7 Ways to Take Charge of Your Online Reviews
Social media is touted as the perfect conduit for word of mouth. And, it is. With speed, reach, consumer opinions, and choices, likes and dislikes are quickly communicated. Understanding that word of mouth is a double-edged sword and can be both positive and negative. Managing the message takes preparedness on both fronts.
Most business and even marketing experts are ill equipped or prepared to actively manage reviews. Many feel that there’s not much you can do to control reviews. Others have the misconception that managing reviews means crafting or buying fake reviews from review farms that provide no value to the business or end consumer.
In fact, reviews are often a sore spot for businesses who feel trapped, coerced and at the mercy of relentless reviewers.
There is no substitute for running a good business, developing a great product, or having a caring, customer focused team. These are cornerstone to business success and no amount or marketing can change that.
To some degree a business doesn’t have control of reviews. People will say what they’re going to say. They will post and tweet how they feel even if how they feel is unreasonable or rude.
A bad review can have a negative effect on business. It can go viral. It can show up at the top of a search and be the first impression someone has of a business. And, they do matter.
Haven’t you ever looked for a restaurant and made a decision because of what you found?
There are stats and studies confirming just how influential reviews are. In fact, in the instance of restaurants, StreetFight found that in their poll that 93% of respondents check reviews before dining or shopping. Social Trends reports that the typical consumer today checks 10.4 information sources before buying a product or service.
People don’t just stumble upon reviews in their feed. They are actively seeking reviews prior to making purchasing decisions.
I’m a marketing strategist who works directly with restaurants, hotels, spas, clinics, inventors and realtors. A common question I’m asked in workshops and webinars is how to manage these reviews and to harness them for good and how to handle the bad.
Here’s what you need to do to take charge of your online reviews:
1. Set up and/or manage your online properties.
This includes social media platforms, review sites, and business listings. This is your first line of defense and often where I see businesses lose ground. Either they ‘set it and then forget it’ and now have information that is outdated and irrelevant, or they haven’t done anything which means they’ve given the power of their online reputation to those who decide to post and chat about them.
My person favorite tool to do this: Single Platform. I use this with my clients to deliver exactly the most current information, including updating menus quickly, to all platforms, sites and listings. I use this with my clients to deliver exactly the most current information, including updating menus quickly, to all platforms, sites and listings. Another place you can start is checking your Google listing is claimed by you: https://www.google.com/business/
2. Monitor the review sites and respond.
Your online presence is about conversation not presentation. In order to have a conversation, there has to be two-way communication.
Make sure you’re monitoring comments about you and respond to concerns, negative comments and positive comments.
Keep in mind that you should remain relaxed when responding. It’s important to allocate time in the day to to review and respond to comments and reviews. This could be you, a stellar customer service focused team member (not just someone who is social media savvy), or someone who you’re working with who understands your brand strategy and culture. It is that important a marketing channel that warrants the time.
Remember to give equal attention to positive comments, too.
Say thank you for the positive and negative comments. Note that not all reviews are real and there are trolls who say things just to get a reaction – any reaction.
Steer clear from the focus of winning the argument. And, make a conscious decision on whether you will handle their concerns publicly or privately.
3. Ask or remind customers to leave a review.
One way to do that is to ask. I was speaking with a customer service representative at a fulfillment center. The representative simply delighted me and asked if I wouldn’t mind also sharing my delight on TrustPilot and mention him by name.
Ask and you shall receive. At least, some of the time.
The key is to ask. He could tell I was very happy with how he helped me. Instead of leaving me out there to post on my private Facebook page or hope that I might tweet something nice he did two things
- Asked if I would share that delight with others;
- Provided me the exact venue on where to do that.
If you have your favorite online listings or review sites that you actively manage, let your customers know about it and provide them some kind instructions on the best way to comment. Be sure your entire team is also trained on the sites, what to say and the best way to ask for the review.
And, remember to not overdo this. To ask and remind is great. To stalk and hound is not.
4. Make the process of providing a review easier.
The best way to get testimonials is to ask for them and provide a sample and structure for people to use to create their testimonials for you.
Many authors will even go so far as to write two or three potential testimonials and ask early reviewers to choose one of the ones presented. If accepted, they replace the name and use those in their book marketing or squeeze page/landing page.
I advocate clients to setup the ability for people to access all review sites from their main website or social media platforms. This makes it easy for customers to find where to share a review and for potential customers to access and find real reviews they can read.
As an added step, we also contact any customer who indicates that they had a negative experience to see if we can remedy the situation. Acting as the customer’s advocate at the moment they need one is also a great way to garner good reviews. It is one of the most beneficial steps a business can implement in the review process.
5. Offer an incentive to engage
I can already feel the shaking heads and fingers and the shouts of “no, no, no” at this recommendation. Yet, we see it all the time. If you’ve eaten at a restaurant and have a phone number on the receipt to call to complete the survey and get $3 off your next dining experience, then you’ve been incentivized to leave feedback.
Take this one step further is what I recommend by making that incentive available to everyone.
We do our best to help our clients customers know where to leave feedback. Just for going to that page they immediately receive the incentive –whether they leave any feedback, good feedback or negative feedback.
We utilize this merely as a way to guide people through the review process and as appreciation for taking the first step. What they do from there is entirely up to them. All this does is focus the customer on leaving feedback.
6. Stop the madness – don’t fake it
Faking reviews is bad news all the way around. Yes, it’s tempting especially when you see your competition aggressively doing it. Know that review sites are searching out this type of behavior and they know what they’re looking for.
And, your potential customers and current customers can tell.
Haven’t you bought something from Amazon and looked at who is a “verified purchaser”? If so, you’ve probably given their review or comments a bit more weight in credibility and honed in on those comments alone.
7. Make a commitment to connect with and serve customers.
It’s not about the tools. It’s about attentiveness.
It is not about buying a solution and setting and forgetting it. It is about being involved in the conversation.
Think about it. When was the last time you actually left a review? In a Local Viewpoint’s study, 1,017 typical consumers were asked why they rarely or never write reviews and clear answers begin to emerge. By far, the top two reasons are:
- “Writing reviews is too tedious”
- “I forgot to write the review”
Focus on listening to customers – the good, the bad and the ugly – requires more than any technological tool can deliver. It takes commitment.