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Businesses that are eager to embrace all areas of online reputation management and willing to do whatever is needed to improve the customer experience want to know and understand the ins and outs of responding to reviews.
Over-performers, in particular, are curious as to how to engage with customers who have left a highly enthusiastic, positive review, and wonder what the best way is for effectively dealing with short, negative reviews that don’t give much space for an informational or remedial response.
The question of whether a business should respond to every single online review deserves further exploration to better understand when and how businesses should engage with reviewers.
Take Potential Visibility into Account
Depending on your industry or field of specialization, a review site may or may not be highly relevant for your industry. Understanding which websites are the best lead generators for each type of business or profession will help you best determine the value of each review, and thus equip you to decide whether to reply to the reviewer.
Hoteliers, for example, are likely to benefit significantly from responding to the majority of their reviews on TripAdvisor, but may not get equal bang for their buck if they decide to engage in responding to a customer review left on a Google listing.
Do your homework, and become familiar with the best and most popular reviews for your type of business. Make it a priority to respond to reviews posted on the top review websites for your industry.
Understand the Social Dynamics and Policies
There is a tone to the overall conversation of each third-party review website. Understanding and following the rules is essential to the success of your review management strategy.
For example, if a customer leaves a review on Facebook, then there is an implied expectation for real-time engagement on the part of the business. A response is a must, regardless of the content, theme, or length of the review.
In the case of a positive review, a sincere thank you, along with additional information that may be of future value to the customer, will most likely suffice. In the case of a negative review, supply a short answer that focuses on providing immediate follow-up, and possibly take the issue to a private conversation, or even consider handling it through a phone call.
Regardless of the website where the review is hosted, always craft a response that not only takes into account the sincere and intentional engagement with your customer but also how other customers and potential customers will benefit from the content of your review response.
Additionally, as you probably know, your response lends itself to crafting SEO-friendly content that can help those searching for your business find you with ease when using Google or other popular search engines.
Decide if the Review Lends Itself to an Informative or Expanded Response
Regardless of the nature of an online review, smart reputation managers should be able to discern between a review with minimal opportunity for sincere and informative engagement, and one that is an open invitation to elaborate by providing a solution to a problem voiced on the review, or expanding on a service or product that the reviewer highlighted as good or excellent.
When a review has content that can be easily segued into a conversation that is conducive to brand development, those responding to online reviews should not miss out on the opportunity. Review sites, when managed well, can become the center stage of a marketing and customer experience strategy conducive to increased customer retention levels and incremental growth.
Responding to Reviews is All About Proper Timing
Timely responses to reviews are not as simple as it seems. Business owners and reputation managers need to have sufficient business acumen to decide if a review response requires additional research or verification at an operational level, to ensure the issues the customer has escalated are handled quickly, with consideration to issues such as legal liability and other complexities that may arise in association with a negative review.
In the case of positive reviews, businesses would do well to provide a response as quickly as possible. Having service-level agreements in association with online reputation management is a core element of a functional customer experience strategy.
At the other end of the spectrum, responding to a positive review via a public response when the review has been posted for more than a few days may appear sloppy, insincere, and mechanical. If you intend to respond to an old, positive review, then consider doing so in private, via email or private message. If you are privy to the customer’s contact information, then why not consider a personal touch, such as a handwritten thank-you note?
When it comes to deciding whether a business owner or reputation manager should respond to every single online review, there is not an answer written in stone. Each business is unique, and each review has distinct characteristics that demand discernment and a good business instinct.
At the end of the day, you should seek to engage in a way that helps your business grow, by deciding to write responses only when you are certain that a review response will add value to the customer experience while supporting brand outreach.
The most successful reputation managers are those that are constantly fine-tuning their business sensibilities to best understand what it takes to deliver excellence. Their decisions as to how to engage are not made based on flowcharts. Their key objective is to give each customer the best possible experience at every stage of their engagement with the business.