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Responding to reviews PT1

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Consumers search for online reviews for reassurance and greater confidence in their buying decision. As 59% of consumers believe online reviews are just as trustworthy as their friends (1), they may well be more influential than you think. Embracing and encouraging customer reviews can seem a little daunting, especially with the prospect of attracting negative reviews. But it doesn’t need to be.

Not least because more consumers take the time to write positive reviews (49%) than negative (34%), but because when managed effectively, negative reviews can make a positive impact on your online reputation, and ultimately your sales.

There are of course other factors that can make review management tricky, including a large number of locations, the consistency and timing of the message and a lack of education across the business, to name but a few. This guide is here is to tackle all these challenges and give you practical tools and steps that you can implement straight away, to encourage more and more customers through your door.

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With this guide, you will discover:

  • How to approach a local review management strategy to leverage key benefits,
  • How to successfully assess, analyse and react to a potentially damaging review,
  • Templates to follow that help you and your team craft an effective reply, to both positive and negative reviews,
  • Easy steps to streamline your internal processes.

Why review management should be an essential part of your marketing strategy

Effective local review management can reap great rewards which all lead towards driving ready-to-buy customers through the door.
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1) Be noticed by potential customers

Online reviews are there for everybody to see, both the good and the bad, and that goes for your response, or lack thereof, too.

As Google has revealed, there has been a dramatic increase in ‘near me’ searches and a 10x increase in the search term ‘open near me tonight’ (2) If you’re not managing your reviews effectively, that’s a huge amount of ready-to-buy potential customers you could be missing out on.

Of course, nobody wants a negative review published, but your response can play a part in turning that negative into a positive. Potential customers can see you don’t take such feedback lightly and are going out of your way to rectify it (so as not to provide the same bad experience to them). Left without a response, your negative review may put potential customers off from visiting your location altogether.

Replies to positive reviews are equally essential in attracting new customers as it shows how important your customers are, as well as maintaining a positive reputation. Ultimately sparking interest to entice new customers.

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2) Give customers a reason to return

Acquiring a new customer can cost up to 25x more than keeping an existing one (3), so it makes business sense to work on a strategy to make sure your customers keep coming back.

It may seem that all is lost when an unhappy customer leaves a negative review. However, by responding to their feedback and letting them know they are not being ignored, you are making the most of the opportunity to keep them.

Ensuring a considered, personal response which the customer will feel like they have been listened to and valued. Offering a solution, such as an in-store voucher, is a great way to encourage a disgruntled customer back to your store. Plus, it’s incredibly hard to stay emotionally charged in the face of a heartfelt apology (and a freebie). This can often result in a reviewer editing or deleting their negative review on reflection of a positive solution.

In comparison, responding to positive reviews to make the customer feel valued will only ever encourage them to return.

3) Build strong customer relationships

Responding to all reviews shows that you listen to your customers, and value their feedback, which is all part of successful customer relations.

Make sure you have something in place to manage further replies, as, on some platforms, such as Facebook, customers have the option to continue the conversation, so a one-off reply might not be enough. You always have the option to suggest the dialogue is taken offline if you feel it would be more effective to do so. Don’t forget to leave a brief response to reassure those ‘passing by’ that the customer’s concern is being addressed offline. Your public response should invite them to contact you directly to resolve the complaint, either by phone or email.

You can build a picture of how your customers react to your establishment, such as what they value and what they consider frustrating. You can look further into their profiles to discover more about them as a person and even discover what other establishments they like and dislike. This will help you tailor your response to feedback and reviews, helping you win back unhappy customers, as well as provide insights for your wider customer profiling activity.

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4) Build valuable local knowledge

The location level insights you can get from reviews are priceless across the business. Managing reviews effectively allows you to see patterns that can alert you to complaints and concerns on a local level before they become wider company concerns.

You can understand what each location is doing well, and not so well. Plus use the insights to predict similar problems in other locations, adapting solutions as you continue to get further insights.

Using positive reviews on a location level can also help develop new ideas or implement suggestions to other locations.

5) Protect your brand identity

Each location is responsible for the reputation of your brand, so it’s imperative local review management is considered as part of your brand strategy.

This isn’t always easy when many local teams are handling reviews, so you need to ensure everyone who plays a part in your online reputation knows the processes they should follow to deliver a consistent message, and in keeping with your tone of voice. You can always set up workflows to help control and manage this, particularly at the beginning.

It’s also useful to establish guidelines of when to escalate issues and when to offer solutions. Reviews should be escalated when a complaint is related to a serious problem, such as anything that causes harm to customers or employees. In these cases, they should be handled by a senior manager who can make the customer feel heard, provide the appropriate solution and ensure any threat to safety is removed.

Proactively addressing reviews gives you more control of your brand reputation, such as removing harmful photos and clearing up any misconceptions about your establishment that are shared online.

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6) Rise to the top of search results

A third of consumers use search engines when looking for online reviews1, so it’s essential you optimise your ranking. The goal is to get on Google’s Local 3-Pack, which are the three map results that appear on a Google search of service and city. Getting on this coveted list increases the likelihood of consumers clicking, which drives more sales for you and puts you in the Google good books, with a higher placing on future organic searches.

It’s important to remember a few rules to ensure you have the best chance of being at the top of the search results. Customer engagement from a business owner is considered a high-ranking factor, along with unique replies, so it’s important to respond quickly and regularly while avoiding the temptation to replicate content. These, of course, are best practice when it comes to providing customer service.

It’s worth being mindful that Google tracks reviews as it does with any other content on the web. Any abnormal patterns, such as receiving an influx of positive reviews outside of the norm for your business or those in your category, may raise suspicion.

Top 10 Key Takeaways

  • Respond to all feedback, both positive and negative

  • Present a considered, personal response (and a freebie)

  • Take the conversation offline if it continues beyond one reply

  • Gain customer insights through profiles

  • Monitor patterns and trends of local feedback

  • Utilise local data to implement across all locations

  • Establish brand guidelines and monitor results

  • Educate on escalation process

  • Respond quickly and regularly to get in Google’s good books

  • Respond with unique replies for SEO purposes

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