Reviewing the reviewers – ignore them at your peril!

Three Business Blog Team
On: 18 Aug 2016
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Your customers play a huge part in shaping your brand’s reputation and online presence. So much so, that one negative review online can result in an untold amount of lost business. However, an engaging and effective response can turn even the worst reviews on their head.

In the third blog of our series “All Businesses are Media Businesses” we look at the growing influence of customer review sites and how to make sure they work for you, not against you.

Ignoring the vexed and vocal customer has never been a good idea. But in today’s interconnected digital world it’s positively dangerous for your business prospects.

Customer dissatisfaction vented online may be viewed by an audience of thousands – or tens of thousands – who might be permanently put off buying your goods, using your services or visiting your establishment. On the other hand, negative reviews that you respond to effectively (and positive reviews too, of course) can reflect so favourably on your business that they far outstrip the returns possible from expensive advertising methods – and they cost you nothing but the time spent on responding.

So how do you address the issue of online customer reviews?

Of course the best way to ensure they work in your favour is to ensure the reviews themselves are favourable. However it has always been an unfortunate fact of customer service that the dissatisfied customer is more likely to share their story than the satisfied customer. This rings true online, so you need to engage with all genuine reviews – good or bad.

The first step is to identify where your reviewers are reviewing. New review sites appear all the time, but not all of them gain a following so try to establish which are the most influential in your industry and focus your attention on them. Look at the amount of reviews on the site, the quality of the reviews and the amount of fans/followers on their social media accounts.

Google, Facebook and Yelp all include review functionality and you will find businesses from all sectors reviewed there.

If you’re in the hospitality or catering sectors, you’ll almost certainly find your business reviewed on TripAdvisor. If you’re serving food, be sure to check and Zomato too.

Even B2B companies are not immune to the online customer review, indeed a 2015 B2B Buyers Survey by Demand Gen Report stated that peers’ and colleagues’ reviews were second only to experts’ and analysts’ reviews for informing buyers’ purchase decisions.

The key is to never ignore a genuine review. However unfair, unwarranted, or downright untruthful a review may seem , the very fact it’s out there gives it a life. Ignoring a bad review is, in effect, allowing a disgruntled customer to shape your brand reputation.

However time is also of the essence when you’re deciding on whether and how to respond. If you’ve already established that the review site isn’t a credible or important one, then your time might be better spent elsewhere. That was the approach adopted by Vanessa Murphy, co-owner of Las Tapas de Lola (as featured in an earlier blog). Highly selective in the review sites she spends her time on – she responds to every review on one and for others she decided not to try to keep up. Her philosophy is that it’s better to do some things well, than to spread yourself thinly by trying to participate in every conversation.

Your level of involvement is something only you can decide. And like all good business decisions, it needs to be based on a sound business case. Will engaging with reviewers on the site in question help reduce customer churn, for example? Or improve sales? Or even lead to product development and improvement?

In an interview with Demand Gen Report, Erika Goldwater, VP of Marketing at ANNUITAS, pointed out that a user review is ”another way to gather data and develop deep buyer insights… If a review is not a positive one, use the information to address concerns or questions, and evaluate how to address any issues via product fixes, upgrades or promotional offers.”

If on the other hand, the review is positive and talks about how your product or service helped resolve a specific pain point, then be sure to use that message in your social media activity: incorporating it in your blog posts or tweets, for example.

The good news is that even if you pick only one site to engage with and whether the reviews are good or bad, if you engage wisely and respond effectively, you’ll achieve an ROI that most marketing investments won’t get anywhere near.