As we established in the previous post, online reviews are currently one of the most important sources of information and feedback regarding business operations and how your customers interact with your brand. Furthermore, they provide many businesses with very effective (and usually free!) tools to monitor and grow your reputation.
All of that goodness can come with a cost, however, and the cost in this case is that you've got to know how to manage these reviews, good and bad, in a way that grows your business reputation and drives traffic to your storefront.
I'm going to go over a few best practices today to get you started. There are way more in-depth sources of information on how to get super detailed with your management of these resources, but we're going to keep it simple.
As a small business owner/manager, you've only got so much time on your hands and, chances are, you don't have a full time social/reputation person on staff.
First, let's talk about what these reviews mean. In my view, there are three types of reviews, Good, "Meh", and Bad.
Good reviews are typically considered those that have 4-5 stars (out of 5) and some complimentary words (or even extravagant praise!). These reviews are fantastic, they hit that dopamine button in your brain that says "HELL YEAH THIS IS AWESOME," and they can generally improve your mood and morale.
"Meh" Reviews are those that carry 3 stars, they may have a combination of positive and negative feed back in the written review, and they are generally unenthusiastic, but not unfavorable. I find these reviews to be the hardest to manage. They're frustrating and sometimes vexing in coming up with a decent response.
Bad reviews typically carry 1-2 stars out of 5 and the author of the review is generally dissatisfied to pissed off. Strangely enough, how you interact with these type of reviews really depends on the frequency, content, and ratio of bad to good reviews on any given platform.
So what are you supposed to do with these reviews, anyway?
Well, let's start with one thing not to do, under any circumstance.
Do not attack your reviewer, for any reason, at all.
Review platforms are, in a way, a very democratic process. Anyone can go to Yelp.com and tell the world (vote, essentially) what they think about a business and add that to the chorus of people determining the value and worth of a business.
You should never try to rock that boat. Even if someone is being ridiculous, they're entitled to their opinion and the only thing you can do is decide how to use the information they've given you.
In the event that someone is overtly slanderous or trolling you and your business, each review platform has an option to report or contest reviews. I've found that this option is usually effective in taking care of a situation like this.
Now that that's out of the way, let's set out a few best practices...
First, make a list of the review platforms on which your business has a presence. Businesses are usually user-added, but you can definitely and add your business yourself if you're not present on a site.
Commit to checking these platforms at least once per week for new reviews. Respond to all of your reviews.
Second, when responding, always start with thanking the reviewer for their comments. Even when the review is bad, make sure that they know you're reading (listening) and take their comments seriously and that you appreciate the feedback.
This can be a tough pill to swallow when someone has just eviscerated you on the internet. Trust me, I know this all too well. Running a business will present you with many, many situations in which you're going to have to swallow your pride and this is just one of them. The faster you get used to it, the better.
If the review in question was a positive one, you're done. Just a simple note saying thanks and letting them know that you received their feedback is completely adequate.
Third, if the review was "Meh" or bad, take some time to read the review carefully and identify the specific places where you, in the customers eyes, fell short of awesome. Then, apologize.
That's right, just say you're sorry.
Finally, if you're responding to a negative review and you've thanked the customer for their feedback and apologized, wrap up by making a commitment to do better and invite them back to your business.
Bonus points if you offer them a gift card, a refund, or some other sort of monetary incentive to give your business another shot.
Online reviews have fundamentally changed the way that businesses interact with the public. They've enabled a highly visible, democratic kind of participation in the daily business that we conduct and for that we should be thankful.
However, they've also presented business owners with a new challenge in their attempts to manage and improve their reputation and to increase their standing in their communities.
The best practices above are just the start of a healthy, productive relationship with these services. Adopt them, and you're well on your way to being in control of your reputation and to making the most productive use of these online review services.
Thanks for reading and, as always, drop us a line if there's ever anything we can do to help you and your business. We answer every email and are here to help!