Online reviews can make or break a business. In the age of technology where all the answers are at our fingertips, people rely on reviews and recommendations more than ever. Whether it’s booking a hotel, buying a car or looking for a fancy new restaurant – it is now more important than ever how many good or bad reviews a service has online.
- 92% of customers read online reviews before making a decision.
- 84% trust online reviews more than recommendations from friends and family.
And while you can’t control what people write about your brand, you can heavily influence the way your business or services are perceived in the digital world simply by using reviews, good or bad, to your advantage.
Whatever you do, keep it professional. Studies have shown that your online reputation will increase even if you do receive negative feedback. What matters is how you respond. Being transparent and sharing who you are is part of building relationships with customers. However, when it comes to social media you need to be extremely careful what and how you share things with the public. Ranting, pouring out your heart and soul is not always the best method.
‘Speaking from the heart’ rather than with their customers in mind got a couple in the Manawatu in trouble. Café owners Kevin and Viv Withers replied to a request made by a customer on social media regarding the lack of a change table in the men’s toilet – and their rather unkind response backfired on them. Outraged customers and a flood of negative reviews and comments on social media were the result.
Kath’s Devine Cakes in Warkworth had a similar experience after refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The owner said it violated her beliefs, and when the Australian couple voiced their disappointment on Facebook, the power of social media soon struck. The story went viral and within a few weeks the business shut down its Facebook page.
While as an individual everybody is entitled to their own morals and beliefs, when it comes to business it is actually illegal to refuse goods or services to anyone due to their sexual orientation under the New Zealand Human Rights Act.
So what does that mean for your business? Should you simply ignore feedback posts, particularly if they are negative, or hold back with what you truly think? No. According to a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review your Google ranking will actually increase if you do respond to reviews left by even upset customers. It’s all in the how.
Taking your customers’ complaints or suggestions seriously is the most important step. Making them feel valued and their input appreciated, whether you agree or not, will be much more beneficial for your business long-term. Recovery strategies such as offering perks or discounts to unhappy users are one way to show that you care. If the feedback is valid you could also outline steps that you have taken or will be taking to avoid future mishaps.
Companies such as TripAdvisor who receive hundreds of reviews daily have put Management Response Guidelines in place to ensure that every review is being dealt with in an appropriate and consistent manner. These guidelines include things such as not to include any third party correspondence nor personal opinions or beliefs. Instead, experts recommend emphasizing your willingness to offer solutions to the problem presented or, if the review is a positive one, express your gratitude and offer some kind of additional value to show how much you appreciate them.