January 16, 2019

Online Reviews: A Best Practice Guide

These tips will improve your ability to respond to your customers leaving online reviews with Google MyBusiness, Facebook, Yelp, or any other site.

Derek Szyszka

Why are people looking at reviews? People are social creatures, and therefore we are strongly influenced by the choices our peers make. For example, if you’re trying to decide between two restaurants and one is busy, while the other one is empty, you will likely choose the busy one. It doesn’t matter if the food is actually “better” or not, we typically assume the restaurant with more patrons is the better choice. This is the power of social proof.

Social proof comes in many forms, including testimonials, statistics, and reviews. While testimonials and statistics can be handled relatively easily, online reviews can be more complicated to deal with. Replying to online reviews is one of the most important ways to engage and support the community around your business. Reviews will show your new customers what they can expect when making a purchase or doing business with you. It is crucial to handle these reviews (good or bad) in a professional, understanding tone that will satisfy the customer who left the initial review and impress future customers that see your response.

The following tips will improve your ability to interact with customers leaving reviews online. Over time this should increase your customer ratings from online review sites like Google MyBusiness, Facebook, or Yelp.

Positive Reviews

Positive reviews showcase the promoters behind any business, and it is important to acknowledge their positive feedback.

  • Respond quickly to positive reviews
  • Thank the reviewer
  • Keep is short
  • Be authentic and personal
  • Use your companies name if you can
  • Invite the reviewer for further engagement

Note: The last step is very contextual to the type of review, but it can be as simple as:

  • Let them know you look forward to their next visit
  • Invite them to like your business on Facebook
  • Ask them to share their experience with a friend/family member

Negative Reviews

Negative reviews can seem discouraging and can be crippling to a business’s online reputation. Dealing with negative reviews doesn’t have to be hard. In some cases, it can be leveraged as a marketing tool to show that despite a bad experience, your business cards, and will do what it takes to make the situation right.

  • Be sympathetic and apologize
  • Explain what went wrong and how the experience should have went – This step is optional based on the negative review as you do not want to risk escalating the situation or make false promises/statements
  • Keep the reply short and simple – Don’t go into too much detail and don’t ask any questions publicly
  • It’s always a good idea to try and move the conversation offline – Providing multiple forms of contact will show the customer and other users reading the review that you are taking the initiative to correct the problem

Note: Do not use your business name or names of your staff in negative review replies as you do not want these keywords coming up in future online searches.

Troll Reviews

Trolls want attention, plain and simple. Their only goal is to get you angry and frustrated, which can sometimes make responders say or do unprofessional things.

To deal with troll reviews…

  • Understand what they are trying to say – Some people just like to complain
  • Don’t ignore them, but don’t give in and make the situation worse. Stay professional and authentic in your response – Ignoring them can appear to be confirmation that the statement they made is true.
  • Try to make light of the situation
  • Do some research, once a troll, always a troll – Searching the trolls name may turn up a pile of negative reviews you may able to use as a defence
  • The world is still run by humans, and humans make mistakes – Apologize for any mistakes (even small ones) that may have occurred, but do not get baited into apologizing for something that did not happen
  • Correct any spelling mistakes in your response – Unfortunately, trolls tend to pounce on small spelling or grammatical errors, so try and avoid them in your response
  • As a last resort, on certain services like Google My Business you can mark troll reviews as inappropriate, so they are not publicly accessible

Note: This is another case where you do not want to use your business name or names of your staff in replies as you do not want these keywords coming up in online searches around your business.

Whether it’s a good review, a bad review, or even a troll review, it is crucial to be tactful, compassionate and understanding when dealing with your customers online. Be honest about the situation and always remain calm. If you find yourself stuck and at a loss for the words, try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Imagine what YOU would like to see in a response and how the situation should be handled from their perspective.

Following these tips will improve your ability to interact with customers online, and increase your business’ reputation overall.