Whether you have a brick-and-mortar business or you go onsite to serve customers, people look at your online presence when they’re deciding if they want to do business with you. And among the most impactful parts of that online presence are user-generated reviews and your replies to those reviews. On this podcast episode, we highlight key review response strategies and insights from both business owners and reviewers.
Many people have the misconception that most online reviews are critical or that consumers only turn to online review sites when they want to complain. But in fact, there are more 5-star reviews on Yelp than 1-, 2- and 3-star reviews combined. So rather than avoiding online review sites because of fear of the critical, get excited about the positive reviews—and have a plan in place for when you receive both.
Nic Faitos, owner of Starbright Floral Design in New York City, said, “A negative review is not bad if it’s followed up online with a resolution and a show of how you resolved it.” And that display of resolution may happen on its own, if a consumer chooses to update, change or remove their review; or it may be up to you or your team to respond publicly and share your side of the story in the response. But remember, particularly when you’re responding to a critical review, you’re not responding in hopes of winning the reviewer over, but rather with the goal of putting your customer service practices on display for all potential consumers to see.
“When I read reviews about a business and I see a company responding, it gives me an idea about who the company is. To me, a random 1-star [review] doesn’t mean much, but I can tell a lot when I see a business responding about what kind of business model they have. Are they customer focused? Are they calm, cool, and collected in their response? There’s so much you can learn about the company that you’re about to do business with,” said reviewer Jennifer W.
What you don’t want to do is become too focused on the negative review or star rating itself. “I’m not concerned about getting the person to change the hypothetical 1-star review to a 2-star or 5-star [review]. I’m not looking for more stars. I’m looking to express sincerity. I’m looking to express care, and I’m looking to express: ‘What can we do to make this right?’” said Nic.
We can’t overlook, however, the fact that businesses are human. They’re made up of and run by humans, so mistakes do happen. But those mishaps can also turn into opportunities. “I take ownership of any legitimate problem that surfaced from a 1-star review,” said Josh Campbell, owner of Rescue Air Heating and Cooling in Richardson, Texas. “It needs to be a learning opportunity for the organization.” And if you’re striving to be the best, feedback from customers is an important part of that process—Josh even thanks his critical reviewers. “Thank you for the 1-star review. This is how I grow. Without you bringing these mistakes to my attention, I would never know they were occurring. So you’re a layer of accountability for me to build a better business.”
There are also times when you and your team are executing things exactly to your standards, but it’s the expectations of the customer that are not met. In some instances, the customer’s expectations aren’t even something you intend to serve. Those particular reviews are an opportunity to intentionally explain to consumers who you are and what you offer. You can lean into the parts of the review that are true to who you are and take it as an opportunity to clearly state what you do provide—and what you don’t—to help properly set expectations for the next customer. This can also aid in deterring any other consumers who may not be the right fit for your business.
At the end of the day, every business wants to have a great online presence. And every business can, if they commit to engaging with their reviews and reflecting their customer service practices digitally. Avoid soliciting or asking for reviews as it’s against Yelp’s terms of service and content guidelines. But rather, celebrate the great reviews you do have by responding to them and then sharing them on your website or social media. Lastly, there’s no substitute for creating enjoyable and memorable experiences for your customers. High-quality customer service is the most direct way to positively impact your online reputation as customers will then be more inclined to share their positive experiences digitally for others to see.
Follow these crucial steps for creating a review response strategy:
- Engage. Deciding to pay attention to your online presence is the first step in making that online presence work for you. Claim all of your business pages and turn on notifications so you’re aware when customers are talking about you or sharing their experiences.
- Be open to feedback. Having a plan in place for responding to reviews means you have to be open to gleaning insights or learnings from your customers who share their experiences digitally, positive or negative
- Be prepared to respond. Regardless of if you agree with an online review or not, having a response strategy means you will respond no matter what. Replying to a review doesn’t need to be a back-and-forth dialogue between you and the reviewer, but rather show off your customer service practices to all future consumers. Keep the response short, thank them for their feedback, and then take the conversation offline.
- Always take the high road. Your response is a reflection of your business. The only thing worse than getting a critical review is pairing it with a heated or aggressive reply. Use your response as a business owner to remain professional and respectful.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from more business owners and reviewers, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.