Real Social – The Importance of Online Reviews and Reputation Management
Online review sites and the customer reviews left there have quickly become one of the most important and urgent parts of building and maintaining your business. Make no mistake about it, they are not just a fad that you can ignore. Why? Because the Millennial generation is now larger than the “Baby Boomer” generation, which means that they are quickly becoming the largest consumer group in the world (they still don’t have as much wealth as the “boomers”, but that will come soon).
The thing about Millennials is that they don’t watch TV, they don’t listen to the radio, they certainly don’t read magazines, and they don’t trust brands. So who do they listen to for purchasing decisions? Their friends, the influencers they follow on social media, and – you guessed it – online reviews.
The Building of a Reputation
As the old saying goes, two wrong don’t make a right (but three lefts do – think about it). In the same vein, one or two comments or opinions don’t make a reputation, but once there are a lot of them that reputation is pretty well established and it takes much more effort to change the established view of it. That’s reason number one to pay attention to online reviews.
Word of mouth is influential, and online reviews are the new word of mouth. If your business racks up a stack of negative reviews on Yelp or TripAdvisor or wherever, it’s hard to counteract them and swing the sentiment of your business back into positive territory. Because of this undeniable fact, every business needs to respond to reviews. Of course, responding to every positive review isn’t entirely necessary, although you can be sure that the reviewers appreciate it.
Responding to negative reviews, however, is non-negotiable. Every one, every time. The important thing is how you respond, and that’s also the tricky part. Responding the right way will help to mitigate any damage to your brand and can even turn haters into advocates. Responding the wrong way is much easier, and can actually do more damage than the initial bad review.
Kill Them With Kindness
It may sound cliche, but the old advice of killing them with kindness is still absolutely the best advice you can take for dealing with bad reviews and disgruntled customers online (as well as in person). There are more than a few well-known instances where brands lashed out at reviewers that left negative comments, only to have their poor attitude and response go viral. So instead of a few people taking note of the initial bad review, the internet was inundated with the company’s response – which made them look much, much worse.
There are basically only one good way to respond to bad reviews, and it requires that you check all emotion at the door before responding. First, ignore any hyperbole and hate-filled ramblings and address the core issue. If the complaint is, in essence, about customer service, or a problem with a product, or slow shipping times, or whatever, then reflect on how you as a company can make it right with the customer. Can you offer them some kind of compensation (like a free product, or refund of shipping costs, etc)? Can you replace something? Find a solution that is realistic and then tell them you want to make it right.
Second, make sure you apologise on behalf of the company, unless – and this is a big unless – it’s truly not appropriate. Some people live to tear things down, and no amount of reason or apologies will make any difference. If this is the case and you have tried your best to make that customer happy, it will show to others through the reviews and responses. Never stoop to their level and resort to ugly responses. They’ll see that too.
The bottom line is that you can’t afford to have a bad reputation online. Unless you’re planning on going out of business next year anyway.