Online reviews are a big thing these days. People no longer just eat, or travel, or get their cars serviced. They also act as online critics (or consumer advocates, to be more glamorous about it) – rating every restaurant, hotel, auto shop, hair salon, and local business they find and check into, while also posting reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+ Local, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, Citysearch, and Foursquare.
If you’re a business owner, it’s important to always keep in mind that these ratings and reviews matter – now more than ever.
In fact, according to a recent study by two Berkeley economists, a half-star improvement in online ratings makes a local business 30 to 49 percent more likely to be fully booked during peak times. Another study – this time by Harvard Business School’s Michael Luca – showed that a one-star increase on ratings tracker and reviews aggregator Yelp can lead to a 9 percent revenue increase.
Here at ReviewTrackers we have written extensively about how you, as a business owner, should respond to online customer reviews, complete with today’s best tips, tricks, and tools. But what about the taboos? What should you not do when engaging with customers-slash-critics and joining conversations about your business?
To help you avoid the common mistakes that some business owners make (even with the best of intentions), we came up with this list of what not do when monitoring and responding to online reviews.
What NOT To Do When Monitoring and Responding to Online Reviews
Don’t write fake reviews, and don’t hire someone to write reviews for you. As review sites continue to gain more popularity and influence, more and more businesses are seeking to protect their online reputation. But not everyone does it in the noblest of ways. In fact, an increasing number of business owners are attempting to game the system – writing fake reviews, bribing customers to leave only positive comments and five-star ratings, hiring fake review writers, and even badmouthing competitors.
Don’t be one of these owners. Not only is the practice of writing fake reviews unethical; it’s also probably illegal, violating every review site’s policy. You can get caught, be fined, and be sued, whereupon the very least that will happen is that your review pages and business listings are suspended or removed. Fake reviews also destroy your credibility – especially in the eyes of your customers – and can potentially cost you a lot of money in damages, fines, and penalties.
Don’t ask aggressively for positive reviews; rather, encourage subtly. It’s kind of tricky to try to get happy customers to post positive reviews of your business, no? Ask aggressively and you’ll look like you’re desperate, insecure, pushy, and hard-sell.
At the same time, you want to build out your review profiles, business pages, and listings around a community of satisfied customers who each will be glad to put in a good word for you. Here’s the key: instead of soliciting reviews, encourage feedback. Instead of making review requests, drive brand awareness. And instead of forcing customers to acknowledge, upon checking out, that they had a great experience at your place, lure them in with equally great check-in offers, promotions, brilliant service, and other things that can only drive their satisfaction levels up.
Don’t get mad. Bad reviews hurt. But your response to these can cause even more pain and damage – especially if you write out a review response filled with anger, spite, condescension, or a negative, I-have-to-have-the-last-say sort of vibe.
That’s why it’s important to first relax and breathe in before you actually respond to negative reviews. Demonstrate patience, professionalism, and politeness. The more sensitive and diplomatic you are when replying to your worst critics and reviewers, the more likely you will be able to minimize the impact of what they say.
Don’t bribe your critics. It’s tempting to want to offer a freebie or gift certificate to a critic or bad reviewer just so his or her opinion can be swayed for the better. Don’t sweat it. First of all, review aggregators and ratings trackers actually forbid business owners from offering compensation for reviews. Also, bribery just doesn’t look good: instead of persuading potential and existing customers to patronize you, it offends them while also putting you, the business owner, in a bad light.
Don’t ignore the positive reviews. Just because a customer has only nice things to say about your business doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore their five stars and glowing reviews. At the very least, say thank you. Let them know how much you appreciate and value their feedback. This is one of the best ways to build and strengthen your community of fans and followers.