A good reputation is paramount to the success of any business, big or small. What people are saying and thinking about your organization, its products and/or services can be the difference between a sale and losing customers to your competitor(s).

In the digital age, business reputations are built (and undone) through various channels, none more so than online customer reviews. Traditionally, customers would find a product or service they’re interested in, buy it, and decide after the fact how they feel about their decision. Today, thanks to the internet, buyers have a bottomless reservoir of information, which allows them to research products and companies before they ever connect with a business. This is what Google calls “The Zero Moment of Truth” (ZMOT), that point in the buying process when a consumer researches a product prior to purchase.

Did you know, 93% of shoppers say they’ve used online resources to help with their buying decisions?

So many businesses use their budgets on expensive marketing initiatives such as overhauling their website or paid advertisements, while overlooking online customer feedback.

This is short-sighted.

Reviews carry a tremendous amount of weight. Bad ones can unravel a marketing campaign, making it that much harder to convince your target audience to engage with your business. Buying decisions are emotion-based, so if there’s negative sentiment about your organization online, people with rarely wait till they have all of the information to make up their minds.

Here is why this is so important. Imagine a scenario where you are spending your marketing budget on a very advanced online strategy. You have a great website, excellent thought leadership through blogs, webinars and a podcast. You post regularly to relevant social channels. You devote a good budget to SEO and online ads to attract customers so that you are easily found online. As the buyer moves down the purchase funnel, you have managed to convince them that your product is the right product for their needs.

This is usually the point where they quickly check your online reviews. Unfortunately, there are very few reviews and nothing for two years. Or worse, there are several one-star reviews. Your marketing has worked brilliantly to convince them that they need your product, but now they are checking out your competitor to see how they stack up. You have basically spent your marketing budget to drive customers to your closest competitor.

Of course, it also works in the inverse. By collecting lots of great reviews, you can actually make your competitor’s marketing budget work for you.

So, what can you do?

Be proactive. Take control of your online reputation. Stay one step ahead by responding to customer reviews. Engage with them and address any concerns.

Responding to negative reviews

No one likes a negative review, but the worst thing you can do as a business is ignore them – the implications extend far beyond the affected person. By responding, you are showing potential customers that management is proud of their business and is willing to go above and beyond to maintain their brand reputation! Follow these steps when replying to an unsatisfied customer:

  1. Apologize and sympathize
    • Acknowledge the problem. Regardless of what happened, apologizing and showing sympathy for your customer’s experience is absolutely necessary.
  2. Promote
    • While a customer’s experience with a product or service may not have been up to par on that particular day, stay positive and reiterate the value it normally brings.
  3. Move the conversation offline
    • Contain the situation. Offer the reviewer the opportunity to reach out via phone, email or both.
  4. Provide extra value
    • Once you’ve isolated the issue, don’t just address it. Go the extra mile with excellent service and something on top as a form of apology.
  5. Keep it simple
    • Avoid specifics and don’t ask questions. These sorts of conversations are much better served in a less public space.

Responding to positive reviews

While negative reviews often get the most attention, positive reviews should not be neglected! It is important to respond to positive reviews to thank customers for taking the time to review your business and to encourage others to do the same.

An effective response ensures that a happy customer keeps coming back. Follow these steps when responding:

  1. Say thank you and be specific
    • Everyone likes compliments, so use that to your advantage in your response. Don’t forget to reiterate your customer’s compliment. This shows the customer that a real person took the time to acknowledge them.
  2. Use the business name and keywords
    • Don’t miss out on the opportunity to drive your business up in search results — positive reviews are key in searches. Referring to your business name, location and category helps index that review online.
  3. Promote
    • Is your business famous for a certain offering? A review response is a great place to spread the word. Mention any upcoming promotions and highlight the positive qualities of your business.
  4. Give your customer a task
    • Invite them to try a different product/service or bring a friend!

Each review is an opportunity to sell your business! Encourage customers to leave feedback by reaching out and asking them to do so.

Don’t have the time? We here at the Mike Agency have the expertise and software to respond to your reviews quickly and effectively. Drop us a line and we’ll be happy to help!