By Maureen Ezekwugo, CEO, Oggvo
Reviews are a fact of life
As a small business owner, you likely consider your Google Business Page and other sites with reviews like Facebook and Yelp as part of your overall online presence. Reviews are increasingly being considered the foundation of your brand’s digital footprint–even more so than a traditional website, and often more influential than your social media platforms.
When doing research online, potential customers are often scanning for businesses with 4+ stars to determine if they even want to go one step further and read through recent customer reviews. We refer to this process as the “silent step” taken by consumers as they increasingly rely on the opinions and experiences of others to make purchasing decisions.
Use the silent step to your advantage and consider each new review as an opportunity to increase interactions with your business online by responding to each one. This not only improves your business visibility on Google, it also increases the likelihood that potential customers will choose you.
Does responding to every review sound like a daunting task? It doesn’t have to be. Whether the review is positive or negative, following a few best practices can help turn your reviews into powerful marketing that attracts new business.
Sooner is better than later
The internet and social media have conditioned people to expect quick responses. While it may not always be possible for busy staff and business owners to respond immediately, taking the time to acknowledge and respond to reviews shows customers that you care about their feedback and are committed to providing excellent customer service.
One way to stay on top of new reviews is to assign a staff member or set up notifications to monitor social media. Additionally, there are software tools available, such as the Oggvo Review Monitor, that can help you easily stay on top of new reviews so you can post responses as soon as possible. This can help to reduce the likelihood of other customers chiming in with similar complaints.
It is important to remember that responding to reviews is an opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one. In some cases, if a customer’s concern is addressed to their satisfaction, they may even update their review to reflect their positive experience. This can be a great way to show potential customers that you take feedback seriously.
Negative reviews matter
Recently, 94% of online shoppers reported that a negative review has convinced them to avoid visiting a business. A negative review is inevitable for most businesses and responding to reviews can help minimize impact to your business.
At Oggvo, our advice is to respond to all reviews but especially when the review is negative. Review responses can make a difference not only to the reviewer you are replying to but to potential customers who see your response. They show you value feedback and prioritize improving your customer’s experience. According to a survey, 45% of consumers said they’d be more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.
Respond with potential customers in mind
Reviews are a marketing tool that potential customers will read and decide whether they want to do business with you. So respond professionally, even to negative reviews, to show potential customers that you always put their interests first.
This means taking the time to read and empathize with the reviewer’s concerns. Apologize for any inconvenience or problems they experienced and offer to make things right when possible. Even if you cannot satisfy the reviewer, you still show potential customers you are a professional who is willing to listen and take steps to improve. This goes a long way in building trust and credibility, which are essential for any business.
Never argue, offer to take it offline
When responding to online reviews, it’s important to remember that it’s not about being right. You may disagree with the reviewer or you may not even know who they are – it doesn’t matter. Potential customers may be more likely to believe negative reviews if you respond to them in an argumentative way.
One of the most effective ways to respond to a negative review that you don’t agree with is to thank the reviewer for their feedback and make a statement of your values, policies, or standard operating procedures. This will reinforce your priorities as a business that may be contradicted by the review. Keep the response generic and neutral. Don’t include particular details about the customer or their situation. Instead, offer to address the reviewer’s concern offline and include contact information.
“Thank you for sharing your feedback. We’re so sorry you had a negative experience. We strive to provide our customers with the best possible experience, and we’re disappointed to hear that we didn’t meet your expectations. We understand that you’re frustrated, and we want to assure you that we’re taking your feedback very seriously. We’ve already begun investigating the issue, and we’ll be taking steps to prevent it from happening again. Please contact us at (contact number) or (contact email) as soon as possible so we can help you directly with your concern.”
This sends a clear message to potential customers that you stand behind your business while being open to addressing the issue in a non-defensive manner.
Respond to both positive and negative reviews
A common mistake business owners make is only responding to negative reviews. If you reply only to negative reviews, it implies that feedback is only heard when it’s not favorable. Positive reviews come from those who are willing to take the time to share their experience online to help future customers feel assured about doing business with you. So it’s important to take the time to show appreciation and keep these loyal customers happy.
Use review responses to fuel local search results
Remember, online reviews are a marketing tool. Responding to reviews are a key factor when it comes to local ranking in Google. Moz ranks owner responses on Google reviews, in particular, as the second most important ranking factor for local search. This means that if Google has the choice between two nearby businesses that match specific search criteria, it would likely rank the one with more review activity which includes responses.
We’ve seen the most success from clients who personalize each response with keywords and locations they are targeting for search results. By using this technique, you can show appreciation to your happy customers while also sending positive signals to search engines about your relevance to potential customers.
“Thank you for choosing ABC Contracting for your Seattle kitchen remodel. We are so excited to hear you loved the results. We take pride in all of our work and enjoy serving clients in all of King County. Thanks again for supporting our business and taking the time to share your feedback!
In this example, the use of keywords that include the business name, locations, and types of services or products offered are geared towards increasing relevance within search engine rankings. Using these keywords sparingly and strategically helps keep the tone natural and appealing to readers.
Reviews are a window to growth
Each review is an opportunity to learn something about your business. Good reviews reinforce what’s going well in your business and what your customers appreciate most. Bad reviews are an opportunity to reflect on your business from your customer’s perspective and incorporate constructive comments to improve in the future.
As you integrate these practices, you’ll find that reviews are a gift that can help you improve your customer experience, forge a deeper connection with your customers, and improve your local search rankings.