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online review management

2015 is coming to an end, and we here at ReviewTrackers couldn’t help but think of our work in terms of the year in music.

2015 was a pretty big year, after all. Adele came back. So did the Biebs. And Missy Elliott and Dr. Dre and Keith Richards and Boy George, among many others. Also, this year, Drake, The Weeknd, Taylor Swift, Fetty Wap and other pop stars released insanely catchy hits that we couldn’t get out of our heads.

Before we officially say “Hello” to 2016, we’d like to round up a few of our favorite tunes from this year and conduct what can perhaps be best described as a kind of thought experiment. If pop songs in 2015 were review management tactics, which one would each song be?

“Hotline Bling” by Drake

“You got a reputation for yourself now. Everybody knows and I feel left out.”

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This catchy Drake song launched a thousand memes making fun of the rapper’s jerky dance moves. Instead of mocking him, though, we’re going to recognize Drake for his great advice on reputation.

Here’s the thing: whether you like it or not, online reviews posted by your customers will affect your business reputation. According to research, 90 percent of consumers read reviews before deciding on a purchase.

You can’t be left out. To stay competitive, you have to stay on top of what customers are saying about you online – on review sites like Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, and Facebook, among others. According to research by TripAdvisor, an increasing number of businesses already recognize this, with 6 in 10 businesses making reputation their No. 1 investment priority in 2015.

TIP: Invest resources in tracking and managing your reviews and reputation. Have a strategy in place, so that you’ll be the first – instead of the last – to know what other people are saying about your business.        

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“Hello” by Adele

“Hello, it’s me, I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet to go over everything.”

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It’s tempting and somewhat scary to think that, in the age of Yelp, online reviews have such a big impact on your reputation. It’s like you have no control over what others say or think about your business.

But this isn’t actually true. You have control. What you do and how you engage with customers who leave reviews is actually extremely critical in shaping your business reputation.

Here’s where Adele’s hit ballad “Hello” comes in. Got a review on Yelp or TripAdvisor? Initiate the conversation. Call the customer up. Or write a review response. Say hello. Say thank you. Ask if there’s something you can do to improve their customer experience. While there likely won’t be a need – as the song suggests – to “go over everything,” it is pretty important to identify and resolve any issues raised in their review.

Whatever you do, don’t stay quiet. Ignoring reviews and the people who write them creates the impression that your business doesn’t actually care about feedback, which subsequently drives potential customers away.

TIP: Success in managing online reviews requires the ability – and willingness – to have a meaningful dialogue with your customers. No matter how hopeless the case may seem or the customer may feel, say hello.

“Sorry” by Justin Bieber

“Is it too late now to say sorry? I know that I let you down. Is it too late to say sorry now? ‘Cause I just need one more shot at forgiveness, I just need one more shot at second chances.”

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Negative reviews can be so damaging to your business. As many as 4 in 5 consumers reverse their purchase decisions after reading bad reviews, which also happen to influence the decisions of 86 percent of consumers. Star ratings matter, too. According to Harvard Business School research, a 1-star decrease in your Yelp rating could translate to a loss of 5 to 9 percent in revenue.

So what do you do when a customer posts a not-so-flattering online review of your business?

Take it from Justin Bieber’s pop anthem “Sorry”: apologize. Respond to the review and apologize for any issues the customer may have had in their experience. Resolve those issues. According to industry research, 78 percent of consumers think that responsive businesses care more about them than do businesses that do not respond at all to reviews.

If you think the negative review isn’t fair, say sorry anyway. You can’t please everyone, but you can show people that your business is humble enough to accept all kinds of customer feedback. Besides, the last thing you want to do is get caught in the middle of a catfight with your critics.

TIP: Respond proactively to negative reviews. By doing so, you create opportunities for critics to give you a second chance, while also showing other people that your business cares deeply about the customer experience.

“Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor featuring John Legend

“I won’t take you for granted, and I’m gonna love you like I’m gonna lose you.”

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Getting a five-star review from a happy customer is one of the best feelings in the world. But that shouldn’t be the end result of your review management strategy. Smart business owners and marketers know that positive reviews and feedback can be leveraged, too, to strengthen brand reputation and drive more customers.

Meghan Trainor and John Legend’s love song “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” provides some great advice on how not to take your happiest customers for granted. Love them like you’re gonna lose them.

When they decorate your Yelp or TripAdvisor page with 5-star reviews, take time to say thank you: it’s a simple way to highlight and reinforce positive customer experiences.

When they haven’t left reviews, encourage them to do so. Send a request for feedback. These happy customers can be ignited as powerful evangelists of your brand, and they play a crucial role in helping you foster customer loyalty.

Read MORE: Requesting Customer Feedback: 8 Simple Tips to Help You Generate More Five-Star Reviews

TIP: Strengthen reputation and foster loyalty by engaging with your happiest customers. Say thank you to those who leave positive reviews, and find ways to encourage less vocal fans to post reviews of their own.

“Confident” by Demi Lovato

“It’s time for me to take it. I’m the boss right now, not gonna fake it.”

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Earlier this month, the US Senate passed a bill that gave consumers the freedom to write truthful reviews without punishment.

The Consumer Review Freedom Act, approved by the US Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, bans businesses from fining or penalizing individuals who write critical reviews online – and protects the voice of the customer at a time when sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google are generating more reviews and consumer opinions than ever.

You should take this news with the same level of confidence that Demi Lovato does in her hit song. Don’t be afraid of customer feedback. Take it like a boss – without having to set up gag orders and non-disparagement clauses or employing strategies that are designed to intimidate customers from airing truthful criticisms.

Check out: “4 Reasons Why Non-Disparagement Clauses are a Bad Idea

The new bill also serves as a call for you to play fair. Fake reviews have become a growing problem, but “Not Gonna Fake It” should guide your review management strategy in all stages. Don’t follow in the footsteps of black-hat marketers who give themselves 5 stars or blemish their competitors’ profiles with nasty reviews. The backlash to these practices will, as surely as the sun rises, cause irreparable damage to your business.

TIP: Let the voice of the customer speak. Instead of fearing, censoring, and manipulating customer feedback, welcome it. Use it as a source of information on how to do business better. Customers love businesses that remain confident and authentic, even (or especially) at a time when everyone’s a critic.

Did we miss anything? What’s your favorite song from this year? We would have added The Weeknd’s ubiquitous “Can’t Feel My Face” to this list, but it’s probably not a good idea to glean business insights from a song about cocaine.

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.

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