Yelp, Angie’s List, and other review sites play a powerful role in influencing potential customers. 92% of customers read online reviews, and “star factor” is the number one criteria used to judge a business.
Having a large number of reviews is desirable for two reasons. First, potential customers value having a depth of information available to them – 88% of customers report they’re willing to read up to ten reviews before making their decision . Second, having a quantity of reviews minimizes the impact of any negative reviews your business receives: if you have only four reviews, a one-star review will drag your overall star rating down; if you have four hundred, one bad review won’t matter quite as much.
Response Time Matters!
Responding quickly to reviews increases the likelihood that they will be read, both by the initial poster and by other readers who are searching for information about your business. If the reviewer is pleased about their experience with your company, a rapid response reinforces the positive impression they have about you and strengthens the brand relationship; if the review is negative, a rapid response indicates that your company values their customers, keeps an eye on things, and when made aware of a problem, takes steps to make things right.
For a long time, the rule of thumb is for responding to online reviews was to do so within 24 hours. However, there are reasons you want to reply faster than that. Social media platforms and review sites have been tracking how long it takes brands to respond to customers who interact with them; faster response times are one factor in the algorithmic mix that determines how your company is positioned in search results. Additionally, people are impatient: they’re connected all the time, and they expect everyone else to be too.
30 Minutes or Less: How To Make Rapid Responses Happen
Setting aside those reviews that come in during the wee hours of the night, it’s a good best practice to respond to all reviews with 30 minutes or less. That sounds like a daunting challenge, but with the right procedures in place, it’s actually manageable for most businesses. Here’s what you need to do:
Decide Who Will Be Responsible For Answering Reviews
Each organization should have at least one individual who is explicitly responsible for monitoring and responding to reviews. All of the review sites and social media platforms issue notifications when new content is posted; these notifications must go to the designated person.
Have Stock Responses Written in Advance
Reviews generally fall into one of three positive categories: positive, neutral and negative. Create a basic script for responding to each that your designated person can customize as they reply to reviews. This streamlines the process tremendously, while still delivering the authentic engagement customers value.
Shift Complicated Conversations Off of the Review Site
Some customer reviews will include complicated complaints or lengthy discussions. You don’t want these conversations to happen in the spotlight. Use your review response to politely invite the person posting this review to contact you through a more private venue, including a phone call, email, or even in-store visit.
Discuss Reviews Weekly
Make a discussion about online reviews part of your weekly routine. Not only does this help the person who’s been designated to monitor and respond to them stay on track, it provides an opportunity to pass along praise to any employees who have been mentioned by name in reviews and to address problematic issues, particularly recurring ones.
Encourage Your Customers to Leave Reviews
Ask your customers to leave reviews. Explaining that positive reviews helps a business grow is a very effective motivator; your best customers want to see you succeed. Yelp can be problematic, as they only publish the reviews of established reviewers, but let your customers know commentary on Google Business, Angie’s List, Facebook and similar sites does help! Just avoid mass communication such as eblasts or social media posts asking for reviews as mass influxes of reviews can trigger sites (especially the already tricky Yelp) to filter those reviews. Instead opt for individual interactions with your customers – especially those you see often!