to influence your reviews. There are also some practices which will cause review sites to flag your profile. Here’s what to avoid:
Reviews are discounted when the review site detects a pattern. Some common types of patterns include:
· Multiple reviews which originate from the same IP address.
· Multiple reviews which are all posted during a narrow period of time (same day or week).
· Multiple reviews with similar phrasing or sentence structure.
How You Can Get Great Reviews
The best reviews are genuine and natural. While you can’t ask for reviews or pay for them, you can influence your customers to leave positive reviews. Here’s what to do:
Offer World-Class Service
This is the number one way to avoid complaints. If you notice multiple reviews which all reference the same issue, that might be an area of the business which needs improvement.
Looking for some inspiration? Check out these companies:
· Amazon – Customer service is known to be responsive and easy to reach.
· Nordstrom – Widely recognized for personalized attention from customer service.
· Zappos – Known for their excellent return policy.
Repeated Customer Interactions
If you’re not seeing any common complaints across multiple reviews, then you’re probably doing a lot right. So now you want to engage with your customers. If you give them an opportunity to leave a review, you’ll likely find they have a lot of good things to say.
Most likely, you’ll have obtained an email address from the customer when they purchased your product or service. Now you’ll want to send an email. You can do so as for any of the following reasons:
· Customer service survey
· Thank you note
· Special offer / coupon / promotion
· Appointment confirmation
The service or product you provide will dictate the exact nature and number of emails you send. The point is to open up the lines of communication. You also want to engage with a customer (or potential customer) whenever they initiate contact. This includes anyone who:
· posts on any of your social media pages
· signs up for your newsletter
· uses a coupon or promotion
You want these to be positive interactions. If you’re contacted with a complaint, your first priority is fixing the situation. But if the communication is positive or neutral, you can then move onto the next step.
Asking for a Review
There’s nothing wrong with asking for a review in a one-on-one interaction. After the initial contact, you can simply ask the customer if they’d mind leaving a positive review describing their experience. Here’s an example:
I recently saw you posted a comment on our Facebook page describing how much you liked your recent purchase of PRODUCT. Thank you so much! If you ever have any questions or concerns about PRODUCT, please contact me directly. Also, I’d certainly appreciate it if you would leave a review for us on Yelp. This way other interested people could learn a bit more about the benefits of PRODUCT. Thank you so much!”
The specifics will obviously be tailored to your business. You do want to always keep the email short and positive. Also, mention the review near the end of the email. Only send one email of this type to the customer. Multiple emails requesting a good review can backfire pretty quickly.
Great Reviews Make a Big Difference
It’s easy to ignore negative reviews, especially if you don’t feel they’re an accurate reflection of your business. But every negative review needs to be addressed, even if the process can be time-consuming and tiresome. You also want to counteract any negative reviews with as many positive reviews as possible. By engaging with every customer in a positive manner, and using the tips above, you’ll soon find that great reviews are rolling right in.