By Stephanie Carnes, The LMC Group
It’s hard to overstate the importance of online reviews for businesses, especially those in the service industries. Reviews have taken the place of personal recommendations for most consumers, and many won’t buy from a business with an average rating under a certain number. One of the best things companies can do to manage their online reputations is respond to their online reviews.
89% of consumers read responses to online reviews, and 45% say they are more likely to visit a business that responds to its negative reviews. But responding to reviews—especially negative ones—can be intimidating. Following a few simple guidelines will make it much easier:
- Have a strategy.
Will the owner reply, or do you have a trusted, diplomatic employee who could take on the task? You can also consider third-party reputation management services.
- Respond as quickly as possible.
Set alerts through email or through the review site’s app so you know as soon as a review is posted. A fast response will do a lot to calm an unhappy customer.
- Never argue or get emotional.
Let’s face it: not all reviews are fair, and customers can be unkind. But getting upset or lashing out will only make things worse.
Respond to all reviews, whether negative or positive. Here is the approach to take for each:
“Warning: don’t use XYZ Airport Shuttle! Although my driver was polite and got us to the airport quickly, he was an hour late picking us up! We barely made our flights, which was so stressful. While we were waiting, we tried to reach dispatch and kept getting disconnected. This company is just not reliable.”1. Start with something positive.
If the review contains anything positive about the experience, mention that first. If not, just thank the reviewer for taking the time to leave a review.
2. Apologize for what went wrong.
If you are not sure that your company was in the wrong, you can apologize generally that the reviewer’s experience was not satisfactory. Otherwise, apologize specifically and express empathy.
3. Offer a resolution.
Create an email address for unhappy clients to reach you. You don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) specify any refunds or discounts that you plan to offer, but you should make it clear to anyone who reads the review that you sincerely want to resolve the situation.
Thank you for taking the time to leave a review. We are very sorry that your driver was late and that you were not able to talk to dispatch, both of which added to the stressful situation. If you could contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we will do our best to make this right. Thank you!
“I’ve used XYZ Airport Shuttle in the past, but my experience today made me leave a review. My pickup was scheduled for 5:00 a.m., and Jorge, my driver, texted me at 4:50 to let me know he was parked outside my house. I had a large suitcase, which he carried to the van for me. Jorge was so nice and friendly! I got to the airport early, and it was the least stressful airport trip I’ve ever had.”
1. Start with a general thank you.2. Comment on specific details in the review.
Your goal is to encourage more people to write positive reviews, so starting with a sincere thank you will communicate that you appreciate the time they take to write them.
Whenever possible, respond to the positive descriptions in the review to demonstrate that you’ve read it and to reinforce the strengths of your company.3. Don’t write the same thing for every review.
It can be difficult to vary responses, especially if you are responding to a five-star rating without an actual written review, but do your best to change it up to make it clear an actual person is reading and responding.
We are happy to have you as a customer, and we really appreciate this great review! XYZ has been lucky to have Jorge on our team for six years—he loves what he does, and that comes through in the service he provides. Thanks again, and we hope to see you soon.
The most common review sites are Google, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Yellow pages. Responding to reviews on those sites will raise your Google rankings, because Google rewards companies who communicate. Most importantly, however, will be the trust you build with your customers as they see you take their opinions—both positive and negative—seriously.