In an age where 88% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations (Chatmeter), the feedback your brand or business receives online is now more important than ever. But prompting customers and guests to leave reviews is only one part of the process - acknowledging and responding to them in an appropriate manner is another major step in boosting your online reputation.
A common misconception is that when a customer leaves a review, it finalises their journey with your business. A study cited in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) even found that only one third of reviews left by visitors on TripAdvisor received replies. However, the message that you send in response is actually what marks the final stage of the exchange, and guarantees that the customer leaves satisfied. With a helping hand from 3sixfive, you can ensure your business is doing this correctly.
When devising a Review Management plan, you might be tempted to rush the process by putting together a quick, templated response that can be sent in bulk to every customer at the end of each week or month. Think again! The Data Science team at Yelp found that users are 33% more likely to upgrade their review if a business responds with a personalised message within a day (MarketingBitz), meaning it's not enough to send a generic response that doesn't directly address the reviewer's concerns. Customers may feel disheartened to see that your reply wasn't tailored especially to their needs, or they might even think the message was sent by an automated bot. Customise your responses by using names, recapping specific pieces of feedback, and ensuring you sound like a real human!
If a prospective customer or guest comes across your review page only to find that previous visitors' feedback and concerns have been left unaddressed, they may turn away. An unfortunate one-off incident in your restaurant, for example, might have prompted a guest to leave a 1-star review and some unhappy comments. Someone browsing your page could subsequently read this and assume such incidents are a regular occurrence within your establishment - causing them to move on to a competitor. If, however, you had taken the time to respond with a sincere apology assuring the reviewer of the restaurant's usual high standards, your reputation could have remained unscathed and that potential customer might have felt more inclined to visit.
While it's definitely disappointing to hear that a customer has had a bad experience with your business, responding calmly, quickly and carefully to negative reviews is imperative when it comes to handling the public opinion of your brand. Replying in an angry or defensive manner, or even outright denying the reviewer's claims, will give your business an unfavourable image and undoubtedly discourage newcomers.
Instead, put yourself in the customer's shoes and show that you sympathise with their concerns. A study found that after receiving a genuine and helpful reply, 33% of shoppers who originally posted negative reviews for online stores turned around and posted positive ones instead, with 34% even taking the extra step to delete their original negative review.
Responding to these negative comments can also give you the chance to provide unhappy customers with an incentive to return to your business. A sincere apology is key, but offering a further gesture such as a discount off the price of their next visit, a voucher or gift card for a future purchase, or even a free product, can help improve their opinion of your brand and encourage them to try again.
Negative feedback isn't the only kind that needs to be acknowledged - responding to positive reviews is a large factor in boosting your online reputation too. When a customer takes time out of their day to leave you a kind comment, it's important to show that you're grateful and that you really appreciate their words of praise. Thank them for their review and let them know that you hope they'll return. As well as reassuring the customer that their message has been received, this also shows them that damage control isn't your only motivation for responding.
According to this support article from Google My Business, positive reviews and providing high-quality responses to them can even improve your business' online visibility and heighten its search engine ranking, meaning it's an important part of increasing your brand's digital presence.