Advice for handling online customer reviews
I have worked in the Digital Marketing field for over a decade. And I have seen businesses make the same mistakes over and over again when it comes to reputation management. In this post, I want to focus on common mistakes made when it comes to customer reviews. These lessons are relevant for business owners. They’re also relevant for anyone else that has a public-facing ‘brand’. So if you’re a podcaster, blogger, or ‘wannabe’ influencer… stick around! Reputation management matters for you, too…
Why reviews matter so much
Mitigating the potential risks that come with negative reviews, and maximising the potential of the positive ones, helps businesses manage their public brand and reputation. This is because online reviews play a huge part in the decision making process for a potential consumer. In short, how your brand is represented online has never been more important for managing your reputation online, and closing sales!
According to Status Labs
- 94% of consumers report that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business.
- 92% of consumers are less likely to frequent a business after reading negative reviews.
Gone are the days when company reviews by consumers were reserved for a few close friends or family. Now, if your customers are happy (or not) with a service or product they have received, they can tell the whole world about it … and they usually do!
While the stats show that online reviews are a very important trust signal to future clients or customers, it is not just the review that can impact a buying decision. How you respond to those reviews as a business is everything.
Below are 6 common mistakes I’ve seen business owners make when it comes to managing customer reviews.
1. They ignore them
When getting a negative review, it’s often felt that it is easier to just not respond at all. This is the worst thing you can do!
A lot of business owners see negative reviews as a bad thing, but what a negative review actually presents is an opportunity. An opportunity for your business to show humility. Compassion. Accountability. No one expects perfection 100% of the time, but consumers need to see that, if you have messed up, you take responsibility for your mistake and you do what you can to fix the issue. By doing so, you humanise the brand.
By ignoring someone’s complaint, the message you are giving is that you don’t care. You don’t care about customer satisfaction, you don’t care about providing a genuine service, you don’t care about how you have made your customer feel.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, not responding to a positive review is a huge missed opportunity! If someone has taken the time to rave about your business, thank them! They are advocating for your brand, which is one of the best forms of marketing you can get. Grow that brand connection by acknowledging their support and making them feel like they are a part of your brand community.
2. They respond with emotion rather than facts
Often, when a business receives a negative online review, the response is fuelled by emotion. It is never easy to receive criticism, justified or not. The worst thing you can do, however, is respond to a negative review in a way that comes across as angry or emotional. Or even worse, passing the blame on to the customer, even if the customer was in the wrong.
You need to remove the emotion and respond with facts. Outline the events as they happened and state what was done in response to the issue. Being accusatory or responding in anger does not look professional and, even if you did nothing wrong, it will harm your brand’s reputation.
3. They cut and paste the same response for every review
Whether it is a positive or a negative review, it stands out like a sore thumb when responses from the business are cookie cutter, cut and paste responses to every single review.
It lacks personalisation. And personalisation is everything.
Responding with the same phrase each time tells a potential consumer nothing about your brand other than the customer is faceless. It’s just an order number to your business. This may absolutely not be the case, but when your actions and your intentions are not aligned, it is your actions that will be noticed first. Your actions definitely speak louder than words when it comes to reputation management!
As a bare minimum, you should always acknowledge a reviewer by their name where possible. You should also address each point they make in the review, for example:
“Bobby really took the time to show us all of our options”
You could respond with:
“I’m so happy to hear that Bobby was able to give you all the information you needed!”
What about negative reviews?
The same rule applies to negative reviews. If you respond to every negative review with the same response, it shows a lack of care. It is not enough to just respond for the sake of responding. Address their concerns as best you can. Even if you know there is no way of resolving the issue. For example, you get a review such as:
“I asked for help with one of the products and the rep, who was called Jenny, was rude and did not give me the information I asked for. She was more interested in just getting my money. Very pushy. “
Which response sounds better?
“I’m sorry to hear you were not happy with the response you received. We will pass your feedback on.”(The same response that can be seen on every negative review for the brand)
“I am so sorry to hear that you feel our staff member did not give you the information you were asking for, in order to allow you to make an informed decision. This is not the customer service we aim to provide and we do not want our customers feeling like we are only interested in the sale. I have passed your feedback on to our sales manager in store and requested that we address any training needs for the whole team.”
When we respond to reviews online, we are not only responding to the reviewer! We are also always responding to the potential readers!
4. They don’t have brand guidelines in place
You need to have a clear set of guidelines in place for how you wish to communicate as a brand. This is true, regardless of the size of your company. If your company is relatively big, with a marketing team (whether internal or outsourced); or if you have several staff that are responsible for responding to your online reviews, it is even more important that you have those guidelines in place for all staff.
You need to create a strategy that clearly outlines how the company wishes for reviews to be responded to. This will create consistency and give clarity to your staff.
People have their way of doing things, but their way may not always be aligned with how you want your brand to be represented. This is not just true for reputation management, but all aspects of your marketing. Without clear brand guidelines in place, there is a lack of brand clarity and this will show externally.
If a brand does not have consistency or clarity internally, there will be a disconnect and that can have a negative impact on the trust signals you are giving to potential customers.
You need your staff to be aware of what the brand voice is. What phrases do you use? What phrases do you absolutely stay away from? Is there a specified timeframe in which all reviews should be responded to (the answer is yes – within one business day as an absolute minimum, but the quicker the better)? Who do complaints get escalated to, to ensure quick resolution?
5. They encourage fake reviews
I cannot stress this enough – never, ever, encourage fake reviews for your business. This is a cardinal sin when it comes to reputation management!
Potential consumers are not stupid. You disrespect your brand and you disrespect your customers and not only will it bite you on the ass eventually, it will be very hard to recover from the lack of trust it will create for your brand.
I have worked with companies in the past who’s solution to negative reviews is to elicit fake positive reviews. There are so many issues with this, not least of all, a lack of integrity, actively misleading potential consumers, not addressing the issues being raised … I could go on!
6. They don’t actively seek feedback
I have been involved in businesses before that have actively refused to seek customer feedback. More often than not, it’s because they know there is room for improvement and they don’t have the procedures in place to make the improvements. Or they are scared to get negative feedback because it forces them to confront issues they don’t want to deal with.
But that’s no excuse!
The thing is, if you are not proactive in asking your customers about their experiences with you, how do you expect to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are?
If you are not willing to fix your mistakes, learn from them and grow, how do you expect to provide a customer experience that will encourage positive reviews.
And if you are consistently providing a negative customer experience, how do you expect to build a successful brand?
These are the companies that then complain about the impact of negative reviews on their brand, when those negative reviews could have been avoided by simply listening. (And the occasional leaving of the ego at the door).
So how do we increase positive reviews for our business?
Ask for them!
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is they don’t ask for reviews.
There are many opportunities for a business to ask for a review.
If you are…
- An e-commerce based business: You could ask when they have completed the transaction. You could ask when you send out notification of shipping. And you could gently remind them in an email, one week after they have received their product.
- A service-led businesses: You could ask for reviews when the service has been completed. Or, if it is an on-going contract, you could ask for feedback every quarter
A tactic I often like to use is a simple survey at the end of a transaction. Ask them how happy they are with the service or product. If they indicate they are satisfied, redirect them to a page where they can leave a review.
If they click that they are dissatisfied, redirect them to a platform that allows them to contact you and elaborate on why they’re dissatisfied. This gives you the opportunity to learn what can be improved. It also gives them the opportunity to express their frustration privately, rather than on a public domain.
Reputation management is an often underutilized business tool, but, when done right, a very powerful one! It can make or break your brand and it can create or ruin trust.
The bottom line is, respect your customers, even if they are not respecting you. Respond for the reader as much as the reviewer and always remember that you are representing (or potentially misrepresenting your brand) in how you respond … so respond wisely.
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