Anyone who has spent a little time on websites with popular comments sections know how ugly online conversation can get in a hurry. With the anonymity of the internet and the lack of cues from body language and voice tone, it’s easy to run into misunderstandings or plain rude behavior. People simply think they can speak differently online than they would to someone’s face. Aside from those online forums and comments sections full of trolls, nowhere is this more apparently than online review sites.
Customers increasingly rely on online review to make purchase decisions from eating out to which hotel to stay at to where to buy their furniture. An article on Openforum.com “10 Ways to Spot Fake Reviews of Your Company” cited a Zendesk study that shows that 85% of customers decide where to spend their money based on reading reviews online. They also noted UC Berkley research that shows “that a half star increase in Yelp ratings can be worth as much as a 19% increase in business.” Those are numbers you can’t ignore as a businessperson.
The challenge comes in knowing how to respond to those who leave negative reviews of your business on sites like Trip Advisor, Yelp, Urban Spoon, Angie’s List, and others. Those who write about your business may not be fair, and they might rake you over the coals. Online review sites give disappointed customers an outlet where they can vent their frustrations in a way they might not if presented an opportunity to speak to a manager. It isn’t always easy to read reviews that are trashing your hard work and livelihood. However, this is definitely one of those times when it’s best to take the high road.
Business owners who get nasty back in online review sometimes find their brand going viral—but not in a good way. You might have heard of Amy’s Baking Company, a notorious company in Scottsdale Arizona that’s been getting press for years because of the angry, erratic comments the owners leave in response to poor online reviews, and a now-infamous episode of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares showing the owners melting down at customers in person. They got a ton of free press, and probably a fair amount of business from their 15 minutes of internet fame, but it’s the nasty fights, not the quality of the food, that most people associate with Amy’s. There are better ways to make your brand a household name.
This is one reason it can be helpful to outsource online review responses to your marketing or PR company. They won’t take the negative reviews so personally, and kind write an objective response without the temptation of getting defensive. A marketing professional can also respond to reviews in such a way that they address each point in a negative review specifically, while highlighting positive aspects of your business. A good review response is written with the understanding that you probably won’t be able to change this particular customer’s mind—they’re already disappointed enough to leave a poor review. But you can lessen the effect of that negative review by putting a positive spin on things when possible, and knowing when to fall on your own sword and humbly apologize.
Online reviews can have a huge impact on your business. Don’t hesitate to get professional reputation management to protect your brand. By always staying on the high road, and demonstrating a genuine interest in and concern for your customers’ feelings and experiences, you can create new brand allies and genuine relationships with your clients. Now that’s what online marketing is all about.