Reviews are so important. Eight out of ten customers do online research before visiting a store or making a purchase, and reviews make up a significant portion of the content they take into consideration. Auto Trader recently reported that users spent up to ten percent longer on the pages of dealers who displayed reviews on their profiles; longer engagement times tracks with increased sales.
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It is very important to respond to all reviews promptly and professionally. Positive reviews are easy to respond to: a simple thank you, customized to address the reviewer’s specific comments, is all you need. It’s when things aren’t as complimentary that things get complicated. Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of responding to negative reviews:
DO: Stay professional, no matter what.
Some reviewers go out of their way to be as nasty as possible. From profanity-filled posts to attacks on your character, it seems as if there are no limits. As hard as it is to face this type of treatment with equanimity, remember that you’re not the one who looks bad in this situation. Always take the higher ground, responding to all reviews with a calm professionalism. If the review is hurtful to the degree that you can’t do this yourself, delegate a trusted member of your team to do it. Some review sites do have a mechanism for reporting abusive reviews, such as those that attack a business owner on the basis of their racial identity. Make use of these mechanisms when appropriate.
DON’T: Feel obligated to explain your side of the story.
A review is not the place to explain in detail what went wrong with a special order, or why the waiter was rude, or anything else. Instead, acknowledge that the reviewer’s not happy, and invite them to take the conversation to another, less public forum, such as email or by calling your business. Bear in mind that many people prefer text-based communications to actual conversations, so give at least one communication option beyond a phone number.
DO: Conduct internal investigations based on what reviewers say.
If someone’s taking to the internet to complain about your business, it is a good idea to find out if their complaints actually have merit. Sometimes they won’t, but sometime they will – and in the cases that there is something not up to snuff with your operation, the time is now to take corrective action. In cases where the complaints center on services provided by a third party vendor, such as booking reservations through an app, it is a good idea to research whether other businesses are experiencing similar problems and to reconsider your commitment to using that particular service.
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DON’T: Be afraid to ask your customers for reviews.
Reviews are a numbers game. If you have one bad review, and only two reviews in total, your business is going to look pretty bad. However, if you have one bad review and ten reviews in total, that bad review isn’t quite as impactful. One bad review out of a hundred is a non-event. Ninety percent of customers surveyed by Yodle, a marketing research firm, reported that they’d happily review businesses if asked to do so – but only seven percent had ever been asked!