Reviews are one of the most influential ranking factors in Google’s local pack - the call-out box of Google’s top three recommended local results for your search. Here’s what it looks like when we search “grocery stores” from our Baton Rouge office.
Beyond Google search results, reviews are a powerful trust indicator for a company’s consumers. In fact, 86% of consumers reference reviews when looking for a local business solution. It’s not surprising that Google is at the top of that list, with Yelp right behind it.
But what those 86% do next is where our focus is…
- 94% of consumers will decide against your business based on low-rating online reviews.
- 73% of consumers will have more trust in a local business based on high-rating online reviews.
Search results and reviews are both components of your company’s online reputation. Here are a few examples to show you what we mean.
Tips for Responding to Reviews as Part of Reputation Management
A local Whole Foods location in the U.S. is a prime example of how to respond to both negative and positive reviews. National brands are destined to have loud feedback, even at the local store level. Both screenshots below are from the same Whole Foods location.
In the first screenshot we see one-star ratings, but the owner’s responses give us some key takeaways.
- Timely response. The owner didn’t let the review sit long before submitting a response. A timely response shows your customers that you are actively listening and trying to make their experiences better.
- Customer Empowerment. This Whole Foods owner gives the reviewer a chance to take their review a step further and make change happen. Offering an alternative contact method not only takes the conversation offline but also let’s your customer know you’re willing to make the situation right.
- Apologize. When a customer is upset enough to leave a low-rating review, they want an open apology. Even if you’re confident your business didn’t do anything wrong, an apology is a mature and professional gesture.
- Professional. When responding to your customers, remain in line with your company’s voice and tone standards. In the case of a national brand like Whole Foods, the tone is more professional than personal.
- Offer Action. In this example, Whole Foods makes an attempt to rectify the situation. If a customer calls your business out on something, offer a path of action to change it. It may just be enough to get them back in the store.
On the flip side, Whole Foods also provides a good example of how to respond to positive reviews. Although not all reviews require a response, it’s a good practice to engage with reviewers in your online reviews. Some simple takeaways from these responses would be:
Be brief. There’s no need to draft a letter of adoration for each 5-star review. A simple, “Thanks for the amazing review!” shows your customers that you’re listening and you appreciate the kudos.
Be specific. In the second example, the reviewer mentioned it was his or her first time in the location. The owner took notice of that and opened the invitation for future visits. This is a nice personal, local touch from a national brand.
Exhibit B dives into an entirely different industry, one that is no stranger to angry comebacks and arguments. As an attorney, you win some and you lose some, but how you respond to those you lose can affect those you might win.
Take this law firm, for example. From this first glance, you may not be so sure what to think. It’s overall rating is under 3 stars, which means 49% of searchers wouldn’t even give the firm a first glance. In fact, data from Google shows that businesses with a 3-5 star rating earn 25% more clicks, which means more organic traffic and leads to that business.
Further in the company’s reviews, there are some alarming stories and warnings to future onlookers. You can see the impact these particular reviews have made on potential clients by the count of “thumbs up” showing that the review was helpful in making a decision about the firm.
So this type of review standing begs the question, “What could have been done better?”
- Respond to the naysayers. Responding shows that you are actively listening and engaged with your clients, and 45% of consumers are more likely to give your company a chance if it responds to negative reviews.
- Prepare template responses. Some of these reviews provide details the law firm is not able to discuss on a public platform like Google reviews. As a law firm, these types of reviews are expected and should be prepared for. Templates would include variations of a greeting, an apology and acknowledgement of issue, and an action item of rectification. It’s also helpful to outline which templates should be used for different reviews topics, issues, and tones.
- Ask (or incentivise) happy clients to leave reviews. Too often, the negative-nelly’s have the loudest voices, so sometimes it requires a purposeful initiative within a company to make an impact on its review standing. Asking happy clients to leave reviews will not only improve your rating but also show new searchers that there is something worth looking into at your company or firm.
Exhibit C is similar to exhibit B, but with slightly different lessons and a much more impactful grand finale.
These rating previews are also from a law firm struggling to get that 4th star. (80% of consumers look for 4-star ratings and above when searching for a local business online.) But this law firm, in particular, has a habit of only paying attention to the positive reviews when the negative reviews have a higher impact (notice the “thumbs up” indicators again).
Here’s where this law firm could have made a difference:
- Have a response plan in place. There are copious references to a certain TV commercial that apparently convinced users to give this law firm a call, and in return, they were starkly disappointed. In addition to this firm’s marketing campaign, a communications plan outlining how the firm should respond to any kind of feedback or public response would have guided the firm in handling these specific reviews.
- Offer a solution or a reason. After apologizing for the review subject, offer a solution for moving forward or a reason for the disappointment. Of course, details of the case cannot be disclosed to provide specific reasons, but even generic reasoning can show a level of compassion and apology that consumers can appreciate.
- If it’s an ongoing issue that multiple reviewers point out, thank them for bringing it to your attention, apologize, and respond to let them know how you are taking action. Are you investigating further? Are you changing your processes? Are you reprimanding that individual? Include what you can in your response.
- Continue the conversation offline. If there is a complaint about a call being ignored, a voicemail never returned, or even a disrespectful employee, offer to continue the conversation via email or phone. This way a solution can be reached on an individual basis, and the public will see that you are taking steps to make it up to the client.
Are you ready for the grand finale? It’s not often that see the decision-making process documented as altered because of reviews, but in this case we do. Because of this firm’s way of handling reviews, check out the review it received from a potential client.
We found this review and response on Yelp, and it’s a good example of how NOT to respond to a review.
The reviewer gives a detailed account of a conversation with someone at the firm. The owner responds only in defense of his team.
While we respect the owner’s confidence in his attorneys and commitment to defending their honor, it’s not the best way to respond to someone who is obviously disappointed with their interaction.
- Be compassionate. No one appreciates being scoffed at or condescended. Even if the customer received the conversation “the wrong way,” there is always a certain level of professionalism and compassion to be maintained. Apologize for the encounter, because the client (as well as other onlookers) need to know that you do not condone rude behavior.
- Reference your values in addition to your apology, not in place of one. Company values, like this firm’s commitment to hiring quality professionals, are important to include as something your company strives for. It’s because of your values that you offer an apology for anything less.
Tips for Properly Managing Your Review Profiles as Reputation Management
1. Create a new Google My Business profile for every name change and acquisition.
If your company undergoes an ownership change, business model 360, or acquisition, don’t use the same Google My Business profile as your old business. Instead, close the existing one and create a completely new one. This will make sure all of the old negative reviews do not attach themselves to your new business.
In this case, the original local business faced several lawsuits and filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy as a result. The new company kept the old Google My Business and simply changed the business name. Unfortunately, this resulted in the new business gaining all the negative reviews from the previous company’s lawsuit attention.
Old positive reviews pre-shutdown
New negative reviews after name change:
2. Mind your negative review responses.
As of May 2018, every customer or user that leaves a review on Google Local will receive an email notification that the business owner has responded to their review. It is important to keep this in mind when leaving your response.
If you fix a users issue, ask if they will remove or update their review. It’s best to do this while you have them on the phone or engaging via email with them. If you can get them to change a 1-star into a 3-4-5-star review, this can have a big impact on your overall score and rankings.
3. Update your Google My Business regularly.
First, make sure your Google My Business is set up with your correct business hours, website, phone number, and all other business details that would be helpful to your customers. Remember to update your hours on holidays or special days of the year. This way, your customers can trust your local listing is up-to-date.
Then, schedule a monthly reminder to update your Google My Business Listing. Add photos and videos your company has been putting together. Add photos of your team, if fitting for your industry. Create a new post driving people to go to your website, take advantage of a sale, or call your business. Updating these items will add personality and a unique online experience for potential customers, making them think twice about passing up your business for another.
Templates to Help You Respond to Reviews as Part of Reputation Management
Templates for Negative Review Responses
Becca, we’re sorry you had this experience. We’ve been in business for over 10 years and always strive to maintain customer satisfaction. My name is David, and I’m the branch manager for this location. Please give me a call directly at 225-444-5555 so I can resolve this issue for you.
Don, we apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for bringing it to our attention. We are looking into this issue. If you have any more details concerning your experience, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank, we strive to provide the best experience possible for each customer and we’re sorry we let you down. Please contact our customer service specialist, Mandy, at email@example.com. We’d love to hear your feedback of how we can do better next time.
Angela, thank you for bringing this to our attention and we apologize that your experience with us was less than satisfactory. We would like to look into this further. Could you email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with more information? Thank you.
Templates for Positive Review Responses
Ben, thank you for the amazing review! We hope to see you in the store again soon.
Angie, thank you for leaving us a review. That’s actually one of our very first products, and it’s still one of our most popular today! We’re glad you’re enjoying it.
Bob, thank you for your 5-star review! We love hearing such positive feedback from our customers.
Anne, thank you for the review and for trusting us with your project! It was a pleasure working with you, and we wish you the best in your future endeavors.
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