Customer review sites like TripAdvisor, Citysearch and Urbanspoon are constantly gaining popularity. As consumers, we value the opinions of others, and we use these opinions to feed our decision making process. If we want to visit a restaurant, we are now scanning these websites or apps to learn what’s being said about them. If the restaurant received bad reviews, it may keep us from visiting the restaurant instead of making our own opinion.
As a business, customer review sites will either help you or hurt you. If your business is constantly getting rave reviews, you will easily see business flourish. If your business gets hit with a few negative reviews, you may find that your once crowded restaurant is seeing more and more empty tables.
Thankfully, even with a few negative comments, customer review sites offer a great way for your company to build your brand—you just need to know the tips and tricks.
1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
You need to understand that there is more than one online review site. If you only know about TripAdvisor, you’ll only monitor TripAdvisor, but plenty of activity can be occurring on sites you didn’t even know existed.
In order to be successful on these sites, you need to monitor what is being said about you across all channels. Setting up a Google Alerts account or enlisting the help of a third-party monitoring company such as Review Trackers can notify you anytime a new review is created. This will allow you to actively respond to both positive and negative reviews. Using these monitoring tools will ensure that you are keeping a close eye on ALL review sites and not just one or two.
2. Be a person, not a business.
When you respond to comments on these sites, acting like a person will go much further than acting like a cold business. Use your real name when addressing customers and be real in your response. Use personality instead of canned responses. Use words that are easy to understand and leave the corporate jargon in the office. If you come off as a considerate individual, you’ll have more of an impact than if you act like a static business.
3. Know the site’s policies.
Each customer review site has different policies. Some sites allow you to make changes to your profile. Some allow you to offer incentives to those individuals who posted a negative review. And some allow you to add backlinks to your own website or social media account in your responses. It’s important to keep in mind that just because one site allows you to take a certain action does not mean that they all will, so it’s important to read and understand each site’s individual policies to ensure that you don’t break any rules.
4. Don’t post fake reviews.
Though this is obviously unethical, plenty of companies are using these sites to boost their own ratings or bash those of their competition. Some companies have been known to offer incentives to their own employees if they left a positive review on the company’s page. Since most customer review sites forbid employees to comment on their employer’s page due to the conflict of interest, some employers are now offering incentives for their employees to leave negative reviews on the competition.
While it may be fun for you to falsely beat your competition through fake reviews on these sites, it’s not fair to the millions of patrons who use this information to make a real decision. Rather than earn your business through deceptive tactics, why not simply offer the best product or service with the best customer service in order to win the business?
5. Respond, but don’t overdo it.
You should make it a habit of thanking customers who leave a positive review while also addressing those reviews that were not so glamorous. The best way to do this is to respond directly on these sites. This way, when another customer sees the negative or positive review, they’ll be able to see your response too, which shows that you either appreciate your customers or know how to handle a negative situation.
If you try and respond to each and every comment ever left about your business, you could end up driving yourself crazy. It’s a good idea to pick and choose a few negative and positive comments and respond to those. This way, your responses will be seen by other users, showing that you do care what is being said about your brand, and you won’t be spending all of your time creating responses to every comment. Plus, choosing a few to respond to allows you to take the time to write a great response. One good quality response will go much further than 50 terrible ones.
6. Know when to leave it alone.
The anonymity of these sites makes it easy for people to share their nasty opinions and continue to rant and rave without receiving any consequences. If you respond to a negative comment and the individual responsible for the comment comes back with an even nastier response, step away from the computer and let the situation go. If you continue to get yourself involved in the conversation, it can quickly turn ugly and you will find yourself in the middle of a viral battle between yourself and a customer, and this is not good for business.
Making customer review sites work for your company can be attained as long as you know the correct way to handle them. By using these tips, you will easily be able to manage these sites and the reviews in the best way possible.
Garrett Payne is a small business owner who likes to give advice to others on a local marketing blog about managing customer reviews.