Reviews and Replies: Providing What Your Customers Are Looking for

Reviews and Replies: Providing What Your Customers Are Looking for
Chris Lonergan
Chris Lonergan February 5, 2020

When we talk about online reviews, most marketing material on the subject matter is focused on how to get those vital testimonials. But getting the review doesn't mean that the job is done. Let's talk about why replying to your reviews – good and bad – is an equally vital step in the review management process.

Why is Replying to Reviews on Google Important?

Because Google says so, that's why. It's not very often that Google tries to be clear with what makes them tick. Aside from the usual "do right by the user" routine, Google takes a moment to be very clear about their suggestions for improving local ranking. One of their main talking points on that support page is exactly what we are talking about today.

"Interact with customers by responding to reviews...responding to reviews shows that you value your customers...positive reviews from your customers will improve your business's visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location"

While Google trails off a bit at the end and forgets that Service Area Businesses also have a local optimization concern – Google is explicitly telling you to get and then respond to reviews.

Why Do I Need to Do It

Everything about your marketing presence shapes the outside view of your business. That's why having a clean work shirt and not double-parking your box truck in front of the handicap spots at your Dunkin Donuts is so important - people will read into everything.

They assume that if you don't have a clean work shirt that employees are not well-kempt in general. They assume that if you are careless enough to double park inappropriately that the same attitude will reflect in your services. And if you don't respond to reviews, they may also take it for granted that you're not a big enough business to work with. Or worse – if you reply to reviews in an aggressive manner, they'll think you're not a legit enough business to work with.

Responding to Negative Reviews

We've done a deep dive on dealing with bad reviews in the past but it all comes down to not letting things get out of hand. There are three kinds of bad reviews:

  1. There are ones that come from spammers.
  2. There are ones that come from people who you'll never be able to please and you did the best you could in a rough situation.
  3. And then, there are the ones that come from customers who you can turn around.

In situation number 1 – review spam is, unfortunately, a thing. You can try to flag a review as spam if it is inappropriate and not really relevant to the business, but this has become increasingly more difficult to do as of recent. In situation number 2 and 3 – we've got some options.

Don't Get All Emotional on Me, Now

When tackling negative responses, it is important to not immediately fire off an equally emotional review. I've talked to plenty of contractors that want to absolutely lay into a client for being a bad customer. And maybe they were. But the public reply to a public review is absolutely not the forum for venting like that.

If you are the one replying to the review, I recommend that you start by writing it any place except the actual reply box. Start to write an email to yourself or open up Notepad on your computer and start typing there. That way, even if you start with a bit too much salt-and-pepper in your reply, you have a safeguard before accidentally posting.

When you are done, walk away for a few minutes. Grab your 4th cup of coffee for the day and handle some other issues. Then, come back and re-read what you wrote. It would be even better if another member of your team could read it with you. This gives you a chance to proofread what you were going to say while you're emotionally a little more sober and clear-headed.

Your Go-To Negative Response – For Spammy Reviews

While the ideal would be for the spam to go away after being reported, we know from experience that isn't always the case. If you legitimately don't recognize the review as a customer, the following canned response is a safe bet:

"We cannot identify you as a client of ours based on the name on your account or the context of your review. Please call ###-###-#### so that we can review your customer history and ensure your satisfaction"

This response is great because it 1) highlights to any other reader that this may be a false review, or at the very least a review meant for another company and 2) diffuses the negative review immediately.

Your Go-To Negative Response – For Actual Customers

In just about any negative review context that isn't spam, the safest bet is to move the location off of the internet. That should be the goal of your response, which would sound a little something like this.

"We are sorry you were not completely satisfied with your services/products. We'd love to talk with you more about the situation to come to a resolution. Please call at ###-###-#### and ask for NAME."

This tries to push the conversation away from the public eye, where you can possibly remedy a negative customer experience and turn it into a positive one (and a positive review too!)

You Should Respond to Your Positive Reviews as Well

Don't save your extra time and affection for the negative reviewers only. Positive reviews are harder to come by, so use the reply ability to publicly thank the reviewer for the kind words. Bonus points if you can briefly add in a bit of appropriate personal detail into the review reply.

I Have to Check My Reviews Every Day?

Yes. Really, you should be aware of your reviews on a continual basis. If you do have a negative review, you've got a better chance of turning it around if you are quick on the draw to get a conversation started again.

You could check for your new review activity manually – by visiting at least the most popular sites that people will be looking at (usually Google Reviews, Yelp in major metro areas, etc.).

You could also utilize some software to assist with that – many review management systems (including the one provided by Footbridge Media) offer review monitoring services, so that you get notifications when you get a fresh review.

Should I Go Back and Reply to All of My Old Reviews Now?

I wouldn't advise going too far back into your review history. Adding a follow up to a negative review from 4 years ago is a day late and a dollar short. If you haven't been practicing good review response tactics, you can reach back to positive reviews from the last month or so. Overall, start doing a better job of replying for your next review and focus on future improvement.

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