Best Practices for Managing Online Feedback
1. Create clear, well-defined goals
What is the purpose of gathering feedback from your customers? Here are some examples:
- Using reviews and ratings on your website to improve click-through rates
- Creating white papers to give other potential clients insights into what it is like to work with your business
- Gather testimonials to increase website conversion rates
- To identify operational or staffing issues with your sales experience
- To improve the customer conversion pathway
- Learn more about your customer’s needs
When you know what your goal is then you can work out the best methods for gathering the feedback.
2. Be proactive
Rather than sit back and wait for the reviews to come in before you address them, you should be proactive in seeking out the feedback from your customers.
There are many ways that you can do this, and how you do it is often dictated by your sales delivery methods.
For example, if your transaction is face to face, then you can ask your customers at the point of sale how their experience was. If it was positive, then there is no harm in asking for a review.
Other conventional means for collecting positive feedback are:
- Website Pop-up (sometimes these can be intrusive so be careful)
- Customer surveys
- Thank-you and business cards
- Reciprocal reviews (great for B2B transactions)
Timing & tone
The keys for requesting any review though is timing and tone. You want to create the interaction close to the point of sale (obviously after the transaction has been completed!) so that the experience is fresh in the customer mind. You also need to ask nicely. Don’t push your request on the customer as it will end up having the opposite impact to the one you desire.
What if the feedback you get is negative?
This is actually an excellent thing. Finding out that your customer had a negative experience early gives you the chance to make amends, and even put a positive spin on it.
Set up a feedback pathway that leads any criticisms back to your customer service team, or customer experience manager to address. Let them deal with it.
For example, if you have solicited feedback through a website, then you can ask at the start if the input is positive or negative. If it is positive, then the next steps can lead the user down the pathway to leaving you a public review or a testimonial.
If the experience has been a negative one for your customer, then the next step would be to lead them back towards somewhere out of the public view to a phone conversation, or email where you can address the customers concerns.
How do you make a negative a positive?
Customers that let you know that the experience they had wasn’t positive, are also the ones that will tell all their friends about the experience when it was great.
By addressing their concerns early, and asking them what you could do to turn the experience around for them, you are being given a chance to convert them to lifelong customers.
While the desire is to take the negative away from the public forum if you can turn the experience around then don’t be afraid to ask them to leave you a great review!
3. Always respond
“Why is it that I need to respond to reviews?” This is a common question we hear from our clients.
The reason that you are responding to the opinions you receive isn’t just for the customers you have now, but also for the customers you want in the future.
Always respond to the feedback that you get from your customers, whether it is positive or negative. It lets customers know that they are being heard and makes them feel valued. To any potential new clients, it reassures them that if something does go wrong, then they will receive your support.
Respond to the positive too
You can so often become focussed on dealing with the negative that you forget about the positive stuff. The positive feedback you get is the stuff you want to encourage, so get on and thank your customers.
Encouraging positive reactions will stimulate more, and can also create a bit of brand tribalism, leading to word of mouth – the cheapest form of marketing you can get!
4. Use a guideline, not a template
You need to set in place some rules on how you respond to reviews. You want to maintain professionalism at all times. Here’s a basic idea of what you could do for negative feedback received in an online public forum:
- Thank the customer for their feedback
- Apologise for the experience they had (without accepting or acknowledging guilt)
- Empathise with them – let them know you care!
- Move the conversation somewhere away from the public eye (you still need to be professional!)
Share your guideline with the business so that everyone knows what they need to do when they receive feedback from your customers, and encourage your employees to pass it on. There is nothing worse than feedback not making it back to the people who need to hear it!
5. Be personal
Make sure your responses aren’t robotic. This is why #4 is titled “Use a Guideline” and not “Create Rules”.
Customers can tell the difference between personalised and templated responses which leads them to believe they are just going back into the system. No one wants to be part of the system man✌️
6. Centralise control
While you want everyone in the business to be part of the feedback loop, it is vital that there is a centralised control point that manages feedback and collates data. This will make it much easier to standardise how you address situations, as well as provides input to the business of any recurring issues.
7. Track it!
The person collating the data should be giving the business regular updates on your performance. The way I like to do it is through the heat mapping method which provides you with a visual representation of how your business is performing over time.
Whatever method you use, it is essential that your individual business units can see how they are performing through a customer’s eyes.
Tips & Tricks For Garnering Feedback:
Start with open-ended questions:
When you are asking for feedback from your customers, sometimes it’s better not to just come straight out and say it. Take the subtle approach by starting with a few open-ended questions like “how are enjoying the product”, or “how did you find your experience with our technician”.
Get the conversation started before casually dropping in that it would be great if “they could leave that feedback online”, then give them the link to do it!
Ask them to review you, not your business
This is a great one when the product or service you are selling is delivered by people over the phone or in the field.
Call centre and field staff will often build a rapport with the customer and will have a good gauge on how well the experience went. When they ask the customer themselves to “jump online and leave me a review because it looks good to my bosses”, the customer will be more inclined to do so.
Incentivise customers & employees
There is no harm in incentivising customers to give you feedback (there can be if you are only seeking positive reviews though so be open to all forms of feedback – see below).
You can do it in a way that has a low cost to your business too, such as by offering customers discounts on their next purchase. If it costs your company $100 to bring new leads into the business then offering $50 to a customer to retain them just makes sense.
Likewise, employee incentives for when they get positive reviews builds morale and improves the workplace environment. How much does it cost you to hire a new employee? Incentives like this can form part of an active employee retention programme.
Give your customers options
Not all of your customers have a Google account, so giving them only one avenue to leave you feedback reduces your chances of getting a result. While you may want the reviews to be online and visible, all feedback is positive in moulding the culture of your business.
The call centres we have worked with in the past were encouraged to put up a wall of fame where they could pin up any letters or emails they received from customers telling them how awesome they were!
Make your customer support accessible
There is nothing worse than as a customer with a problem not being able to speak to someone about it. Having to send an email feels like a waste of their time, and often unlikely to produce a result. Worse still, while they are sitting around waiting for your response, they are more likely to jump onto their phone or computer and leave their feedback online.
Don’t solicit only the positive
If you specifically ask for positive reviews, then you run the risk of being blacklisted by companies like Google. This is because Google wants the reviews it shows to potential customers to be an accurate reflection of your business.
Rather than solicit only the positive, ask for all feedback and then channel that feedback to different forums based on its tone. This is why I love using a feedback page on websites because they allow you to control the feedback flow and channel it to where you want it to go.
NewyMedia is a digital marketing company based in Newcastle, Australia. If you need help marketing your restaurant or bar, then we are here to help. You can contact us here, or sign up below to join our mailing list for more great tips and advice.