Online Reputation – Don’t Forget to Manage Your Review Responses

Reputation management has a lot of similarities to online marketing, but it doesn’t stop there. Building a professional website, writing blog articles, and running an advertisement campaign are all important aspects of ORM. Yet beyond this, companies need a structured plan for building lasting relationships through online customer interaction.

Reviews Are Important

At ReputationDefender, we assist clients with generating and ranking positive content, but unfortunately, a few negative reviews can quickly undo all your hard work. Today’s customers are looking for more than brand generated content. They also want to see what kind of experience past customers have had. Studies have shown that 90 percent of customers read online reviews before trying a business for the first time, while 88 percent will trust these reviews the same as an in-person or word-of-mouth recommendation. This can translate directly into profits; businesses that receive predominately positive reviews see a 31 percent increase over those that don’t, while just one negative review can cost a company about 30 customers.

It’s Hard to Control What People Say

It’s hard to control who writes reviews on the internet, which can leave business leaders feeling somewhat helpless. Customers who’ve had a very memorable experience, either positive or negative, are more likely to take to the internet to express their feelings, and since many people tend to notice negative experiences more often than positive ones, online reviews don’t often represent a good cross-section of a business’s customers.

You can change this, as we mentioned in an earlier post, by generating more reviews. If every customer writes an honest critique, you’ll likely get a lot of positive comments (assuming the business is doing a good job overall) as well as a few pointers about where to improve. But even with the best review campaign, the majority of people visiting the site will still be there to read what others say, not to contribute.

Company Responses Make a Difference

This makes it very important for businesses to participate in the conversation taking place on review sites. Responses posted directly to this page will be read by everyone. Even if you don’t change the mind of the person who originally gave your business a negative rating, you can show other customers that you take feedback seriously and are sincerely trying to do a good job. Professional responses can often make you appear the more reasonable party.

Any serious ORM campaign needs to include a strategy to manage reviews, especially the company’s responses to reviews. The wrong response can generate more negative attention than the original comment, yet the right one offers a way to undo a lot of the damage and build a better, more honest relationship with customers. Managing reviews isn’t a job to be delegated to a college intern who happens to be handy on the web. It needs to be handled by a professional, preferably someone with real experience and standing in the company.

Planning a Response Strategy

Managing reviews is just like managing other aspects of your reputation. It needs a well thought-out plan, good writing and online communication skills, and of course technical tools to avoid missing content. Your response strategy will need to answer these four questions:

  • How do you keep track of reviews? – There are a lot of review sites on the internet and even with a full-time team it’s impossible to keep track of them all. It’s easy to set up a Google Alert for the brand name and any other relevant keywords. Other software is available with more complex capabilities that will let you monitor social media sites as well.
  • Which reviews are you responding to? – Don’t just respond to negative reviews. It’s important that people who write positive feedback feel their comments are also important to you. You should aim to respond to about 99 percent of reviews, even if it’s just a simple thank you.
  • Who writes responses? – Designate a person or a team to write responses. It helps if a high ranking executive or manager responds to at least some comments so it’s obvious the entire organisation is taking part in the feedback effort. Given time constraints, it may not be possible for this person to write every response, but make sure all team members have clear instructions about the style and content expected so the responses have a similar tone.
  • How will you respond to customers who are dissatisfied? – It’s never a question of if you will get a negative review, but when. It’s important to take these comments as constructive criticism and not react defensively. Some customers may bring up real areas where the company could improve, while others may be hard to please in any circumstances. Either way, write a short polite response within a few days. Take ownership of the problem. Explain what happened, and also what action has been taken to prevent to the issue from occurring again. Compensation can be appropriate in some cases if the customer experienced a loss of time and/or money.

If you stick to your response strategy, you’ll be able to build on positive reviews and avoid sustaining too much reputational damage from negative ones.

Knowing you have the ability to dilute the effect of hurtful comments just by how you respond makes online feedback feel far less threatening.