In the past, we have discussed in detail the value and benefits of responding to all online reviews. Businesses of all sizes committed to taking their online reputation management to the next level have taken our advice to heart, and they are quickly beginning to enjoy the reputation and revenue boost associated with properly directed and strategic interactive engagement.
For many small brick and mortar businesses, popular review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, YellowPages, and Yahoo Local are significant sources of new leads and increased brand exposure, at little or no direct cost. Because of the revenue-generating value of these client acquisition channels, monitoring all activity and engaging with every review has become a first priority, and business owners are doing everything they can to stay on top of their online profiles.
As businesses grow in size, review volume, and velocity, responding to every review presents a significant challenge in terms of time management and expertise to provide responses that meet all of the criteria needed to obtain the desired effect, which is to present the brand or business in the best possible manner to current and future customers.
The Anatomy of a Well-Written Review Response
Writing a good response to an online review is not a trivial matter. The best responses are those that take into account not only the issues raised by the reviewer but also how the brand or business will be perceived by potential customers reading the review.
In addition to brand perception, a good review response is not generic in nature; it addresses the reviewer and his or her review on a personal and specific level. If the review is aimed at highlighting shortcomings related to the product or service, then it is essential that the business addresses the matter quickly, compassionately, and in a way that conveys a commitment to superior customer care. That is, the remedy provided to the customer is tailored to make amends and encourage customer loyalty.
A response to a positive review must also be handled with significant care. The customer, after all, has the potential of becoming a loyal advocate of the brand and a steady source of revenue. When responding to positive reviews, businesses should offer gratitude but also provide the customer with insights that entice him or her to patronage the business repeatedly. Talking about upcoming offers, or introducing the reviewer to products and services he or she may not know about but that are well-aligned with his or her likes and expectations, is advised.
Responses to both positive and negative reviews should be carefully drafted to meet the following minimum standards:
- The response is cordial and customer-focused.
- The response is quick (learn more about rapid response strategy for review management).
- The response is remedy-oriented, when applicable.
- The response is consistent with the brand voice.
- The response is properly written and grammatically correct.
- The response takes into account future customers.
- The response is keyword-rich and SEO-friendly (We teach you how here).
Who Is Qualified to Respond to Online Reviews?
The individual in charge of responding to reviews needs to be well-versed about business processes, have superior writing skills, be empowered to resolve customer issues, and have a good grasp on how review feedback can be used to optimize products and services offered by the business or brand.
Additionally, the person responding to reviews must not take reviews personally and react aggressively when tackling business critiques. Finally, a qualified individual for responding to reviews must be equipped with the right technology and tools to ensure he or she tackles all reviews consistently, and is able to understand and communicate trends related to the brand’s reputation.
The person tasked with answering reviews should preferably be an internal resource that is strongly familiar with the ins and outs of the business. When that is not possible, the business can certainly resort to an external agent in order to ensure reputation management is not overlooked, resulting in a backlog and significant damage to the way reviewers perceive the business, due to neglect and indifference.
The Pros of Responding to Online Reviews In-House
By handling the reviews in-house, the brand or business ensures the person tackling the review responses is not only vested in the business but also has an insider’s perspective on the factors affecting customers’ experiences.
Managers charged with responding to reviews can quickly implement changes to policies, procedures, and products in order to avoid repeat complaints about specific issues. An in-house responder can also tackle training or customer service challenges in a hands-on fashion conducive to quicker results.
The Cons of Responding to Online Reviews In-House
Tasking an in-house resource with responding to reviews can, in certain situations, have negative implications. An in-house resource might be overwhelmed with daily operational tasks, placing review management as a low-priority item. In addition, an in-house resource might not have training in marketing, good grammar, or the ability to tackle the issues without taking it personally and answering defensively. When an in-house resource does not have the bandwidth or vocational qualities to manage responses with excellence, it might just make sense to outsource this task.
The Pros of Outsourcing Online Review Responses
When proper review response policies and procedures are already in place, and businesses are experiencing growth as well as increased review volume, outsourcing may, in some cases, be a good option. An outside resource might offer a business the ability to focus on what it does best, which is running its shops with excellence. An outsourcer may also be better trained in composing review responses that take into account all the criteria needed to create a cohesive experience for all reading the responses.
Because outside resources are not involved in the day-to-day operations, their feedback escalations to management might have the advantage of being unbiased and less emotional than someone who has responsibility for the products and services offered by the business. Finally, an outsourcer may be better able to tackle responses in a quicker fashion, resulting in improved brand image as changes are implemented with greater agility.
The Cons of Outsourcing Online Review Responses
While an outsourcer might be better able to draft a well-written response, he or she may not be privy to the details that might have led to a negative review, or have the tools to make immediate changes. Additionally, an outsourcer may delay the validation process or escalations related to customer complaints by having to resort to a manager or owner before getting to the root of the problem. Finally, the outsourcer may not be as familiar with the product, service, or brand voice, resulting in an occasional response that is clunky and does not fully represent the business.
There is no right or wrong answer to the question of whether a business needs to handle review responses in-house or externally. Each business must weigh all the facts and make a decision that is best. What matters the most is not who responds to the reviews but that each review receives a response that demonstrates a deep customer commitment and a willingness to push a business to the next level. This is, at its core, the heart of effective online reputation and review management.