The digital age has changed the way that businesses and customers interact, and it has equally changed the nature of how feedback is shared.
The review website phenomenon has made it much easier for customers to communicate their pleasure (or, more frequently, their displeasure) with the brands and businesses with whom they carry out their business.
Importantly, reviews can and do influence the buying habits of other customers, and so it’s important to think about what reviews can say about you as opposed to what they do say about you.
It’s also worth thinking about the sheer number of options that customers have if they want to vent their frustrations or sing your praises.
There are several websites and platforms which have review functionality, some more incidental than others. The review function on Facebook pages for businesses, for example, represents a logical extension of the original function of the page, but websites such as Trustpilot, Yell, Tripadvisor and others exist solely for reviews.
From an SEO perspective, a presence on review sites have a positive effect on your businesses’ own ranking on search pages, according to the website Review Trackers. “If you are getting a significant number (review quantity) of positive reviews with high ratings (review quality) across multiple high-authority review sites (review diversity), you stand a better chance of getting found in local search results.”
However, this, of course, opens your business up to risk: negative reviews.
When it comes to dealing with reviews, then, any strategy needs to be both comprehensive and proactive. That means covering as many bases as possible and taking an active, rather than reactive, approach.
You can think of it as a two-pronged method:
1) Identifying and resolving negative reviews
2) Identifying opportunities to invite customers to leave reviews
Create a comprehensive response plan
It’s important that you reply to both positive and negative reviews. In the first instance, thank them for taking the time to leave a review. In the latter instance, put the focus on apologising.
Knowing, too, how you will proceed negative reviews through a resolution process is an important step; think of a way to map out that process, and try to bring it full circle so that you have the opportunity to extract a positive or improved review from a happier customer.
When replying, each review that you receive will present different issues, but it is worth having some stock responses to which you can turn.
If these reviews are coming across through alternative channels, for example via social media, it’s important to remove any conflict from the public sphere and encourage the customer to message you directly with a full account of the issue.
It’s a reasonable observation to make that unhappy customers are more likely to leave a review than happy customers.
There are a few reasons why this seems to be the case; negativity bias (the idea that “bad things will produce larger, more consistent, more multifaceted or more lasting effects than good things”) can play a role. Some preliminary academic research has been carried out and there is some consensus about the phenomenon and the effect it can have on online reviews.
One of the challenges, then, is trying to find ways in which you can get around this. A vocal negative minority can do considerable reputational damage, so inviting customers with positive experiences to leave reviews is a good way to be proactive.
There are a couple of approaches; you can either ask in person when customers are physically on your premises and after the conclusion of a sale. Alternatively, you can solicit reviews in correspondence between you and your customers.
These can be tacked on the end of emailed invoices, or when fielding regular customer service enquiries on phone calls or through social media.
If all of this isn’t something that you feel like you can manage independently, you can outsource the work to companies who specialise in reputation management. There are plenty of options out there if this is the best route for you; remember to shop around and consider which one offers you the best the solution at the best cost.