A Marketing Perspective on Handling Reviews

We’ve got good news and bad news when it comes to customer reviews. The good news is that they’re important — 89 percent of customers read reviews before making a purchase, so positive reviews can be a huge boon to your business and your ability to recruit new customers. The bad news is that reviews aren’t always positive.

So how are you supposed to handle reviews, leveraging the good ones while mitigating the damage caused by bad ones? How quickly should you respond to them? Should you respond to them at all? What kind of language should you use? Don’t worry, we’ve got answers.

Don’t Overreact to Unfair Negative Reviews

Negative reviews that point out real problems — incorrect order fulfillment, rude staff, product quality problems, and so on — are extremely useful. They can point out flaws in the way your company operates, highlight inefficiencies, and give you the opportunity to make improvements.

But then there are the unfair negative reviews. Ones like “the ice cream was too cold” (a real review of a McDonald’s franchise on Yelp). Some companies have tried to prevent those reviews by calling out the reviewers for their dishonesty or even suing them, but that inevitably backfires and makes you look petty and out of touch.

When the Harvard Business Review surveyed consumers about unfair bad reviews, they found that nearly half of respondents were unaffected by them and another quarter actually felt better about the company after having read them.

Our advice? Either ignore them entirely or embrace them, as one sandwich shop did. Rather than bowing to negative feedback that was clearly just petty, they put up a sandwich board saying, “come try the worst meatball sandwich that one guy on Yelp ever had in his life.” Crisis averted.

Dealing With Positive Reviews

It’s a good idea to respond to positive reviews, but within reason. Keep it to a simple “thank you” or “glad you enjoyed yourself,” but don’t go overboard. Some companies like to use more customized responses, but those are often perceived as promotional and therefore disingenuous, which actually makes people think less of your company.

It’s also a good idea to delay your response to positive reviews. Future reviewers are less likely to leave a positive review if they see you responding to every one (counterintuitive, but true), so wait until the good reviews have been hidden on the second page before you respond.

“When you get a really good review, use it. A positive review, featured prominently on your website or in other marketing materials, can be a huge boon to your brand’s reputation. Feature your good reviews in a section on your homepage and you’ll add a human element to your brand that will help earn your prospective customers’ trust.”

Take the Negative Reviews in Stride

Negative reviews are part of the cost of doing business, and they can actually be pretty helpful if they give you insights into the things about your organization that need fixing. No one knows your product better than your users, so take note of what they have to say.

Respond to every negative review — within reason. If you’re getting hundreds of complaints a day, you don’t have time to respond to all of them, but you should also probably take a hard look at why you’re so overwhelmed with negative feedback.

If you can respond to the meaningful negative reviews, you might be able to prevent future negative reviews, too. Customers who see how you’ve addressed an issue that another user already had will hopefully take your response to heart and avoid leaving a review of their own.

Of course, that means you have to provide real solutions in your responses. Don’t use a canned “we’re sorry to hear that” response to complaints — really read them and provide a helpful answer. Direct customers to helpful resources on your website or follow up with them personally and directly.

Finally, respond to negative feedback quickly. This is the opposite of the advice we gave regarding positive feedback, and for good reason — you want future reviewers to see your responses and know that you’re paying attention.

Put the Work In

Community management isn’t optional in this day and age. You’re going to get feedback on multiple channels whether you solicit it or not, and you need to have the appropriate people and resources in place to deal with it, just like you have people in charge of social media and website development.

It’s worth the effort, though. In a world where any positive or negative review can go viral and have a huge impact on the reputation of a company, having a plan for dealing with feedback is a necessity. If you can strike a good balance, your company will see the benefits.

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