Across Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, and other vertical-specific review platforms, positive and negative review responses are a key factor in searchers’ decision-making process. Review signals are also a top factor when determining search ranking. Additionally, 90% of consumers go online to find local businesses, and 82% read online reviews as part of their search.
While reviews help local searchers understand the experiences others are having at any given location, how the company responds tells prospective customers whether the brand is engaged and tuned in to customer needs in this online extension of the customer service channel. The vast majority of consumers—97%—read company responses to reviews, too, and 71% said they are more likely to use a business that responds to its local reviews.
Managing local reviews response at scale is challenging and requires a thoughtful, documented strategy to ensure consistency across multiple locations. Monitoring the local landscape for reviews and curating all opportunities to respond within a single dashboard is an important first step. From there, incorporate these best practices for positive and negative review responses into your brand’s strategy.
Best Practices for Responding to Positive Reviews
Customers are more likely to share their best experiences online. A BrightLocal survey found that 60% of consumers say they’ve written a positive review, while just 25% have written negative ones. Positive reviews are a great source of business intelligence you can use to inform operations and customer service, and they’re a great opportunity to engage customers to build loyalty.
When responding to positive online reviews:
- Make sure you have the technology and workflow in place to ensure that every single review gets a timely response. The majority of consumers expect a response within 24 hours of leaving an online review.
- Develop templated responses that can be modified and personalized. John Musser from SportClips Haircuts explains:
“Anything that’s coming from the local side of reviews is actually managed by our local franchisees and their team. Any reviews that happen with us corporately (because we do have a few company-owned stores) that get handled internally with our own teams. And so we really kind of push everything down locally to local teams. We use platforms like Rio to help with managing the conversation and the authentic voice behind it.
One particular function is using a template for responses–it shows examples of what to say when it comes to responses, but then they also have the ability to add in their own voice and make any updates.”
- Treat review response as a key customer service interaction and allocate resources accordingly. Reed Smith from Jarrard Phillips Cate & Hancock advised in our recent Reputation Management & Local Listings webinar:
“I think reviews and listing management are some of the primary ways that we can impact the patient experiences as they come in contact with our organizations. I would make sure that the information online is correct and that you own those listings and control them or monitor them and, and take this seriously in that you have someone dedicated to keeping up and making sure this is correct, and that we’re responding to people online in a timely fashion. It goes outside of just reviews.”
Best Practices for Negative Review Response
Don’t take negative reviews personally. Each one is an opportunity to gather business intelligence to help improve operations, and can even win back a potentially lost customer.
When responding to negative online reviews:
- Map out your triage and escalation strategy. Understand who owns review responses in your organization; in retail, this could be customer service or marketing, or in a healthcare organization it could be the patient experience team. Have a documented process for removing any identifying personal information, and escalating complaints to internal teams, etc. Make sure your team members are well versed in using language to deescalate, engage, and encourage further communication. You’ll find some helpful examples in this blog post.
- Never be confrontational, emotional, or vindictive. Consider how future customers, patients, or clients will perceive your response. Can you help prevent misunderstandings in future? As Aaron Clifford of Binary Fountain explains,
“There are times some complaints and issues come through that aren’t necessarily related to the care that was provided to the patient, but it might be something around the online portal or an issue with the website or ancillary parking. It’s okay to go into a little bit more detail on that because other people may have the same complaint and you’re able to hedge off additional comments about it If you give a complete answer.
There are some responses that you can go a little bit more in-depth, but never to where you’re addressing the patient or getting anywhere near HIPPA or PHI.”
- Be open and forthcoming with customers about their frustrations. Where the negative review involves policy that will not be changed, explain the rationale so other readers understand. For example, you may receive complaints about physical distancing requirements or masks. In that case, it is appropriate to explain the way: that customer safety is your top priority.
Make sure that your review response strategy and training are industry-specific and take into consideration the unique nuance of public communications in your vertical. In finance, for example, trust is a critical issue and it is important that review responses are open and forthcoming without revealing any private financial information. And in healthcare, HIPAA compliance is a responsibility and an ongoing concern. Understanding the needs of your industry—and your audience—will guide more authentic, successful review responses.
Want to learn more?
- Watch the on-demand webinar: How Savvy Enterprise Marketers Drive Maximum SEO & Reputation Management Value from Online Reviews
- Read: Local Reviews Strategy: 10 Ways to Make Yours Smarter & More Effective
- Explore: Solutions to grow and protect your online reputation built for enterprise brands like yours