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Owning Your Online Reviews: Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices (Part 2)

In Part 1 I talked about why online reviews are so important to your business and how to get started on review sites. Now it’s time to discuss how to get reviews and how to manage them.

Getting reviews

If you haven’t bothered to look at your review site pages until now, there’s a decent chance that users haven’t yet left much in the way of reviews. And if you find yourself staring at a mostly empty page, you may wonder how exactly to get it filled.

You’ll find a lot of advice out there that encourages you to ask your customers for reviews. It may be tempting to tack on a reminder after every transaction — calling out “Don’t forget to leave us a review!” once the cash register has closed and the customer is leaving with bags in hand. As a general rule, however, review sites frown upon soliciting reviews from customers. That’s because the best, most unbiased review tends to be an “organic” one — one that the customer generated entirely of his or her own accord. Furthermore, solicited reviews tend to read as fake, which sets off alarm bells about your business’s trustworthiness.

So what to do as a business owner with little or no reviews who can’t press customers for more of them?

  1. Create indirect reminders. Yelp actually has signage on Flickr that you can download, print, and post near your cash register or on your store’s front door. Additionally, you can post links to the review sites you have accounts with on your company website, or mention them on your business card.
  2. Promote your reviews. Create a “testimonials” area on your website that showcases your best reviews, or add one to each email newsletter.
  3. Just continue to be the best at what you do. Customers who have a great experience with you will be compelled to tell others about it. In other words, if you provide great products and services, positive reviews will happen organically. It may take a little time to get the review ball rolling, but once it does, it’ll keep going.

Responding to reviews

Now that you have some reviews, what, uh… do you do with them?

If they’re positive

If a review is positive, it’s up to you how to respond. Some business owners feel embarrassed responding to glowing reviews publicly because it feels self-congratulatory. Others may feel that it’s rude not to acknowledge with a note of thanks.

Many review sites provide an option for a business owner to respond privately or publicly to a review. If you’d prefer to thank happy reviewers, you can choose either method for responding.

It might seem a little overbearing — not to mention daunting — to reply to every positive review you receive, but keep this in mind: interacting with customers proves to potential patrons that you care about their experience.

Bottom line: if you decide to reply to the positives, keep it brief and customer-focused. For example: “Thanks! I’m so happy I was able to help you.”

TIP: Whatever you do, DON’T offer customers who leave glowing reviews a freebie or discount — that seems like a icky after-the-fact bribe, and won’t earn you any trustworthiness points in the eyes of review sites or potential customers.

If they’re negative

Reading a negative review about your business can be disheartening, but the important thing to keep in mind is that this is an opportunity to turn this into a positive experience for everyone involved — and polish up your company’s reputation, too.

The points Amber covered in her post on responding to negative comments on social media applies here, but it’s worth a quick revisit in the context of reviews:

  • Acknowledge. Every time! Making a customer feel heard is sometimes enough to raise their estimation of your business and increase the chance they might return.
  • Apologize. Even if you were in the right, apologize publicly. Be brief, polite, and positive with your language. If something went wrong on your end, show how you will address the problem. For example: “I’m very sorry to hear you had this experience, and I will do my best to fix it by [______].”
  • Take it offline. Once you’ve responded publicly to the comment, message the customer privately and suggest a solution. For instance, you might offer an exchange, replacement, or a discount on the next visit.
  • Address any issues internally. Again, if the problem was on your end, take steps to prevent it from happening again. Was a sales associate rude? Was a product flawed? You may need to provide more training for employees or seek new sources for the items you sell.

Bottom line: it’s in your business’s best interest to respond promptly and respectfully to negative reviews.

Maintaining momentum

Now that the review ball is rolling along, don’t stop monitoring and responding to them as needed! But if you find that managing the process across various websites is too difficult and time-consuming, there’s help:

Google Alerts. Setting up a free Google Alert will direct mentions of your business to your inbox, helping you manage your business reputation across multiple channels. If you’ve never set up a Google Alert before, don’t fret. Amber wrote a how-to here.

Review tracker services. These are paid services that can offer more depth if you’re not getting everything you need from Google. Just search for “tracking reviews” or “managing reputation” to get an idea of what there is to choose from.

Here’s to many happy reviews — and many happy returns for your business!

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