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How to Handle Online Consumer Reviews

07 Mar 2016 Jared Cohen

in Strategy

If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably already figured out that having and maintaining online reviews is important for the growth of your brand. Online reviews not only help boost rankings in local search, they can also help shape perceptions about a company and convince consumers into being customers.

In this article I will provide some guidelines on how to encourage and handle online reviews.

Online Customer Review Stats

  • Most people actually write positive reviews.  Despite what you might think, Yelp reports that nearly 80% of reviews are 3 stars and over. (Reachlocal.com)
  • 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (Neilson, Global Trust in Digital Advertising)
  • 90% of consumers say positive reviews influence their purchasing decisions (Marketing Land)
  • Online reviews impact 67.7% of customer’s purchasing decisions (Moz.com)
  • 85% of people say they will read up to 10 reviews before they can trust a business (Brightlocal.com)
  • 8% of customers look at Google+ reviews when researching a product or company followed by 11% on Amazon, 5.2% on Wikipedia, and 4.2% on Yelp (Moz.com)

The bottom line: What consumers are saying about your brand online will have a huge effect on your bottom line, as potential customers seek out, value, and trust online reviews as part of their decision making process.

Getting More Reviews

A problem that many businesses face is how to get more online reviews. Many businesses have a loyal and established customer base, but struggle with converting those established consumers to online reviewers. Here are some fundamental and essential steps you should take.

If you have not done so already, create and verify your Google+, Facebook, and Yelp pages so customers can easily find your business and leave reviews. (These are the three most popular and influential review platforms. This article walks you through setting up your business pages for these three platforms.)

Provide a great customer experience. This is, of course, may seem like a no brainer, but getting positive reviews from customers always starts with them having  an outstanding experience in the first place.

Create a plan to ask for reviews from your customers immediately after they’ve had a positive experience with your business. Collecting customer emails at checkout is a great way to ensure you can ask for reviews within 1-2 days of purchase.

Note: Research has shown that business pages with more pictures get way more traffic. So when you’re creating and optimizing your business pages for reviews, make sure to include real pictures of your business!

I’m getting loads of reviews. Now what?

So the reviews are now rolling in – great job. Some are good, some are not so good, and a few portray your employees and your business as the bane of human existence. Don’t worry. This is all normal.

Yes, the content of your reviews matters, but the way you respond to your reviews can be just as important.

Content Marketing expert Jay Bear summarized it quite well: “We’re in an era now where customer service is a spectator sport.”

Reviews from your customers publicly inhabit your business pages, and if you don't address negative feedback, potential customers will only see the unsatisfied customer's point of view.  By responding to your reviews visibly and publicly, your customers know that their complaints (and praises) are being heard. They will appreciate this, and potential customers who are coming to your business pages will see that you value your customers' input.

What to do if your business receives a negative review

  • Respond privately as soon as humanly possible. You can also post a public response if the issue is something you feel must be addressed publicly.
  • Apologize for the customer’s negative experience.
  • Clarify any information that they might not have understood, and has caused them dissatisfaction.
  • Acknowledge the customer’s negative experience, and empathize with them.
  • Provide a number or email where they can reach you and you will be happy to help them resolve their issue.
  • If you do not receive a response from your outreach, respond publicly, offering a similar response, and reiterating that you would like to help resolve their issue.

By privately messaging them first, it shows the customer that you’re willing to help them personally, and value their patronage. A response from a business owner who has just received a negative review might look like this:

“Hello _____,

Thank you for reaching out. We are sorry that you had a negative experience at our store, and we would like the opportunity to help resolve this matter to your complete satisfaction. We value your feedback, and are always striving to be the best business possible.

We understand the store can sometimes get a bit hectic, and it is hard for our sales representatives to assist each customer with the utmost of attention, and that is something we are working on internally. We would love to help resolve this matter to your satisfaction. If you would be so kind, please email us at Businessowner@Business.com. We look forward to hearing from you. “

After you have heard from the customer and resolved his/her complaint, make sure to ask if the customer would be willing to update his/her initial review to include his/her new experience.

If you are unable to resolve their complaint, and feel your potential customers need to know what happened, you can post publicly on their initial comment with your own update. Try to stick with facts on this response, and refrain from sounding too combative or defensive. Instead of saying things like “Stephanie was being irrational and stubborn in not accepting my 20% off coupon for her next visit” try saying “We offered the customer 20% off of her next visit, but she refused”.

It’s always best to leave your heated emotions out of public comments on reviews.

What to do if your business receives a positive review

  • Respond privately or publicly as soon as humanly possible, you can switch off. Public comments are important so that potential customers can see you also value positive feedback.
  • Thank the customer for taking the time to review your business
  • Tell them that if they ever have any questions or concerns they can contact you directly.

Note: It’s important that you create an email for your business where you can communicate with your customers, and they can reach out to you. “info@yourbusiness.com” or help@yourbusiness.com are both widely used email addresses. If you know your customers on a personal level, try using “yourfirstname@yourbusiness.com

Assessing your online reputation

Your online reputation is largely made up of the major review platforms listed above , but it’s also important to be aware of all mentions of your brand online. We use the social listening tool Brandwatch for our clients, but a quick and free way to assess your online reputation is by searching your brand name on Google and seeing what comes up. Here is a list of some free social media brand monitoring tools that can help you see what people are saying about your brand.

I hope this article has provided some helpful tips for maintaining your online reputation, getting more reviews online, and providing great visible customer service to your patrons who are already reviewing your business.

Need help managing your brand's online reputation? Contact us to see how we can help your brand always look its best.