Earning Your Stars: Managing Online Reviews

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • Why online reviews are essential to great customer service
  • How online reviews help new customers notice you
  • What you need to do to launch a reputation management program
  • When to respond to reviewers (spoiler alert: always!)

As a business owner, there’s nothing more important than making your customers happy. Unfortunately, not all customers feel comfortable giving feedback on the spot. The result? Most of your customer base will venture online, where the relative anonymity of the internet makes them feel more comfortable to share their experience.

Online reviews are one of the most powerful ways to learn, problem solve, and extend your great customer service online. However, many businesses don’t give online reviews the time and attention they deserve — either they’ll panic over (and subsequently ignore) negative reviews or they feel positive reviews don’t need a response.

Let us ask you this: would you ever ignore a customer who came to speak to you, face-to-face? We didn’t think so.

The fact is, managing your reviews gives you the agency to determine your own success. By addressing negative responses, you’re showing you’re listening; and by saying “thanks” to happy customers, you’re showing your appreciation for their time and effort.

If you’re not convinced – or you’re simply not sure where to get started – consider this FAQ guide the first step toward five stars.

Q) First thing’s first: will managing my reviews actually bring me growth? Is it worth the investment?

A) Reviews have a huge impact on your online visibility. In fact, in 2017, reviews were listed as one of the top search ranking factors. Consumers rely heavily on reviews to make their purchasing decisions:

  • 92% of people regularly read online reviews
  • 84% of people trust them as much as their friends or family
  • 68% of people form their opinion on a business after reading between one and six reviews

These statistics reveal two glaring truths. The first being that you need to monitor all the places your customers could leave you a review. The second being that you should leverage reviews as a way to showcase your top-notch customer service by responding: as potential customers read reviews, they’ll also be browsing your responses. Consider it the digital marketing version of eavesdropping on a private conversation.

Q) Alright, so I need to respond to everyone. That seems like a ton of work! Where should I start?

A) Start by designating someone to be in charge of managing reviews and hold them accountable for responding in a timely manner (one to two business days tops). Put feedback processes in place to ensure the comments you are receiving actually reach the rest of your staff.

When he or she does respond to a review, make it standard procedure that each response should be personalized. People will notice if you’ve been copy-pasting — and if you don’t believe us, take another look above at how many people put meaningful stock into reviews, and better yet, how many reviews they consume. They’ll catch on, trust us.

Don’t focus all of your energy into putting out fires from one and two-star reviews. If people are saying nice things about you, show them that their satisfaction means the world to you. Every single customer is worth your time. Added benefit? People are more likely to leave a review on your site if they see that you respond frequently. It’s a win-win.

Q) Now, what about those negative reviews? How should I respond tactfully?

A) Repeat after us: be timely and approach with care.

The time factor is essential. As mentioned above, you should opt for a one-to-two business day response time. The best way to avoid any missteps is to set automatic notifications to receive an alert any time you’re reviewed.

When you’re responding, make sure you take the time to digest what the reviewer is saying or feeling when you consider your response to them. It can be tough to hear critical feedback — especially when it’s about the business you put so much time and energy into. Take a step back, a deep breath, and formulate the best, and most objective, reply.

There’s a step-by-step framework that you can follow to ensure your overall approach is on-point. Here’s a checklist to guide you through the process:

  1. Own the issue. Take fault rather than being defensive, and let the customer know you understand where they’re coming from and if the comment is fair or accurate: own it.
  2. Tell them how you’ll fix it. Not only will this put your customer at ease, potential customers will be happy to know that the issue has since been resolved when they read the review and your response.
  3. Take it offline. Always offer to take the issue offline and encourage the reviewer to contact a specific person on your team.

Ultimately, most people are much braver behind their computer screen – no matter how frustrating, it’s an important reality in the digital marketing space that can’t be ignored. If you’re pouring marketing dollars into print ads, search engine marketing, and social media, make sure that you’re complementing your efforts by listening to the most important part of the equation: your customers.

Q) Alright, I’m convinced! What’s the next step?

A) Hold your horses! Before you hop online and start responding to everyone right away, take one step back: you need to ensure your customers can find where to leave you a review with ease. That means your local listing information needs to be on the popular review sites that matter for your business, such as Yelp, Bing, and Google.

Listings all set? Great.

Now you can start building out your online review plan that features:

  • Alignment within your business about how you want to address reviews
  • Selection of an internal officer who will manage them
  • Setting up automated notifications so you don’t miss a beat
  • Sharing our best practices guide with all of your friends and fellow business owners!

Contact us now to connect with one of ReachLocal’s review management experts. We’re here to offer you advice, provide you with the right tools, and be your partner in the quest for a five-star online reputation.

Colleen McNamara

As the Senior Manager of Content Strategy at SweetIQ, Colleen plays a key role in the company's content marketing initiatives. She spends her days building editorial calendars, penning subject lines, and executing social media campaigns. Previously, Colleen worked with a number of Canadian companies, helping them launch their branded content programs in the SaaS, robotics, travel, and design industries. In her spare time, you'll find Colleen at a cafe or library near you, plugging away at her Master of Arts thesis. So far, her scholarly research has taken her to Berkeley, California, and Bergen, Norway.

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