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Responding to Reviews

As with feedback you receive, all reviews need to be read and may need a meaningful response. Whether this is a team which views them frequently, or as cross-functional ownership between marketing, support, customer success, etc. someone in your organization needs to own the review of your reviews. Doing this not only help you improve, but 78% of consumers say a management response to online reviews makes them believe that the business cares more about them.

Responding to Reviews

Addressing Negative Reviews

When addressing a negative review, it is always important to thank the customer for taking the time to send their feedback to you. Use the customer’s name to give the response a human touch and don’t use a response as an opportunity to upsell or market. Respond to the concern directly and point to any corrective actions that can be taken. If the customer has misrepresented some fact or outcome, politely make the correction so that other readers won’t have the same misconception. If the case is very specific, do some research on any details the customer may not have listed or of which you may not be aware before you respond. This preparation will help make the response more meaningful. Finally, for all issues listed, apologize only for things for which you are accountable.

At the Walt Disney Company, they take these steps through what they call the HEARD method

  • Hear the complaint
  • Empathize with the frustration
  • Apologized for the situation
  • Resolved the problem
  • Diagnose the issue for correction

Each of these steps is important and part of a conversation with the reviewer.

If the response needs to be handled in private, you should still make a quick and public comment.

Publicly ask your customers to contact you directly so that you can discuss the problem. Show them that you are willing to do all you can to rectify the problem. This will build your customers trust and often sets you apart from your competitors. Even if someone else comes across the review, it will be noted that you had tried to resolve the problem the earliest.

Not only should you show the customer your product or service is top quality, but give them the trust that if something goes go wrong, you are there to resolve the problem.

While every review should be read, not all require a response. If the commenter is being irrational or hyperbolic or writing in all caps, a well-reasoned response may not improve the situation, or could at worst exacerbate the negativity. These are frequently referred to as trolls: don’t feed them. They’re just trying to get a reaction, and aren’t a serious prospect or customer.

Dealing with a fake review

Poor reviews can break your business. Fortunately, if they are fake poor reviews, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage. Rose Leadem, writing for Entrepreneur, has identified how you should deal with fake reviews for the best possible outcome.

  1. Determine if the review is actually fake. They often use really aggressive, hostile language without being specific about what they are actually complaining about. They might have left over-the-top positive reviews for your competitors. They might not give a reason for why they are writing the review — which most genuine reviewers will.
  2. Report the reviewer to the site. Most review sites will have a process for reviewing and eliminating phony reviews.
  3. While you’re waiting for the review to be removed, respond to it professionally and with any solutions you can provide. Other customers might not be as savvy to know it’s a troll, and will be waiting for your response to see how to proceed. In fact, 89% of customers can’t always spot a fake review, so it’s super important that you address them too!
  4. Continue to monitor your reviews. If it happens once, it’s a sure sign of it happening again. Don’t let fake reviews pile up without a response.

Fake reviews are more common than you think! 79% of consumers have seen a fake review in the last year, according to BrightLocal. The easiest long term strategy to deal with trolls and prevent them from tarnishing your brand is to ensure you have a constant stream of positive reviews coming in. The overall look of your review pages will be positive, and customers will be less likely to fall for the troll’s abuse.

Why you Should Reply to Positive Reviews

Positive reviews make potential customers 68% more likely to trust a local business. To encourage positive reviews, it’s important to show gratitude to those who share. Use positive reviews as a chance to engage with your promoters and bring equal or more attention to the positivity over the negativity. Responding to positive reviews builds trust and loyalty. Loyal customers not only bring return business, but they also share their experiences with others, which can help your business thrive.

Start by thanking the customer. They could have easily not said anything, so making sure you show appreciation for their time is important. The thank you should be personalized to the message they wrote. By making it generic or templated, it loses the personal touch and makes the response sound robotic or automatic, rather than sincere. For example, instead of saying “Thanks for reviewing your meal” elaborate with “We’re glad you enjoyed the vegetarian lasagna, it is our owner’s favorite, so we can promise it’ll stay on the menu for next time!” The added specifics and inside details are more engaging to the customer and provides any reader with more context about what they might expect if they visit.

Take advantage of the SEO boost

Sneakily, you can also help boost your own SEO through your responses. By mirroring their comments and including location and business name information, you can increase the number of keywords within that review and therefore make it more prevalent to a search engine. Reviews actually offer several benefits for SEO:

  1. Search engines love fresh content, and with new reviews and responses being added frequently, you’ll pop up at the top of the results.
  2. Potential customers will frequently google “[product name] review” which will pull up any recent reviews Google can find.
  3. Rich snippets will show the ratings of popular products directly in the search results page, which can increase click through rates, potentially by 20%.
  4. Customers tend to use the same words in their reviews that potential buyers search for on the internet. More reviews can increase your ranking on the search results page.

To take advantage of the SEO boost, make sure that your reviews are “crawlable” by search engines — meaning they can read them. This usually means they need to be in text form in the HTML of your site and not stored as images, or in some sort of weird flash embed. Most product review tools will handle this for you!

Adding reviews into your feedback cycle

Sometimes customers will be more honest in their public reviews that they are when talking to you. As frustrating as that can be (“why didn’t you just tell us?!”), it still offers another opportunity to listen to customers and hear what they genuinely think about your company. Because the feedback from customers on review sites is so unfiltered, it can offer more insight than curated feedback from product conversations.

Getting the insights out of reviews and in the hands of the people that need it can be difficult though. If you offer many different products, or serve a lot of customers, you may have thousands of reviews to sort through. So how do you do it?

One of the easiest ways is to sift through reviews to find the most representative comments and present them to product and service teams. This should include both positive and negative comments. For example, if a customer takes the time to mention a specific agent in their review, make sure that gets passed along. If a specific feature gets mentioned, make sure the team responsible is told. There is no better feeling that hearing the work you did had a positive impact on the world. A few other ways to share feedback in reviews:

  • Have a dedicated Slack channel for sharing relevant reviews. Share snippets of reviews and celebrate or discuss together.
  • Collate reviews on a specific subject and share them in a post-mortem or working group meeting to paint a picture of how all customers are feeling.
  • Feature overall rating trends in monthly and quarterly reports. It’s an easy way to understand the temperature of your customer base.

The one issue with cherry-picking reviews out of thousands is that people’s personal bias might shape which reviews are shared. Everyone has their pet projects, and even though they are trying to be objective, they are more naturally tuned to find statements from customers that agree with them. The only way to be truly objective is to let the machines do the work of analyzing what reviews are saying.

Thank customers for their reviews

While the most authentic reviews are given when customers aren’t expecting anything in return, it’s still nice to take the time to appreciate customers for their time. By rewarding customers for coming back and sharing their experience, you encourage them to come back again in the future. Plus, half of Americans agree that customer appreciation is an important part of providing excellent customer service.

Thanking customers can be as easy as a quick note over email, or as delightful as personalized gifts and discount codes. Shopify offers six different ways to thank your customer, which can be adapted for your business model, budget and customer type:

  1. Send a handwritten note. In today’s automated world, taking the time to personally write a physical letter means a lot to customers. Sending a postcard or a branded note creates a more personalized connection than just inserting a customers first name into a generic email.
  2. Add a package insert to their next delivery. If you sell physical products or a subscription service, add a little something extra into their next delivery. It might even just be a package of candy, or a free sample, but it shows that you were thinking of them.
  3. Send a personalized gift. If your customer lifetime value is quite high, you can spend more on appreciation to keep them recommending and purchasing from you. Sending something meaningful like a bottle of wine, a box of donuts or something very personalized can make a lifetime customer.
  4. Make a connection with a video. Just like a handwritten note, video is a personalized form of appreciation that can’t be automated. Recording a short video to say thanks not only gets the point across, but also shows the human behind the company. Putting a smiling face in front of your customers shows your personality and creates a real connection.
  5. Offer a discount. Reviews are worth so much to your company, share the wealth with the customers that took the time to write one. A small discount (like 20% off their next order, a free upgrade or expedited shipping) will show your appreciation and encourage another purchase. It’s a win-win!
  6. Shout-out customers. Shower your customer with as much love as they show you. Showcase their products on your social media, reciprocate with a review of their products if you use them, share their success in testimonials and case studies.

Treating reviews like the valuable gift they are will make sure you respond appropriately to your customers. Not only have they identified themselves as your biggest fans, they’ve also helped you attract more customers. Thanking them is the right thing to do, and will keep them on your good side.