How to Respond to Online Reviews as a Local Business

How to Respond to Online Reviews as a Local Business

Online reviews are essential to your business growth. According to Trustpilot, nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) online customers check online reviews before making their first purchase. This shows the high level of confidence and faith that customers have in fellow consumers’ opinions. 

In this article, you will learn, why you should care about online reviews, how to respond to both positive and negative reviews, how to take feedback, the difference between hate reviews and constructive criticism, and how to improve your business performance based on feedback. 

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Why Should You Care About Online Reviews as a Local Business?

If the statistic mentioned before didn’t convince you. Here is a few more to think about: 

Responding to customer reviews/feedback is part of customer service because you are connecting to what the customer is saying. When you respond, it makes the customer feel acknowledged, heard, and appreciated. Customer reviews should be treated the same way you would treat a friend; If a friend talks to you about an important topic, don’t ignore it. The same thing goes for online reviews, you cannot ignore them.

Online reviews are also a driving factor to getting more sales, especially as a local business. When 80% of online customers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations (word of mouth), it’s essential to take them seriously. 80% of these customers can be easily lost because of small, easy-to-fix mistakes. 

In addition, 47% leave a review on their first purchase, and half of the online reviews expect a response within a week. This is important to understand because there is a limited time period when customers are still engaged and committed to your business; It also means that first impressions for a customer are crucial due to the 47% chance that they leave a review on it.

How To Respond to Positive Reviews

Positive reviews can feel super rewarding, especially if they are your first ones. You have to make sure to tailor the response and go above and beyond though. The critical lesson to responding to positive reviews is replicating their key terms/talking points. In psychology, this is called mirroring because it refers to the repetition of key terms. It’s called mirroring because it activates the mirror neurons in our brain, which is responsible for letting the other person know you’re paying attention to what they have to say. Mirroring can be applied to not only online reviews but also body language, mannerism, etc. 

So, how do we mirror a positive online review? (Example at the end)

Mirror positivity!

Because it’s a positive review, your response also must be positive! Don’t be degrading, downplaying, and brushing off compliments. Own your successes, and don’t be hostile towards the customer. 

Mirror key terms!

Figure out the primary key term for the review you are responding to. It can be any of the following: customer service, product price, packaging, etc. Then, make sure to include a positive note regarding that key term. For example: 

  • Key Term: Packaging
  • Response: Hi [name], we’re happy to hear that the packaging was easy and seamless for you to work with! Here in [business name], we put a great emphasis on customer experience, and one of the many ways we make sure of that is through the packaging . . . . [so on]

Mirror feelings!

If your customer review is very lively and upbeat, make sure to replicate that in the tone of your writing; Likewise, a customer review that’s informative and constructive should also be replicated.

Customer Review Example:

I really liked the customer service and additional help they gave me when I was having trouble with the user interface. Highly recommend!

Key Term: Great Customer Service and Additional Help

Feeling: Praise and Positivity

Response:

Hi [name]! We’re glad to hear that you had such a wonderful experience with our customer service (key term #1). We always strive to give additional help (key term #2) to give our customers like you a better time. Thanks for taking the time and effort to write a review (praise and positivity).

How To Respond to Negative Reviews

Oh no, you just got a negative rating! But don’t worry, negative reviews are beneficial in the long run. They might hurt short-term, but long-term, they net exponential results. It’s only a matter of perspective and determination.

A common mistake most business owners make is that they ignore negative reviews and look past them. This is a big NO! Doing so will not only worsen the situation, but it will also create a negative reputation for your company. 

The right thing to do is respond to them in the right way. But first, let’s shift our perspective. If you’re like everyone else, you might feel down and unsuccessful the first time you receive a negative review. It’s normal to feel this way, but you should always come back stronger. Take the negative review and extract the feedback to improve your business performance further. Negative reviews are the best way to improve your business. Without it, you won’t be able to tell what’s going wrong in your business and what you can do better.

Now that you have an improvement-oriented perspective. Let’s start responding! When responding to a negative review, it’s essential to keep in mind these three things:

Mirror (whenever possible)

Apply all mirroring techniques mentioned beforehand in (how to respond to online positive reviews). But as you will see, mirroring a negative review doesn’t feel great and sometimes can feel awkward. You can stop the mirroring whenever this happens and try reflecting on something else. 

Acknowledgment

You must recognize the root cause of the problem or frustration of the customer; there is a reason why your customer took time out of their day to write a negative review about your business. Your job is to figure out that problem. It’s self-evident most of the time, but sometimes it can be tricky. Take some time, and don’t rush this step.

Examples: 

  • Bad customer service
  • Bad price to value ratio
  • Poor management

Plan Formulation

Once you have the problem/frustration figured out, it’s time to formulate a plan to improve/fix the current situation if possible and to prevent it from happening in the future. This step can also be an excellent opportunity to cooperate with your data/analytics team; Because most of the time, a problem has already been seen multiple times.

For example, you respond to a negative review about poor customer service, you check in with your data team. It turns out you have 20 more negative reviews mentioning poor customer service, which is 40% more than any other problem. This implies that customer service is a significant improvement opportunity in your business. 

This step is meant for you and your team to formulate a comprehensive plan to combat the problem. Once you have a plan formulated, include that in your response. For example:

Hi [name]

We’re incredibly sorry for the bad management you experienced with your family. In response to the incident, we are formulating [mention plan here] to prevent a similar situation for other families. We are happy to invite you to chat about the incident and receive further feedback on our plans to make it right.

After several meetings talking about the issue of poor management in our resort, we have taken the initiative to implement the plan formulated above starting [date]. We hope to stop future incidents relating to the problem and we will be closely monitoring the situation.

Compensation (if possible)

When a customer is unhappy, and it’s the business fault. Compensation should be the first thing you should be thinking about whenever possible. In rare cases, compensation isn’t an option because the damage is irreversible.

However, for those reversible damages or at least be lessened, think about ways to do so. Below are some examples:

  • Financial compensation
    • Discounts
    • Medical bill payments
  • Benefits
    • Food
    • Travel
    • Housing
  • Bonuses
    • Freebies
    • Rewards

Once you’ve chosen compensation, it’s time to turn that into a response, one example is provided below:

Hi [name]

We’re incredibly sorry for the poor management you experienced with your family. In response to the incident, we are formulating [mention plan here] to prevent a similar situation for other families. We are happy to invite you to chat about the incident and receive further feedback on our plans to make it right. 

After several meetings talking about the issue of poor management in the company, we have taken the initiative to implement the plan formulated above starting [date]. We hope to decrease the incidents relating to the problem in the next couple of months, and we will be closely monitoring the results.

To compensate for your poor experience with [company name], we are giving you a free one-week stay – with fully paid benefits.

Sincerely,

[company name] – Management Team

Difference Between Hate Comments and Constructive Criticism

Sometimes, you will come across negative reviews that seem to have nothing but hate; No feedback, No problems, Nothing. These are what you call hate comments – they typically have nothing good to say and therefore have no use in improving your business. It’s essential to recognize the difference between hate comments and constructive criticism because the latter are essential to business growth. At the same time, it pays to leave a response to all negative reviews but try to keep replies non emotional. As an example: 

We’re sorry we could not offer you the service you expect, we continually improve our services so hope you will give us another chance during [year].  

How To Improve Your Business Performance

With all this knowledge combined, you should figure out how to take feedback from all reviews, formulate a plan, and implement that plan to improve your business performance. This is the driving force behind online reviews; your customers want your business to improve. It’s up to you whether you let that happen. 

Remember that every review, positive or negative, has tons of lessons to learn from. Always be on the lookout for the things your business can improve upon. This is one reason why a data/analytics team can be instrumental; because they help your business determine the things you can improve on and what most of the reviews are commenting on.

In conclusion, you now know why you should care about online reviews, how to respond to positive online reviews, how to respond to negative online reviews, the difference between hate and constructive criticism, and how to improve your business performance.

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