Online reviews are here to stay. Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and Google My Business offer consumers an easy way to share information about their experiences with local and online businesses. While sites like these were once fairly small, their use has become commonplace. In fact, about 88% of all consumers say they check online reviews before patronizing a business. Not only that, they tend to assign a high degree of credibility to what they read, trusting online reviews from strangers more than they would personal reviews from family and friends. What that means is that no business owner can afford to ignore online reviews. The way you react and respond to reviews can have a huge impact on the growth and success of your business.
Why you must respond to negative reviews
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Do you take negative reviews personally? Sometimes business owners think that they’re taking the high ground when they ignore negative reviews, but doing so can be very costly. You might not be able to quantify the effects of ignoring those reviews. Let’s face it, no customer is going to call you and announce that he’s decided to give his business to your competitor – he’ll never show up, and you’ll never know. However, you must assume that a single unanswered negative review has the potential to drive 30 customers away from your door. Few businesses can afford to lose customers like that.
In case you think that I’m exaggerating, you should also know that studies show that “four out of five customers have changed a purchasing decision based on a negative review.” That doesn’t mean every customer will flee as a result of a negative review, but it does mean you can’t take the chance of assuming they won’t.
How to respond to negative reviews
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Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to respond to negative reviews and turn each one into a marketing opportunity.
- Claim your pages on online review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Google My Business, and any other relevant sites. Approximately 49% of businesses have not claimed their pages. That means they can’t respond, and they may also have pages that list inaccurate information. When you claim your page, make sure to check your name, address, phone number, website, hours of operation, menu, and any other relevant information.
- Read all reviews and respond. Even if you have some old reviews on your page, it’s still a good idea to respond to them. You should apologize for the delay if a review has been there for a while. If an issue mentioned in a negative review has already been addressed, make sure to mention it.
- Be polite. No matter how harsh the review, you won’t do yourself any favors if you sound defensive or angry when you respond. In fact, you can worsen the impact of a negative review if you fail to see it as the opportunity it is. Remember the old adage “The customer is always right” and respond as if you truly believe it. In the end, it doesn’t matter if you feel that a customer’s complaint is valid or not – you must act as if it is and respond accordingly.
- Remedy the situation. If a customer had a bad experience with your product, offer to exchange or repair it. Restaurant owners should consider offering a discount or a free appetizer or dessert, and service providers may consider a discount or free do-over. Whatever you offer, make sure to follow through on it. You may not want to make these offers publicly. Instead, ask the reviewer to message you privately so you can take care of the problem offline.
- Delegate responsibly. If you choose to delegate the responsibility of responding to reviews online to an employee, make sure that you are both on the same page about what qualifies as an appropriate response. If you routinely offer a complimentary appetizer at your restaurant to customers who have had an unsatisfactory experience, you don’t want your delegate to offer an entire meal instead. Set out clear guidelines that include the timeliness of responses, the tone to be used, and what you are willing to do to remedy a bad experience.
- Respond quickly. You don’t want a negative review to sit out in plain sight with no response. That means monitoring your pages every day and responding to negative reviews within 24 hours – more quickly if possible.
- Don’t ignore positive reviews. Just because negative reviews require a response doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to skip responding to the positive ones. Even a simple “Thank you” can go a long way toward making customers feel valued.
The benefits of responding
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Responding to negative online reviews can have a big positive impact on your business. Word of mouth is hugely important. In fact, 74% of all consumers report that word of mouth is a key indicator of whether they will make a purchase from a business.
When it comes to your overall ratings on Yelp and other sites, they can have a direct impact on your bottom line. Businesses who increased their ratings by one star on Yelp experienced, on average, revenue growth of between eight and nine percent. That’s a significant increase.
The other thing about positive experiences on review sites is that they inspire sharing. 58% of all consumers say they share their positive experiences with companies and brands on social media. That can translate to significant free advertising for you. If you can turn a negative review around and reclaim a customer, they may tell their contacts about it. Considering that the average Facebook user has 338 contacts, it makes sense to consider what people are saying about you on social media when you decide how to respond to online reviews.
The bottom line is that word of mouth matters. The average internet user places a lot of importance on online reviews and comments, and you can’t afford to ignore them. When you respond in the right way, you have the opportunity to grow your business and increase revenue – and why wouldn’t you want to do that?