THE LOWDOWN

How important are online reviews to your business?

Whenever I start prospecting a new client, the first thing I do is Google stalk them. Not in a creepy way, only that I want to know who they are and what they do. I also want to know if they do it well. How they are managing reviews also gives me insight into how much they value their business.

Well managed reviews are the building blocks of your online reputation and they are important to your potential customers. Just last year Forbes published an article with research that showed 84% of online users trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. A poorly managed online reputation could be the difference between your customer purchasing or not.

What is my online reputation?

Your online reputation is the public’s perception of you or your business formed from opinions or reviews found online. Created by the public, your reputation is the first impression a prospect gets when they find you online.

 

Managing Google Reviews

Is my online reputation genuine?

From my experience, the short answer is no. It is inevitable that even if your company is the best in the world at what it does, there is always someone that is going to say that it isn’t. Whether it is a personal agenda, an act of ‘revenge’, or just a case of mistaken identity, it is unlikely that 100% of what is said about you online is going to be true.

The good news though is that users are on to this and if you are managing reviews in the right you can even put a positive spin on bad feedback…

Do I need a 5-star rating?

As a general rule, as long as your rating is greater than 4 stars then you should be on the money. Having a few bad reviews online isn’t the end of the world. Customers understand that sometimes things don’t go to plan, and often when a negative rating review is read the user gets a better understanding of the issue.

That is why the most important thing is how you are managing reviews of a negative, and even of a positive nature.

Always respond, not for the sake of the reviewer, but for the sake of the person reading the review. You want to let them know that you take customer feedback seriously. It’s almost a product guarantee to the consumer because it gives them confidence that if something goes wrong for them, then they will get support from you.

What are the best practices when managing reviews?

Ask for feedback

Don’t be afraid of customer feedback. I have worked for companies before that would rather shut down their Facebook page than receive feedback that they don’t like or agree with. They take the feedback as criticism of themselves.

To be fair, as a business owner you put so much time and effort into creating a product that finding out people don’t like it can be hard to take. It is just part of the job, so don’t let it get you down.

From time to time, you will get customers who just can’t be pleased. It happens, don’t take it personally. Acknowledge the feedback and move on. If you start to see the same feedback appearing regularly though then you need to take it on board and see if you can identify and rectify the cause.

Another thing too is that if you don’t see the feedback it doesn’t mean that it isn’t still happening. Closing your Facebook page doesn’t mean that the customer can’t complain about you, it just means they are going to go and complain about it somewhere else. It might be somewhere you haven’t thought of, or where you can’t provide a response. That brings me on to my next item…

Be proactive managing reviews

Don’t just ignore your reviews. Respond to them. Whether your review is negative or positive, you should always respond. As mentioned earlier, what it does is allows your users to see that you are active online and take all feedback on board. It builds trust and confidence in your company and your brand.

Sometimes it can be hard as there are so many platforms out there that allow users to have a voice, so choose the main ones that your customers are on. Depending on your industry and location, I would recommend that at a minimum you are active on both Facebook and Google.

Depending on how important online sales are to your business, you may manage 10 or more online reputation platforms. You have to evaluate if the cost of not doing so outweighs the value of doing it. Companies that rely heavily on their website for sales should look at having this role allocated to a resource within the company to manage so that responses are timely.

Don’t delay

Managing reviews in a timely fashion is very important because the longer a negative review sits there without a response the more damage it can do. If you can, try to respond to reviews in just a few hours, or if the review comes in overnight then respond first thing in the morning.

What do I say in my response?

Okay, so this can be really hard if you are the business or product owner. Emotion can sometimes take over and you can’t resist ‘having a go’ at the person who posted the feedback. When managing reviews, keep it impartial.

The reality is there are just 5 simple rules that you should include in every response to online feedback. It is so simple that you can pretty much get anyone to do it for you:

  1. Thank the reviewer: Acknowledge and thank them for their feedback
  2. Apologise: if they weren’t happy with the service then apologise. You don’t have to acknowledge you were in the wrong, just acknowledge that the customer isn’t happy
  3. Refer to your process: give others confidence that there is a process relating to the customer’s issue. If there isn’t a process or resolution in place for this type of issue, then let the user know that there will be a ‘review’ conducted and appropriate steps taken if necessary
  4. Empathise: Let them know that you feel really bad about the situation
  5. Move the conversation: try to shift the conversation out of the public forum and into a private space such as by email, phone or in person

You can use pre-written responses but be careful not to make them sound too canned. A better way would be to arm whoever is providing the responses with this list of guidelines and examples and let them personalise it. Here is an example of a response I have used in the past:

Example

“Hi Anna, thank you so much for bringing this issue to my attention. I really am sorry that our service didn’t meet your expectations. I am going to personally follow up this for you to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. We always pride ourselves in our customer service and our team is really gutted to have let you down. If there is anything more that we can do for you then please give us a call on 02-5555-5555”

Monitor and follow it up

Once you have taken on the feedback and responded to the user, then make sure you don’t just forget about it. Take the steps as you deem necessary because it looks really bad for users if they see the same complaint coming up over and over again. You also don’t want the same customer to come back and complain again at a later date because they still haven’t had a resolution.

It doesn’t mean if a customer complains about something once that you have to make wholesale changes to your business. Just resolve this one and make sure you monitor the issue.  If you see a trend then take steps as needed.

Heatmap it

One trick I learned from a company in Brisbane (who had brought the idea back from the US) is to create a heat map of your reviews. This can be a little time consuming, and there are some online reputation management programs out there that will help you with this, but it gives you a really good indication firstly of how your business is performing, but also on how well you are managing reviews.

Heatmap Example
Mapping your reviews over time is a great way to track how well you are managing reviews. Each horizontal line represents a review platform, and each vertical line represents a date period (I usually do it weekly). Looking across the graph you can start to see trends.

 

The idea is to constantly track your online reviews in the form of a colour coded chart. Green for good (4 or higher), red for bad (2 or below), and varying shades in between. When you put your days or weeks side by side you can then see if there are any trends which you should be concerned about. If everything is green then things are going smoothly and your online reputation is being well managed. If you start to see oranges and yellows then you need to investigate. The idea is to never see red (in more ways than one!). Address the issues before they get out of hand.

Give feedback to your team

There are many reasons to share feedback with your team. Letting them know about the positives boosts morale. Acknowledging the negatives lets them know that you are aware of the issues your customers are facing. Sometimes if the issue is being generated by the team, simply saying “hey team, here is some feedback we got…” is enough for your staff to takes steps themselves to remedy the issue.

By discussing the issues with your staff in a group setting you also open the floor for discussion and allow them to come up with solutions for you. Not everyone of them is going to be a diamond, but you may be surprised what they come up with.

What shouldn’t you do?

Don’t pay for or solicit 5-star reviews

Most platforms now make it very difficult for you to fake it, especially Google. They put a lot of effort into making sure it is difficult for you to rig the game, and for good reason. The whole idea of the review system is to provide potential customers with a genuine take on your online reputation.

One company I worked for paid for Facebook followers. At one point they had over 2,000 followers from countries in South East Asia. What do you think that says to their customers in Australia, about a service that they only sell in Australia?

Not only is it considered a ‘black hat’ technique, but is also falsely represents your own performance. How can you tell if your business is doing well if your results are being skewed by customers that aren’t real? You shouldn’t be afraid of some online criticism, because you need it to help your business improve.

While you shouldn’t solicit for 5-star reviews directly, if you keep reading you will see a trick that you can use which will help build your ratings.

Don’t take it personally

I have already mentioned this but it is really true. You don’t know what kind of day the person on the other end of the keyboard has had. Anything can be a trigger and it doesn’t reflect on you as a person. What does reflect on you and your company though is how you respond.

If you are prone to getting emotional about feedback then perhaps it is a good time to pass the role of managing reviews on to someone else.

Don’t get in a tit for tat online war

Never tell a customer what you really think of them. It will never end well! Telling a customer that they must be stupid for not reading the 10-page email you sent them about your terms and conditions before they used your product is not going to lead to a quick resolution. Even worse, there are keyboard warriors out there that love nothing more than to escalate what may have started out as a trivial matter. Stick to the facts and the process and try to close issues off as quickly as you can.

Avoid accepting or directing the blame

This one can be tricky as sometimes you want to be open and candid about an issue when responding. That is great as it again builds your customers trust, but be really careful not to accept blame for an issue unless you are 100% sure. It can be embarrassing to tell a customer one thing, only to find out a couple of days latter that it wasn’t the case and then having to change your story.

Avoid directing the blame for an issue in the direction of a team or team members too. It looks to the customer like you are making excuses. If an issue has arisen, at the end of the day if you are reading this then it is likely the buck stops with you. Passing on the blame to others also doesn’t do great things for morale.

Tips and Tricks

So you shouldn’t solicit for 5-star reviews, but it doesn’t also mean that you want all the negative stuff to go online before you have had a chance to address it. One little tip I have for managing reviews and helping boost your ratings is to get your customers to give feedback at, or as close as you can to the point of sale.

Sending a customer an email a the point of transaction, or delivery is more likely to gain a result than sending them something later on. Providing three ‘mood buttons’ on an email makes it easy for the user to provide a response. A green smiley face for happy, orange straight face for okay, and red sad face for negative elicits a quick response.

Customer Feedback Emails
Capturing customer feedback at the point of sale can increase review ratings

 

But here is the trick: if they click on red or orange, direct them to somewhere on your website where they can provide you with details or their feedback. Be quick to acknowledge the feedback and go about finding a resolution. Doing so should help prevent them going online to leave a review.

If the customer clicks on the green smiley face button, then direct them to somewhere that they can leave you a review, such as Google or Facebook.

Hey presto, you will start to see your review ratings rise.

But remember…

Your online reputation and how you are managing reviews is a reflection on how you are performing as a business. It doesn’t matter how good your marketing team or the person managing your online reputation is, if your business isn’t delivering then your customers are going to suffer. Sometimes prevention is better than the cure.

If you need some help with building a heat-map of your reviews, or with how to build an email template to garner more reviews, then we would be happy to help. Just give us a call – 1800 688 889

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