An increasingly significant number of consumers are directly influenced by reviews of businesses they read online.
Any potential customer can easily do a search for your business online and check out what other people are saying about you.
You also probably know all too well how your online rating can affect business. Too many negative reviews means your rating drops, your reputation suffers and your sales start to decline.
Even if negative reviews are given unfairly and not at all deserved, the end result remains the same: your online reputation really cops a hit.
As a business owner you should therefore be making an effort to respond to reviews (both negative and positive) in order to regain some control and strengthen your online reputation. You might not be able to control the personal opinion of someone reviewing your business, but you CAN control how you respond.
A study conducted by Harvard Business Review found that when businesses respond to customer reviews--good or bad-- their ratings subsequently increased.
How should you as a business owner approach responding to reviews online?
When it comes to negative reviews make sure you keep your cool!
It can be understandable sometimes to take things personally but it's best to have some emotional distance and respond with professionalism.
Take responsibility for the situation and avoid making excuses for things. It can be ok to provide a legitimate explanation for an issue if one exists (“our pizza oven broke down last night which is why your order was a bit late”) but don’t try and shift blame and avoid all accountability.
You want to demonstrate that you hold high standards, that it’s unacceptable when they’re not met and that you’ll take action to make sure they are.
For Negative Reviews, use the following as a guide:
Try and respond ASAP. Don’t leave it more than a day if possible.
Thank the customer for communicating their concerns. Address them by their name if possible.
Acknowledge that the customers standards weren’t met and offer an apology (show empathy and try to understand the customers point of view).
Mention how you’ll address the issue; perhaps offer credit or a discount.
Invite the customer to contact the business offline to discuss things further.
Keep things brief.
Here’s an example of a response you could send to a customer who left a poor review about the quality of their meal:
“Hi Jim, thanks for sharing your feedback. We take great pride in all of our dishes and apologise that your expectations were not met on this occasion. Give me a call direct at the store to discuss this matter further. We look forward to hearing from you and appreciate you voicing your concerns”
Less is more, so try and keep your response short, professional and to the point. Three to four sentences should be enough. Try and use each negative review to learn something new and to identify areas for improvement within your business.
IF however the negative customer review is irrational, abusive and/or completely made up, you should contact the platform (eg. Google), advise them it’s a fake review and request for it to be removed. If the review is deemed to be fake they will remove it for you.
Your reviews won’t always be bad though and positive reviews should be responded to as well!
Use the following as a guide for Positive Reviews
Send a prompt response.
Address the customer by their name where possible.
Thank the customer for their review.
Acknowledge the key points made.
Share the review on your social media
Here’s an example:
“Hi Sarah! Thanks for your kind words. We’re very pleased to hear your dining experience with us was so enjoyable; we try our very best to make all our guests feel like a member of the family! We hope to see you again soon”
Online customer reviews can be a real headache sometimes, especially when the complaint is unreasonable. Aside from some rare exceptions however, as a general rule of thumb you’re much better off sending a response than not, for both negative AND positive reviews.