Who reads online reviews? Well, just about everyone. A study by BrightLocal found that 97% of consumers aged 18 to 34 read online reviews, and that 85% of all consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends.
With numbers like that, it’s crystal clear that online reviews can make or break your business. That’s why you need to create a process that makes it easy for your customers to leave reviews, and allows you to monitor and respond to those reviews —whether positive or negative. Promptly responding to reviews gives you a chance to show you care about your customers. And, in the long run, it can help you receive better reviews and, ultimately, grow your business.
The Good: The Power of Positive Reviews
Nothing warms the heart more than reading a glowing review from a customer. Every business dreams of happy customers who shout their love from the rooftops. And you should shout your love and appreciation right back to that customer by writing a thoughtful response.
There are many advantages to crafting a quick and courteous response. First off, you’re forming an even tighter bond with the reviewer and possibly turning them into a lifelong customer. What’s more, you’re amplifying the great publicity you just received by drawing even more attention to it. And finally, when you actively engage with reviewers online, you are creating a friendly, approachable persona for your brand that is sure to resonate with other customers.
Writing a response is simple, even for those who never know what to say. Start by saying the magic words, “Thank you!” It’s really as easy as that. “Hey, Marissa! Thanks so much for your kind words.”
Also, reinforce the positive. If you own a tennis shop and the customer praised your staff for its extensive knowledge, responds by saying something like this: “We’re thrilled to know that we’re the most knowledgeable tennis shop in town!”
You can even add a bit of subtle marketing to your response. If a customer had a positive experience, they’re likely to do business with you again. So don’t be shy about mentioning an upcoming launch, event, or offer period that could potentially appeal to that customer.
The Bad: Turn the Frown Upside Down
Negative reviews happen to everyone — even the very best businesses. And they can hurt your business if you simply ignore them and hope they go away (hint: they won’t). Well-intentioned negative reviews are actually a blessing in disguise because they let you know where your business may have fallen short. The even better news is that you can win back unhappy customers and transform them into your biggest supporters by listening to them and responding appropriately.
Customers want to be heard. They want to feel like they matter to you. So you only magnify their displeasure by ignoring a negative review. Start by letting they know you are truly sorry for their bad experience. “Hey, Jonah! We’re sorry to hear that we delivered the wrong size!”
Let them know that you plan to fix the problem. Remember, you’re not talking just to the reviewer. You’re talking to every one of your customers. Taking responsibility is important, but be sure to emphasize that whatever happened does not reflect your company’s mission and vision. “We take pride in getting every order right, so we want to make sure this never happens again.”
Online reviews receive a lot of attention, so after your initial response, be sure to move the conversation offline, especially if it’s negative. Urge the user to contact you through your other communication channels, or better still, let them know your customer support team will follow up with them directly.
The Ugly: Fake Reviews
Fake reviews are a growing problem, especially for small and mid-sized businesses. They can be written by anyone who is determined to besmirch your brand name or even by competitors who create bots that write fake reviews to sully your reputation.
How pervasive is the problem? CBS MoneyWatch reports that “Negative customer reviews have been the subject of lawsuits by doctors, contractors and even mattress companies complaining about unfair critiques.”
So how should you handle online trolls? Almost every review aggregator has a policy instituted against fake reviews, and with concrete evidence, you can get them to remove it. But how do you get that evidence? One ways is ask them directly for their customer ID, billing information etc., which are only issued to actual customers.
Of course, online trolls are reluctant to reveal themselves. But most fake reviewers have to sign in and sign out of their accounts just to leave a review. So to yield a response, tempt them with monetary compensation or free offers.
How can you be sure a review is indeed fake? Here are some red flags to be aware of: Is the reviewer’s name obviously a pseudonym? McLovin18 and MAGA4EVER are probably not actual customers. Do they have a profile picture of a real person? If so, search it on Google. If the image pops up with different names, then the account is likely fake. Was the account created moments before the review was written? Has that same reviewer posted positive reviews on behalf of your direct competitor? These are all pretty good signs that you’re dealing with a troll.
When you are certain that the review is fake, go ahead and call the reviewer out in the public. This way, customers will know which reviews are fake when they’re considering your company. Let your competitors and haters know that you will not let fake reviews misrepresent you or your business. When you take action to remove such reviews, the trolls will think twice before writing a fake review again.
Whether the online review is good, bad or fake, crafting the best response requires practice. But remember, the more you respond to customers, the greater your business will benefit.