In the world of online reviews, businesses can't avoid being put in the spotlight. Whether or not you create a profile for your business on sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Foursquare or Facebook, people will still be able to post public reviews of your business. Even Google allows people to post reviews on businesses, which is visible to anyone who finds the business on Google Maps.
If online reviews are part of a new reality for businesses, customer service practices need to adapt to suit the new wave of customers and the free flow of information online.
The impact of online reviews
BrightLocal's 2016 "Local Consumer Review Survey" reveals that 92 percent of consumers read online reviews before buying from a business. It also shows us that 84 percent of consumers trust reviews just as much as word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know.
Those are powerful numbers and can have real consequences for your business. If so many of your potential customers are reading up on your reputation online before seeing what you have to say for yourself, what are you doing about it? It's time to go to where the customers are heading and use your voice where they'll see it right away.
Negative reviews matter – so does your customer service
Responding to negative reviewers is tricky. When reviews are posted on third-party review sites, you're sometimes allowed to privately respond to the reviewer and nearly always allowed to publicly post a response. It's important to respond as often as possible with a personalized, useful message to the reviewer. How you deal with negative reviews can sometimes convince other readers to give your business a try.
If a potential customer reading reviews sees a small business owner or a manager responding to negative comments in an understanding manner, it gives that business a better reputation despite the negative press. You can help repair some of the damage done by bad reviews if you respond to each negative post with a personalized message.
Why you should also respond to positive reviews
Giving a public response to negative ratings makes sense, but that's not where you should stop. You should also respond publicly to positive reviews.
This is a simple tip that helps your customer service department do marketing. By responding personally and thanking customers for their great review, you're subtly putting your business into focus for every reader to see and for the reviewers themselves. A small show of courtesy from a response shows reviewers and readers that you're listening to customers and are interested in what they have to say about your business.
Another benefit of responding to positive reviews is that you may encourage more people to give a good review again in the future. Customers are more likely to leave a review when they have a bad experience than when they have a good experience, so acknowledging their review helps them feel more appreciated by your business.
You may not be able to control what's said about your business on third-party online review sites, but you can make sure any potential customers hear what you have to say about it. In this case, silence from your customer service team may cost you customers, whereas a little bit of effort to respond appropriately might give you an edge over your competition.