As a business owner in the twenty-first century, your online reputation is critical to your company’s success. That is why you need an effective business review management strategy in place to manage online reviews and customer feedback.
Business owners can manage online reviews by following these tips:
- Creating a systemized review collection process that targets satisfied customers;
- Focusing your monitoring efforts on key review sites and platforms;
- Developing a proactive review management strategy and leveraging review management tools; and
- Learning how (and when) to respond to the inevitable negative review.
At Minc Law, our experienced internet attorneys and digital risk protection services help protect your business’s reputation against online threats. We have proven experience helping clients protect and defend their online reputations, remove harmful and fraudulent online content, and respond to potentially reputation-damaging reviews.
Reviews can be extremely beneficial to your business’s reputation—but they also open the door for potentially harmful and fake content. In this article, we provide a comprehensive guide to review management for business owners who wish to bolster their brand awareness while protecting their reputations from bad actors.
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How Company Reviews Can Help Your Business Gain Trust & Credibility
As Warren Buffet famously put it, it takes 20 years to build a reputation—and five minutes to ruin it.
Online reputations are extremely fragile. Consumers trust online reviews to form their opinion of your brand just as much as personal recommendations from friends and family. They often make up their minds quickly about a business based on a brief piece of information, and 92% of consumers are likely to avoid a business if they have read negative reviews.
How Do Customer Reviews Build Stronger Customer Relationships?
As you might imagine, good and honest feedback is helpful for your business. Satisfied customers serve as word-of-mouth marketing and social proof in a public forum that your business is worth patronizing.
Businesses can benefit from positive online reviews through increased conversions and spending. In fact, businesses that display consumer reviews on their website may increase customer conversion rates up to 270%.
But negative feedback can also be beneficial. Customers who leave criticism in a review are comforted in the knowledge that their complaints are heard—especially when you respond professionally and respectfully to their concerns. The way you handle a bad review can build trust and stronger relationships with not only the customers whose concerns you address but the readers who witness your interactions with them.
How Frequently Do Consumers Rely On Customer Reviews to Choose Products & Services?
In today’s cynical digital age, consumers no longer trust traditional advertising. Instead, customer reviews are considered the last bastion of “authentic” and trustworthy sources of truth about a brand.
That trust in customer reviews can be seen across various industries. For example, 95% of travelers research hotel reviews before booking a stay—and 88% of travelers will not even consider a hotel with an average star rating lower than three.
And 43% of retail shoppers admit that reviews influence their purchases, while 94% of U.S. diners choose a restaurant based on online reviews.
These consumers are not simply scanning the average ratings, either. A 2022 BrightLocal consumer review survey found that 93% of consumers spend at least one minute on average reading online reviews—and 43% take more than ten minutes!
Are you a hotel owner or administrator? Check out our article, “Effective Strategies For Hotels to Cultivate a Positive Online Reputation“, for tips on maintaining your hotel reputation.
How Do Positive Customer Experiences Create Brand Awareness?
Positive customer experiences are essential for effective word-of-mouth marketing. Customers who have positive interactions with you can be the best ambassadors for your brand, getting the word out about your product or service and helping you stand out from the competition.
Past customers who record their positive experiences in written reviews can influence potential customers. And potential customers are listening; 75% of customers cite word-of-mouth recommendations as a determinant in their purchases, and 90% of consumers state that positive reviews are a driving factor in their buying decisions.
For further reading, we recommend checking out our comprehensive guide answering ‘why a positive reputation is important in business’.
Pros & Cons of Having Employees Collect Reviews
It is undeniable that online reviews have a strong impact on businesses. But that impact can be both good and bad—which is why you should carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks before implementing a review collection strategy for your business.
How Can Customer Feedback Be Applied For the Benefit of Your Business?
Customer feedback can be good, bad, and everything in between—and no matter the flavor of the review, it can benefit your business.
A positive review tells you what you are doing well. And though it never feels good to receive negative feedback, even a bad review can be a gift in disguise. Learning and growing from criticism can lead to a stronger company overall. The importance of online reviews for your business and its longevity cannot be overstated.
Below, we examine a few ways customer reviews—regardless of their overall impression of your business—can benefit you.
Customer Reviews Can Humanize Your Business
Reviews from real customers reveal the real interactions they had with your staff and your product or service. No one is perfect, and no business is perfect, either—which is why potential customers should see a variety of opinions of others’ experiences with you.
And if you respond well to negative reviews, readers have the opportunity to see your human side. Witnessing these interactions could warm them to your business.
Customer Reviews Can Increase Trustworthiness
Feedback from real customers helps potential customers trust your brand. Seeing past customers’ satisfaction with your product or service can give potential customers confidence that they will be satisfied as well.
And contrary to what you might assume, even a few negative reviews can increase your trustworthiness. Consumers are suspicious of companies that have no negative reviews. Having a few negative reviews shows that your business is not trying to suppress or delete legitimate negative feedback.
Customer Reviews Can Provide a Complete Picture of Your Business
Having a healthy mix of glowing and critical feedback gives potential customers a clear idea of what it is like to interact with your brand. A few negative reviews highlight the positive ones, allowing the consumer to feel that they are getting the “full picture” of your business before deciding to make a purchase.
Customer Reviews Can Be a Cause For Change
Just as a positive review can show you what is working, a negative review can reveal what is not. Genuine, critical feedback from a real customer provides you an opportunity to improve. You can change what is not working so that future customers will be even more satisfied with your product or service.
Customer Reviews Can Provide an Opportunity to Show That You Care
Many customers leave reviews in the hopes that you will respond (and in the case of a negative review, make things right).
A compassionate and professional apology can often go a long way in the case of a negative review—and other readers can see that you put your customers’ needs first.
What Are the Disadvantages of Having Customer Service Representatives Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews?
While there are many potential benefits to gathering customer feedback, customer service representatives should be aware of the possible drawbacks. Such disadvantages include:
- Costly process. Whether you use a third-party review software or you assign the task of contacting customers manually to an internal employee, gathering customer feedback adds up.
- Risk to your business’s reputation. While you can work to improve your average rating, it may damage your audience’s trust in you at first if you receive more negative reviews than you expected. This may extend to the CEO’s reputation as well.
- Risk of fake reviews. Due to the anonymous nature of review platforms, malicious actors may take advantage of the system to libel your business and post fake negative reviews.
- Privacy issues. Managing reviews is a delicate process for some industries. If you run a medical practice, for example, it can be difficult to respond to bad patient reviews without violating HIPAA regulations.
Strategies For Collecting Online Reviews
Once you have decided to collect customer feedback online, you need to choose a method or two to reach customers. This section provides a few strategies for gathering reviews from your customers effectively.
What Are the Best Ways to Reach Customers to Encourage Them to Leave Reviews?
If you are unsure of how to encourage or ask customers to provide feedback about your business, start with the following tips:
It can feel awkward to ask for a review, especially if you are a small business owner or entrepreneur. But most customers are more willing to write about their experiences than you would expect. And as the saying goes, the worst they can say is no!
Create a Systemized Review Process
To help relieve some of the awkwardness of asking for reviews (and make sure you do not miss any opportunities for a review), consider developing a review request system.
Make asking for reviews just another step in your customer funnel. For instance, perhaps your customer service team sets a reminder to follow up two weeks after each purchase to ask for feedback.
Target the Satisfied Customers
If it is your goal to boost your overall review platform rating, it makes sense to focus on the customers you know had a positive experience with your company. If a customer gives signs of being happy with their interaction with you, invite them to leave a review on your review platform of choice.
One strategy for targeting happy customers is to send generic customer satisfaction surveys to all customers, then encourage more detailed reviews from respondents who answered the questions positively.
Personalize the Request
Finally, you would be surprised at the effect a personal touch can have. Personalization can generate goodwill and build rapport between your customers and your brand.
Instead of sending formulaic emails in bulk to your previous customers, send a personalized email (or even better, a video) to each customer. Use their name, thank them for their business, and ask if they would leave an honest review.
What Are the Best Ways to Manage Online Reviews?
Collecting customer feedback can be a labor-intensive process. If you decide to start encouraging customers to leave reviews, be sure to use the following strategies to stay on top of your online reputation.
Focus on Key Review Sites & Platforms
There are many review platforms available online—and if you try to keep tabs on all of them, you may easily become overwhelmed.
Instead, search for review networks that are the most relevant to your industry and influential over your customers. Prioritize the most popular sites (like Google and Yelp) and any that have a large impact on your niche (like Healthgrades and RateMDs for physicians). We also recommend keeping an eye on business profiles on social media platforms like Facebook.
Claim Your Business Profiles on All Sites
Most review sites allow businesses to claim their profile. Claiming your business on these sites lets you manage your profile and have control over your business information on the platform. You may also receive notifications of new reviews and changes to your average rating.
The claiming process looks different on each site. To start, we recommend reviewing the instructions for claiming your local business profiles on Google and on Yelp.
Use a Review Management Strategy
Do not wait until you receive a negative review to decide how to handle customer feedback. Create a strategy for managing reviews, which answers questions like:
- Which staff member is responsible for monitoring each review platform?
- How quickly will you respond to reviews?
- Which types of reviews will you respond to—all of them, or just the negative ones?
- How often will you check for new or noteworthy reviews?
You may also wish to create a set of templates that your team can use to respond to reviews. For more tips on creating an effective response strategy, see our article: How to Respond to Bad Reviews on the Internet.
Leverage a Review Management Software Tool
Finally, consider using online reputation management (ORM) tools to monitor mentions of your business on common review platforms. Some of the most popular review management software options available include:
- Yext, and
- Rize Reviews.
Common Features of Online Review Management Software
Most ORM tools come with similar features, like review generation tools (to help you create multi-channel campaigns to gather customer reviews) and review monitoring functionality. Other features include:
- Review widgets, which display your hand-picked reviews on your business’s website;
- White-Label options that let you use your own branding on reviews and reports; and
- API for integrating all of your tools into one dashboard.
Before choosing ORM software to help you manage your online reviews, it is wise to identify your goals. Each tool comes with its own features and downsides, so you should start by understanding your priorities.
For instance, Swell is a great choice for small and local businesses, since it features SMS messaging and ready-to-use templates. Reputation.com, on the other hand, works well for businesses with multiple locations because it has location-based review sorting and data analytics.
For further reading about online reputation management, we recommend checking out our comprehensive resource explaining the benefits of online reputation management.
How to Handle Negative Reviews of Your Business
The best way to minimize negative reviews is to focus on providing the highest quality product and exemplary customer service—but the fact remains: it is impossible to avoid all negative feedback.
In this section, we cover whether and how you should respond to the inevitable bad review.
Should Businesses Respond to Bad Reviews?
While responding to bad reviews may seem like common sense from a customer service perspective, there are a few drawbacks that should give you pause. Responding to a review can draw more attention—and even encourage copycats to pile on with more bad reviews. This phenomenon is known as the Streisand Effect.
And if you respond in the heat of the moment, out of anger or defensiveness, you risk escalating the situation and digging an even deeper hole for your reputation.
Some professions—such as medicine and law—present another drawback for responding to bad reviews. If you have ethical and legal obligations to protect your clients’ privacy (like HIPAA), consider reaching out to an attorney before responding to online reviews.
In most cases, we generally do not recommend responding to a bad review—at least publicly. The exception to this rule would be if your business is:
- In an industry that sees high volumes of customer reviews and traffic,
- A very well-known brand, or
- Facing a major public relations disaster.
When Should You Respond to Bad Reviews?
Of course, there are some situations when it makes sense to respond to a negative review on a public forum. If you have reason to believe that the reviewer is airing a legitimate concern about a real interaction they had with your brand, you may want to reply.
A well-handled response to a bad review can resolve the situation quickly and professionally. In many cases, if the customer feels that their concern has been addressed, they may edit the review—or even take it down.
Keep in mind, though, that more than half of consumers expect a business to respond to their review within seven days. So if you do decide to respond to a bad review, aim to do so within 24-48 hours of its posting.
How Should You Respond to Negative Reviews of Your Business?
If you do decide to respond to a negative review, keep the following tips in mind to ensure that your response is as effective and professional as possible.
1. Address the Customer By Name
Barring legal or confidentiality obligations, use the customer’s name (if they provided one) when replying to them. Addressing them by name adds a personal touch that can go a long way in fostering goodwill.
One caveat: If the customer did not leave their name but you can guess who it was, do not let on that you know who they are. Beyond putting the reviewer on the defensive, calling them out can potentially violate privacy regulations, especially if you are a physician or attorney.
2. Keep the Response Short
Avoid engaging in a drawn-out public argument. Keep your reply short and sweet without getting into lengthy details or overly arguing your case against the reviewer’s version of events.
Including too much information in your reply can open the door for the reviewer to become more upset, respond again, and escalate the situation.
3. Respond to the Review in a Timely Manner
If possible, try to post your reply within 48 hours. But if you are unable to respond calmly and professionally within that time, we recommend asking someone else to draft a response for you—or wait until you are calm enough to respond appropriately.
It is better to take too long to reply than to respond in the heat of the moment.
4. Take the Discussion Offline
Leave your contact information at the end of your review and invite the customer to reach out to you directly. Not only does this personal touch show the reader that you intend to address their concerns, but it also avoids a public back and forth.
What Are the Best Ways to Turn an Unhappy Customer into a Satisfied One?
Customer satisfaction goes beyond sending a professional reply to a review. In order to turn an unhappy customer into a truly satisfied one, it takes compassion and willingness to correct your mistakes.
1. Understand What the Customer is Saying
When a customer insults or publishes an unflattering account of your business, it is natural to feel defensive and angry. But to resolve the situation, you need to move beyond that initial reaction.
Do not make excuses or assume that the customer is “blowing things out of proportion.” Really digest what they are saying and put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
2. Apologize for Bad Customer Experiences
The most important element in a review response is the apology. Many upset customers—whether they understand it consciously or not—are simply waiting for an acknowledgment or an apology for their bad experience.
Make it a top priority to apologize sincerely in a way that shows you not only heard the customer’s concerns but want to fix them.
3. Try to Resolve the Issue
If possible, find a way to resolve the customer’s problem. Many solutions are easy to see, like a refund or a replacement for a faulty product. But if you cannot think of an appropriate solution, ask the customer how you can make the situation right.
4. Going Forward, Provide Stellar Products & Customer Service
The best response to negative reviews is to provide such exemplary service that you receive good reviews in the future. Focus on making future customers as satisfied as possible, and your ratio of good to bad reviews will always be to your benefit.
For further strategies and recommendations on repairing a bad reputation, make sure to read our comprehensive resource ‘How to Repair a Damaged Online Reputation’.
How Can You Recognize a Fake Negative Review?
Of course, not all bad reviews are from real customers. It does you no good to respond to a negative review from a poster who was never a real customer—one whose goal is not to air their bad experience but to damage your business.
Generally, you can follow these six steps to spot fake reviews on various review platforms:
- Consult your business records to see if the reviewer appears to be a real customer. Try to match the experience described in the review to a situation in your records. If the poster gave their name, search your records to see if you ever had a customer by that name.
- Research the user account that published the review. Was the account created on the same day as the review? Has the account had minimal activity outside of the review of your business? If so, the account may have been created solely to harass your company.
- Identify if the reviewer’s account username is suspicious. Many fraudulent reviewers try to anonymize their username (for example, “Mike P.” or “Danny F.”). They may even choose sarcastic usernames like “Seymore Butts” or “Ben Dover.”
- Look at the timing of the review. Was it posted in the middle of the night in your customers’ time zone? This may be a sign that the review was not posted by a real customer.
- Look for signs that the review was a professional hit job. Sometimes, competitors hire a “hitman” or agency that perpetuates fake review attacks on other businesses. These fake reviews tend to contain many grammar errors, inflammatory rhetoric, and even the promotion of a competitor.
Remove or Suppress the Review if It is Fake
If you find that a negative review was not posted by a real customer—or it is a fraudulent account of a real customer’s experience—you may be able to have it removed if it violates the review platform’s terms of service.
If you are unable to get the review taken down, you can create other positive content to suppress it. This method is one of the tactics employed by online reputation management services and agencies.
If you are considering engaging an online reputation management service or agency, we recommend reading our pricing breakdown guide explaining key online reputation management costs.
Video: Minc Law’s Online Reputation Management Services Explained
We Can Help Protect Your Businesses’ Online Reputation & Remove Fake Reviews
We know just how devastating a fake negative online review (or a barrage of them) can be for a business and its longevity. We have extensive experience helping businesses improve and repair damaged online reputations, monitor the internet for malicious attacks, and remove fake online reviews and other content.
“Minc Law did an outstanding job on our case, particularly Daniel and his team. They guided us through the entire process of unveiling the individual who was defaming our business online, and then all the way through to getting a satisfactory settlement. They always returned calls and offered sound advice for whatever came up during our case. If I ever need these types of services again, I will definitely go to them first.”
May 21, 2021
If your business is the target of fake online reviews and you want to explore effective reputation repair strategies, or digital risk protection services, we can help. Schedule your initial, no-obligation consultation with an intake specialist by calling us at (216) 373-7706, speaking with a chat representative, or filling out our online contact form.