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Best Practices for Managing Online Customer Reviews

By Ron Welty, Founder & Chief Client Officer

Online reviews from customers can be a benefit and a burden to companies in any industry. Customers are willing to spend 31 percent more with businesses that boast excellent reviews, while 94 percent of consumers say a negative review can convince them to avoid a business. Not to mention, there are some reviews that are completely fake and can cause significant damage to a brand. Follow these best practices for customer review management and how you can get customers to sing your praises online.

Manage Customer Reviews

When it comes to online reviews, there’s the good (positive reviews), the bad (negative reviews), and the ugly (fake reviews). Customers can leave these reviews on many different platforms and sites, including Google, Yelp, and Facebook, so it’s important to know when and where they appear so you can respond in a timely manner. Here’s how you can best manage customer reviews.

Decide Who Handles Reviews

When it comes to customer review management, you need to decide who will monitor and respond to customer reviews. After all, you don’t want an associate to read a negative review about him or herself and respond on a personal account. Most sites only allow one management response per review, so it’s important to ensure you’re only leaving quality responses. 

As you hire and/or train your associates (or team of associates) responsible for managing customer reviews, ensure they have:

  • A positive customer service attitude.
  • An amicable writing style.
  • An objective point of view that won’t be personally offended by a negative review.
  • The authority to resolve customer issues.
  • Sound judgement to determine when to send a review up the management ladder.

Respond to Positive Reviews

It’s a best practice to respond to positive reviews so customers know that you appreciate their compliments and are listening to them. Publicly responding to online reviews can also help encourage more customers to leave positive reviews.

When responding to positive reviews, you’ll want to keep it short and sweet. Thank the customer for the positive review and let them know you look forward to doing business with them again. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid offering them rewards like a coupon or gift card as it can come off like a bribe to leave more positive reviews. It can also be tacky to use reviews as a way to upsell customers on more products, add more customers to your mailing list, or gain more followers on social media.

Here’s an example of responding to a positive review:

Dear (Customer Name), Thank you for the positive review! We are always excited to hear such great feedback, as customer experience is our top priority. We look forward to doing business with you again soon!

Respond to Negative Reviews

While no one wants to receive a negative review, they’re bound to happen every once in a while. Fortunately, it’s possible to manage negative reviews and even turn a negative experience into a positive one. 

When responding to negative reviews, it’s easy to feel attacked or upset. This is why it’s important to ensure the associate managing your reviews can take an objective point of view. In your response, you’ll first want to apologize for their negative experience, sympathize with the customer, and then move the conversation offline. 

Here’s an example of responding to a negative review:

Dear (Customer Name), I apologize for your negative experience with (Company Name). I’m sure that must have been frustrating for you. I’d like to learn more about your specific situation and how we can make things right. Please contact us at (phone number or email address) at your earliest convenience. I look forward to speaking with you then.  

Report Fake Reviews

It’s unethical and can be a breach of each review platform’s rules to post negative reviews about your competitors or positive reviews about your own business if you’re the owner, an associate, or family or friend who’s not a legitimate customer. 

Fake reviews can be hard to spot, but should you encounter one, it’s best to report or flag the review right away to try to get it removed from the platform. In some states, businesses have even taken action against commenters who’ve left slanderous reviews with SLAPP lawsuits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).

Whether you choose to respond or not is up to you, but make sure you stay consistent with your strategy. For example, if you respond to all reviews, but not a fake review, customers might assume that the other negative posts are accurate and that’s why you’re not responding to the fake post. However, if you decide to respond, don’t accuse the reviewer of anything. Simply draft a polite response that addresses the points made in the review and ask to resolve the issue offline, as you would with any other negative review.

Encourage Positive Reviews

The more positive customer reviews your business has, the greater the benefits. For example, Harvard Business School found that a one-star rating increase on Yelp can lead to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue. Yet, research shows that it’s the unhappy customers who tend to write the most reviews. Here are a few ways you can encourage more positive reviews from your customers.

Be Present on Review Sites

Review sites like Google, Yelp, and social media are some of the first outlets customers will turn to provide feedback. It’s important to ensure your details, especially contact information, are up-to-date. Make sure you set up business accounts on each platform to give customers a chance to share their experiences with your brand.

Once you’re listed on the review platforms, be sure to stay active by responding to customer reviews. Studies show that 53 percent of customers expect businesses to reply to their online reviews within seven days, while not replying at all can increase your customer churn rate by up to 15 percent. This shows that you are genuinely interested in what your customers have to say, appreciate their positive feedback, and are available to remedy any negative experiences.

Ask at the Right Moments

Don’t be afraid to ask your customers to leave reviews in-person or through an email campaign. BrightLocal found that 68 percent of customers have left a review after being asked to do so. Just make sure you’re asking for online reviews at the right touchpoints in the customer journey. Failure to do so can result in a customer leaving a negative review that countless potential customers read when considering doing business with you.

Identify the positive moments to ask customers for reviews like after a purchase has been made or if a customer spends a lot of time on your website or at your business. For example, a customer might order a pair of shoes from your business online. If they receive an email asking for a review before the shoes have even been delivered, the customer might leave a negative review about how long the delivery process is. However, if the customer receives an email a couple weeks after the shoes have been delivered―during which time they’ve likely worn the shoes―the customer will be more likely to leave a positive review and maybe even post a photo wearing the shoes.

Focus on the Customer Experience

Ultimately, the best way to get customers to leave positive reviews is by ensuring exceptional customer experiences from the first encounter with your brand, through the purchase process, and beyond.

IntelliShop can help you understand, assess, and improve your customer experience. Our mystery shopping services are designed to objectively measure your customer experience, while our voice of customer tools can be implemented at any stage of the customer journey to provide valuable insight into how your products and services are received. We’ll then present our findings to you in a detailed, actionable InSite™ report to create a strategy that focuses on improving your customer experience. Contact IntelliShop today to request a consultation.