Online reviews from customers can be both a benefit and a burden to companies in any industry. Research shows that customers are willing to spend 31 percent more with businesses that boast excellent reviews, while 94 percent say a negative review can convince them to avoid a business altogether. And then there are some reviews that are completely fake and can threaten your credibility as a brand.

So, how can you manage the good (positive reviews), the bad (negative reviews), and the ugly (fake reviews)? It starts simply by responding. Below, we outlined several best practices for customer review management, including why it’s important to respond to reviews and how you can get more customers to sing your praises online.

Why It’s Important to Respond to Customer Reviews

The fact of the matter is, you can’t control what people say about your business online. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take control of your online reputation. Responding to reviews allows you to engage with some of your brand’s biggest supporters, address and rectify any complaints, and dispel any false accusations. Here are a few more reasons why businesses should respond to reviews.

Improve Local SEO Rankings

Google has confirmed that more reviews and positive ratings can improve your local SEO rankings. In fact, review signals, (review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) make up more than 15 percent of local pack ranking factors. Google’s “local pack,” which is the small group of local listings that show up right above the organic results, is prime real estate for driving traffic to your site.

Furthermore, responding to reviews can help build trust—both with your customers and with search engines—which can also improve your rankings. Search engines want to recommend credible, trustworthy sites to users. That’s why Google encourages businesses to “interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business. Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business.”

Identify and Correct Problems

People complain because they want you to know something about your company. Whether it's because your company takes too long to answer the phone or your website won't let them buy that cool thing they need to have, they're letting you know about a problem they feel that you should fix. Channel these complaints to work toward improvement.

Increase Revenue

A study by Cornell University found that evidence that sales go up each time you respond to a review. Even just a one-star improvement in an online rating can increase your revenue by as much as 39 percent. This makes sense for a lot of the reasons mentioned above:

  • People want to buy from brands that engage with their customers.
  • Continuously improving your product and/or processes can attract more customers to your business.
  • By increasing your search visibility, you can drive more traffic to your site, providing more opportunities to convert leads into customers.

How to Manage Online Customer Reviews

You’ll want to take a strategic approach to customer review management before you start firing off responses willy-nilly. From monitoring reviews to responding to customer online, follow these best practices outlined below.

Claim Your Business on Review Sites

Review sites and social media platforms are some of the first outlets customers will go to provide feedback. Make sure you set up business accounts on these platforms to give customers a chance to share their experiences with your brand. If you already have accounts set up, be sure to you claim your business and make sure your company details and contact information are up to date.

Decide Who Handles Reviews

You’ll then need to decide who will monitor and respond to customer reviews from your company’s business account. Most sites only allow one management response per review, so it’s important to ensure you’re only leaving quality responses.

As a business owner, you may feel too close to the business to get involved in customer review management. Ideally, you’ll want to choose someone on your team (think: customer service representative, public relations or marketing manager, etc.), who embodies these traits:

  • A positive customer service attitude
  • An amicable writing style
  • An objective point of view that won’t be personally offended by a negative review
  • The authority to resolve customer issues
  • Sound judgement to determine when to send a review up the management ladder

Monitor Brand Mentions Online

It’s important to stay active by monitoring and responding to customer reviews in real time. Responding to reviews in a timely manner shows that you are genuinely interested in what your customers have to say, appreciate their positive feedback, and are available to remedy any negative experiences. Studies show that 53 percent of customers expect businesses to reply to their online reviews within seven days, while not replying at all can increase your customer churn rate by up to 15 percent.

From Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook to Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, and online forums—there are many different places where customers can leave reviews about your business. It’s important to know when and where these reviews appear, so you can respond as quickly as possible. Some free brand monitoring platforms you may want to check out include:

  • SocialMention: Aggregates all of the blog, image, and video content related to your brand from a variety of search engines and social networks.
  • BoardReader: Crawls message boards and discussion panels to see what people are saying about your brand.
  • Google Alerts: Set up alerts for any time your brand is mentioned in the search results.

Respond to Positive Reviews (4-5 stars)

It’s a best practice to respond to positive reviews, so customers know that you appreciate their compliments and are listening to them. Publicly responding to online reviews can also help encourage more customers to leave positive reviews, which can help boost your search rankings.

When responding to positive reviews, you’ll want to keep it short and sweet. Thank the customer for the positive review and let them know you look forward to doing business with them again. Here’s an example of responding to a positive review:

Dear (Customer Name), Thank you for the positive review! We are always excited to hear such great feedback, as providing top-notch (service) is our top priority. We look forward to doing business with you again soon!

Respond to Negative Reviews (1-3 stars)

While no one wants to receive a negative review, they’re bound to happen every once in a while. Fortunately, it’s possible to manage negative reviews and even turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes when responding to a negative review. In your response, you’ll first want to apologize for their negative experience, sympathize with the customer, and then move the conversation offline. Here’s an example of responding to a negative review:

Dear (Customer Name), I apologize for your negative experience with (Company Name). I’m sure that must have been frustrating for you. I’d like to learn more about your specific situation and how we can make things right. Please contact us at (phone number or email address) at your earliest convenience. I look forward to speaking with you then.

Report Fake Reviews

Fake reviews can be hard to spot, but should you encounter one, it’s best to report or flag the review right away to try to get it removed from the platform. In some states, businesses have even taken action against commenters who’ve left slanderous reviews with SLAPP lawsuits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).

Whether you choose to respond or not is up to you, but make sure you stay consistent with your strategy. For example, if you respond to all reviews, but not a fake review, customers might assume that the other negative posts are accurate and that’s why you’re not responding to the fake post. However, if you decide to respond, don’t accuse the reviewer of anything. Simply draft a polite response that addresses the points made in the review and ask to resolve the issue offline, as you would with any other negative review.

How to Encourage More Positive Reviews

Of course, every business wants as many positive reviews as they can get. Some may even offer a reward to customers to try to get more positive reviews—this is not the right approach. Soliciting your customers for reviews, such as entering them into a contest or offering a discount in exchange for a good review, can be tacky. It’s also against the rules on most review platforms, including Google My Business and Yelp.

It’s always best to encourage reviews from your customers in a more organic way―all you have to do is ask. Consider asking customers for reviews from a thank you page on their website, while interacting on social media, or via email. In fact, Bright Local found that 68 percent of customers have left a review after being asked to do so.

Timing your request for feedback is crucial, as you’ll want to identify positive touchpoints in the customer journey to ask for reviews. Consider asking for reviews after:

  • Delivering a product demo
  • A recent customer purchase
  • A customer recently downloaded content
  • A chatbot provided a helpful answer to a question

When asking for feedback, thank the customer for their business and then cut straight to the point. It can be as short and simple as this example below:

Dear (Customer Name), Thank you for your purchase! If you are happy with your [new product], we would appreciate if you would consider taking a minute to review it here [link to review platform]. This helps us to continue providing great products and helps potential buyers to make confident decisions.

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A steady stream of quality reviews is essential for your reputation, search engine rankings, and business revenue. Need some help? The team at Aztek will work with you to transform your digital presence—from developing strategies that entice customers to leave quality reviews to providing you with the tools needed to monitor engagement online. And that’s just the beginning! Contact us today to start a conversation.

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