Restaurants, hotels, and retail shops attempting to manage online reviews have a horrific enemy.
Copy and paste.
Don’t get caught taking shortcuts when it comes to responding to online reviews. Taking the time to write the right response can result in better outcomes and even repeat customers.
Before we start talking about crafting good responses, let’s agree on a few things:
- Online reviews play a dramatic role in today’s buying decisions—buying a computer, hiring a plumber, booking a hotel, and everything in between.
- Ignoring online reviews only makes your business look like you don’t care what your customers think.
- A mix of positive and negative reviews are a good thing.
- You cannot make a negative review “go away.”
- A good response to a review can turn a negative situation into a customer service positive.
As a business owner, I get it. The flood of online reviews pour in at the exact same time when you’re the busiest. There are a world of things that require your attention. Sitting down to read online reviews and give a thoughtful reply isn’t at the top of your list.
How would you treat this situation? You’re busy stocking shelves and a customer comes up to you with a question.
“I was in last weekend,” the customer asks. You look at them and walk away.
Not very customer service oriented, right? That’s what’s happening when you don’t reply to an online review. That scene is then shown to every customer who walks in afterward. It becomes detrimental to your business.
Responding is critical. Good or bad.
Most business owners and managers start with a simple question: How long is a good review response?
Of course, it depends. A quick guideline is: as long as the review.
If Bob posts a high rating with a quick, “It was awesome!” Then an equally quick, “Thanks, Bob! Glad your experience was awesome. We hope to see you again soon,” response works.
However, if Betsy posts a five or six paragraph review, positive or negative, your response should be equally thoughtful.
Let’s dive into crafting those replies.
How to Respond to a Negative Review
It’s important to always remember the basics. Just as I described above, treat an online review the same way you would a walk-in customer service situation.
Frequently, we reference the “three A’s” of customer service:
- Acknowledge the situation
- Apologize for the less than desired experience
- Act or demonstrate change
This same concept should be evident in your online review response. Your reply should:
- Take the high road — ALWAYS
- Express empathy
- How will you take action?
- Present a resolution opportunity
An important tip: Leave emotions out of it. Make sure your response has only documented facts—dates, times, location, etc. should be the extent.
Take all further discussions OFFLINE. Give your business contact information (even your first name) and show you are available to help resolve the experience.
BUSINESS OWNER BEWARE! NEVER PUBLICLY COMP!
Situations like this may often involve compensating the reviewer for a poor experience. Just as you have some who will complain expressly for a discount, the same is true for those posting negative online reviews.
Deciding whether to compensate someone for a poor experience is a judgement call. However, I cannot state strongly enough to make sure it is done privately and not associated with the review.
In addition to there being strict guidelines against rewarding reviewers for positive reviews, attempting to compensate a reviewer for a poor experience ultimately devalues your product or service.
How to Respond to a Positive Review
Most business owners and managers scramble to respond to negative reviews, but pay far less attention to positive ones. Don’t miss this opportunity to turn a happy customer into a raving brand ambassador.
Writing a positive review is an opportunity to expand the conversation and showcase what made their experience noteworthy. Be sure to strike while the iron is hot and respond to the review quickly. Take the chance to engage them, invite them back, and share some “insider” tips to make their next experience even better yet.
Those “insider” tips also get seen by people deciding to visit you. Knowing your resort also has free kayak rentals or your restaurant has all-you-can-eat fish fry on Fridays can be the tipping point for someone reading reviews.
A couple quick tips for responding to positive reviews:
- Respond within a week
- THANK THEM!
- Mention your business at some point in the reply
- Include helpful keywords or phrases for your business (Google is looking!)
- Keep it readable and natural!
- Share a recommendation for next time
- Invite them back
Tips Managing Your Online Reputation
Responding to online reviews is critical. Reviews are the new word of mouth and the best way to showcase your customer service responsiveness. Whether the reviews are positive or negative, be sure to jump into the conversation.
Some tips to help you manage your reputation:
DEVELOP THE “FRONT LINE”
- Staff training to encourage reviews at time of service
- Middle management training to prevent escalation
- Share positive and negative reviews with staff
TIP: Make sure your business has a documented social media policy that is given to ALL team members.
CREATE AN ONLINE REVIEW “PLAYBOOK” FOR EVERYONE
- A simple document outlining the do’s and don’t’s
- Aids in training multiple people
- Documents actions, language, and policies
HOLD GROUP SESSIONS FOR TRAINING AND SHARING
- Hold training and refresher sessions on the importance on online reputation management and reviews
- Share noteworthy reviews – good and bad – and use them for training
- Include managers, supervisors, and others called into customer service experiences
TIP: Even long-term team members should participate and eventually lead training or sharing sessions.
SHARE GREAT REVIEWS ONLINE AND ON SOCIAL MEDIA
- Your website should feature links to review sites
- Contact reviewers to share reviews on your website
- Share positive reviews on social media channels
TIP: Did someone leave a great review about your Almond-Encrusted Halibut? Share the review on social media WITH A PICTURE!
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