The importance of online reviews and how to respond to them

Customers are increasingly becoming more informed than ever due to the wealth of online information available at our fingertips. With this information, customers can make well-researched purchase decisions based on a myriad of factors ranging from cost effectiveness to brand aesthetic. A large portion of customers depend on online reviews to make purchase decisions, using both social proof and objective data to guide their choices. Research shows that as many as 91% of consumers read online reviews before they make purchasing decisions, and 84% trust these reviews as much as personal recommendations. The effect is even more pronounced for expensive purchases, or those that require heavy commitment. This is a huge deal for businesses with any kind of online presence, as even individual reviews can act as testimonials for products and services and influence the future purchasing decisions of potential customers. As a result, understanding the customer journey and the way they interact with online reviews is the first step towards learning from consumer behavior and turning your online presence into an asset instead of a hindrance.  

When looking for information about a company or brand, customers turn to a number of online platforms, including social media networks, online review websites (such as Angie’s List), news websites and blogs, or even just a Google search. Since there are so many options for customers to leave feedback at any given time, it’s important to remember that every single interaction with your company has the likelihood of generating a review, for better or for worse. As many businesses can attest, positive reviews have the possibility of indirectly leading to website traffic and sales, increasing your brand’s credibility and conveying a sense of trustworthiness. On the other hand, negative reviews could have the opposite effect, and potentially turn customers away or harm your company’s reputation.

All reviews, whether positive or negative, should receive a response from the company–after all, studies show that 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews. The question becomes, how should a company respond? While there is no single correct response, keep reading for a few suggestions to help you craft your response depending on the nature of the review.

Positive reviews. When your organization receives a positive online review, it is important to thank the customer sincerely for their business and for taking the time to leave a review. Both the positive feedback for the customer and the company’s response show those reading the importance of the relationship between the company and its customers. The company may also want to consider using this opportunity to upsell to a happy customer by sharing information on products related to the customer’s purchase or promote a customer loyalty program within their response. Tread lightly with this to make sure your responses feel sincere–the main priority should be thanking the customer for awarding you their business.

Negative reviews. If you receive a negative review, it is important to publicly respond in a timely manner. By responding quickly and respectfully you are showing not only the unhappy customer, but the general public as well, that your business is committed to making the situation right. If prospective customers see that you are committed to alleviating negative situations, they may put more trust in your company, despite the negative feedback.

The most important piece of advice for handling negative reviews or comments is to take the conversation offline after the initial response to the reviewer. This can be tricky depending on the platform you are using, as channels such as Facebook require the user to privately message the company before they can engage in a private conversation. To overcome this, we suggest using an approach where you recognize the reviewer’s comment and ask them to connect with you by either privately messaging, emailing, or calling a customer service line so the matter can be handled privately. To the public eye, you’ve responded respectfully and shown a commitment to resolving the situation, but you’ve placed the responsibility on the reviewer to connect with you. Lastly, for truly dissatisfied customers, you may want to consider providing some sort of consolation offer, like a discount if they choose to purchase from you again in the future. However, it is important to be mindful of the fact that prospective customers may feel inclined to leave a negative review just so they receive a consolation offer, which is another reason why it is important to take the conversation offline and handle each situation privately.

There’s no denying that online reviews play a role in how today’s consumers make purchasing decisions. Instead of being feared by a company, online reviews should be seen as an opportunity to build brand awareness and rapport among customers, no matter if reviews are positive or negative. If you have any questions about online reviews, or need help managing your company’s online presence, visit our website to schedule a free 30-minute consultation.