Every brand in the modern era needs to think about their online brand reputation. The few restaurants, stores, and other local businesses that don’t invest in their online presence will still be the subject of online reviews and conversation—whether they realize it or not.
One of the best ways to take control of your online reputation is to monitor and respond to online reviews.
Why online reviews matter
Online reviews are such an important element of your online brand reputation for three reasons:
- Universal availability and accessibility. Everyone, including both businesses and customers, has access to online reviews. This allows customers to warn others of problems, from minor issues like a discourteous cashier to major issues like neglect or abuse. It also gives them a chance to tell others about their favorite businesses in town. While there may be extremists on both ends of the spectrum, over time, they’ll balance out to an accurate average that reflects the quality of your business.
- Equal opportunity to respond.Reviews aren’t inherently one-sided; if someone posts a positive or negative review, you can usually respond. Platforms like Yelp and Google Reviews allow businesses to respond directly to reviews, clarifying details, apologizing, or simply sending a thank-you message.
- Customer favoritism.People tend to trust their peers more than they trust brands. They understand that most businesses and organizations have an end goal that isn’t necessarily in the consumers’ best interests, but peers have little (if any) reason to lie. This makes reviews incredibly powerful tools of persuasion.
So what steps can you take to improve your reputation with online reviews?
Managing reputation through online reviews
Follow these steps to get more reviews, skew those reviews more positively, and make better use of even the most negative reviews:
- Encourage more reviews
First, try to get your customers to leave more reviews. Most review platforms (including Yelp) explicitly forbid businesses from soliciting reviews in an attempt to improve the accuracy and reliability of consumer reviews. However, there are some steps you can take to invite more reviews despite this, including broadcasting your presence on various review platforms and asking customers how you did.
- Commit to improving customer service
The better your customer service is, the more likely your customers will be to leave reviews, and the better those reviews will be. This is a general tip, but there are many ways you can take it; you can better train your employees, you can gradually improve your products and services, and you can make subtle improvements like reducing wait times for customer service.
- Go above and beyond for your customers
People are much more inclined to leave reviews if they had a memorable, surprising experience. Occasionally, go above and beyond for your customers; give them something for free, or a surprise discount when they get to the register. Complete work on their vehicle far faster than you estimated, or give them a service much better than they asked for. It will pay off.
- Pay close attention to your reviews
This is an easy step to take, but it’s one that many business owners neglect. Use Yelp, Google Reviews, social media, and other platforms to pay close attention to all your reviews. The better you understand these reviews, the more you can improve your business, and the sooner you can do damage control for the bad reviews that inevitably come in.
- Respond to as many reviews as possible
People love to see active businesses on review platforms, so take the time to respond to as many reviews as possible, even if it’s something simple, like a “thank you” message. This will incentivize other customers to leave reviews, which is another benefit for your business.
- Be polite and apologetic to negative reviewers
No matter how good your business is and how much you care about your customers, you’re going to get some negative reviews. How you respond to those reviews matters. Many business owners are tempted to try and cover up those reviews, or respond to them in an aggressive or defensive way. However, it’s usually much better to leave the review as is and respond patiently, politely, and apologetically to try and rectify the situation. Remember, it’s not just about the negative reviewer; it’s also about the thousands of potential customers who are watching. Even if you don’t agree with the negative reviewer, it’s on you to be the bigger person.
- Listen to feedback and improve
Every review will contain something you can learn from. Positive reviews can reinforce the things that make your business great, and negative reviews can help you learn what to fix or improve. Learn from every review, and use these pieces of information to keep improving your business.
No business has a perfect track record online, so don’t worry if you have a slow or negative start to your online review reputation management strategy. It’s going to take time, patience, and effort to make the most of this.