Online reviews are increasingly important for local businesses of all types. If someone searches for your business online, it’s just as likely these days that online reviews will appear near the top of the results. What’s more, the latest study from Lightspeed Research shows that more than half of all consumers now use the Internet for some type of research before making a purchase either online or offline.
Inevitably – no matter how good you are – you’ll get some reviews that aren’t to your liking. What then? Should you respond? If so, how? What should you say? What shouldn’t you say?
• Monitor what’s being said about you online. If a customer writes a negative review about your business, that’s bad. If you don’t know about it, that’s even worse. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s bad business. It’s not nearly enough to simply search your business name online occasionally to see what comes up. Instead, local business owners are turning to more sophisticated but easy-to-use “reputation-management” or reputation-monitoring services.
• Know your options and have a plan. Familiarize yourself with the major local review sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Places, DexKnows, Yahoo! Local and others. Check out the tools they offer local businesses to respond to customer reviews (good or bad), and any options you may have for requesting removal of offensive comments. Armed with this knowledge, you can have a plan in place for what to do if something bad shows up. This will help you remain calm and approach your response professionally.
• Remember that prospective customers are your audience. When you respond to a bad review, your audience goes way beyond the customer who wrote it, so that’s who you’re really writing to. You need to “own” the issue yourself. That puts you in control and allows you to fix the problem for the current customer while describing how other customers won’t have the same issue.
• See the silver lining. Customer service gaffs are opportunities to shine. That’s the flip side of your unintended flop. A bad review, while discouraging, provides important feedback that you can use to better your business. Think of it as market research, and approach it objectively. Such feedback can expose hidden weaknesses in your product, service, staff or approach that are important for you to know. Take advantage of your opportunity to respond in a way that turns the situation around and makes you look caring and responsive in the eyes of other customers. •
Daniel Kehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.