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Responding to Online Reviews

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Responding to Online Reviews

From the August 2018 Issue of Knox.Biz

We all love social media and the numerous digital tools at our disposal these days . . . except when we don’t!  And one of those times can be when our business receives a very public negative review online.  You can’t always stop it from happening, so what should you do when it does happen?

Online reviews have become increasingly easy – thanks to search engines, mobile apps and the addition of review features onto popular platforms like Facebook.  Even if people first hear of a product through word-of-mouth, they are likely to go online to search for reviews before purchasing it.  Recent research shows that 90% of consumers read reviews before purchasing a product, and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Make it easy for customers to give you a good review by listing your business on multiple directories (not just Facebook and Yelp).  If you have an online store, place a “feedback” button on the page, so that customers can easily click it and write something positive.  Also, send emails to customers asking if they were happy with the service or product and opening up an actual dialogue with them. If someone tweets positively about your business, retweet it and thank the customer for their thoughts.

Don’t let online reviews scare you!  You can’t please everyone all the time, and balanced reviews can add to the legitimacy and authenticity to your business.  Additionally, consistent, quality responses to your reviews show that you care about your customers.

Here are some specific tips relative to managing online reviews (and managing your response to them):

1. Take responsibility

Whether positive or negative, show that you welcome feedback and that you want to fix any problems.  Always keep your response cordial, professional and non-argumentative.  If the review is particularly negative, it is sometimes appropriate to mention one or two facts to set the record straight, but be careful not to get into an online argument and risk making the customer even angrier.  Tread lightly and take the high road in making your comments.

2. Be proactive, transparent and accountable

Some companies, when hit with harsh feedback, will copy and paste a canned response and then proceed to bury the review deep in Google’s search results.  Others will sulk in the shadows, hoping the nightmare will blow over.  Unfortunately, neither of these approaches typically works. The critics will feel ignored and under-valued, and smart shoppers will be thorough in their research.  It’s best to acknowledge your failure/mistake and address it head-on with proposed solutions.

3. First apologize and then take action

Is there an air of truth to the complaint?  Is it possible that the negative feedback could be legit?  Set your ego aside and make amends by taking responsibility for a customer’s poor experience.  You could even offer a refund, free gift and/or expedited shipping of a replacement product.  (Then, go the extra mile and put an action plan in place that will permanently fix the root cause of the problem.)

4. Seek to understand more

Get the person to communicate with you offline if possible.  Proactively ask them to send you an email, call you or stop by in person, but make an effort to keep the conversation going and to truly understand where the complaint is coming from.

5. Silence at first is not a bad thing

While it’s important to respond to negative reviews promptly, that doesn’t mean hastily (which can result in an overly emotional or unprepared response).  Gather all the information you can on a situation before responding.

Online reviews are here to stay, so take them seriously, respond to them positively, and learn from them as you proactively manage them.

Cathy Ackermann, founder and president of Ackermann Marketing and PR, may be reached at cackermann@thinkackermann.com

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