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Managing Your Online Reputation – How to Respond to Customer Reviews

by Caron_Beesley Moderator on 10-19-2010 07:00 AM - last edited on 10-19-2010 07:18 PM

online_reviews.jpgMaking use of free online listings, such as Yelp.com, Google Places and Yahoo Local, is a great way to promote and manage your business profile online.  Not only does it make your business “searchable” and rise to the top of search engine listings, it also allows you to communicate information about your business directly with your target audience based on location-based data and keywords.

But by far one of the biggest benefits of listing your business with a free online directory is that your customers now become part of your marketing efforts too. Referrals and reviews are often a small business owner’s most valuable marketing asset, and online listings make it easier than ever for your customers to tell the world what they think of your business.

Everyone loves a good review, but what happens when the reviews are unfavorable, negative or even make claims that are downright false?

Here are some tips for managing your online reputation and understanding your options and tactics for handling a “bad” online customer review.

Regularly Monitor Reviews

Be sure to monitor reviews across your online business listings on a regular basis. While you can’t delete reviews, try to respond to negative reviews whenever possible – you usually have to respond publicly (although certain sites such as Yelp.com permit private responses).

Respond to Reviews – Both Good and Bad

A bad review can be a learning moment for the small business owner, and if appropriate should be acknowledged as such. Take time to formulate your response and quell any anger or frustration you feel about the review. Responding publically to a complaint may seem hard, but it demonstrates to the wider community of reviewers that you care and have acted on the feedback.

When you are ready to respond, at a minimum thank the reviewer for their patronage and feedback and don’t be defensive – it just adds fuel to the fire and can make it appear that you are inferring that the customer is wrong.

If you need more information or clarification of the complaint, ask the reviewer to contact you offline – this avoids keeping a potentially heated conversation going on online in full view of other patrons.

Above all, show that you care about your customer’s experiences and that you take their feedback into consideration. If you’ve implemented changes based on this feedback, let the reviewer know. Responding appropriately and with a “human face” can help turn around a negative perception of your business and even win you the right to a second chance with this particular customer, as well as others.

And don’t forget to respond to good reviews too – you may want to do this via private message, so that you don’t overwhelm your review page with your own comments! Thank the reviewer for their feedback and make an effort to re-state what it was that they specifically liked about you (it shows you read the review). Adopt a friendly and courteous tone, and leave it at that!

Dealing with False Reviews

What is a false review? It might be a customer who has twisted their version of events to get your attention, or they are so dissatisfied with their experience that they will exaggerate or make false claims to back up their statements.

Whatever the nature of the false review, if you want to respond, try to do so using private messaging. If you really feel strongly about the review and want to respond with a public comment, be respectful, make your point as best you can and don’t attack the reviewer or accuse them of lying.

When to Flag a Comment for Removal by the Host Site

All online business listings give you and others the option of reporting inappropriate comments and/or reviewers – whether it’s spam, advocates violence/hate or promotes illegal content. If the host site agrees that it is a violation of their policies, they are obliged to remove it. As the business owner, be sure you are using this tool only when absolutely necessary.

More Information

Each online listing site offers its own guidance on how to handle reviews and respond to feedback, together with examples of how to script your replies. Perfecting how you interact with your patrons can go a long way to enhancing your overall site listing and online brand.

Additional Resources

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