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Should you engage with online reviews?

Online reviews

As much as some businesses might avoid engaging with reviews, in this day and age that isn’t a sensible option. An estimated 90% of buyers now look at online reviews before making a purchasing decision so, whether you are a bricks and mortar store, an e-commerce retailer or a service provider, the realities of modern business mean you can’t afford to ignore reviews. 

Thankfully, the vast majority of reviews we get are positive. I particularly like the ones that identify an individual member of staff. It is nice to be able to share with a team member the fact that their efforts have made such an impact that the customer feels moved to contact us.

Just today we had a review on Google for Sam Boylett in West Sussex. He had gone to help a client with “unwelcome rodent visitors in [their] loft.” The feedback described him as “friendly” and his work as “very efficient, reliable and caring.” This kind of feedback is a joy to pass on. 

Feedback is important for your business

Some people do bury their head in the sand and completely ignore all reviews. They take the position of treating positive reviews in the same way as negative reviews. From a mental health standpoint, this might be a good strategy and certainly there are plenty of actors and comedians who use this approach to protect themselves. However, for a business, this can be detrimental. 

Companies stand or fall based on their reputations. Depending on the size of the business, the relevance of a few negative reviews can be very different. If you have multiple glowing reviews and a firm customer base, then you can probably afford to absorb some bad reviews. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to what is being said and respond – it’s just that you can afford to not let a review alter the way you operate. 

However, if your company is small and doesn’t have many positive testimonials, then a negative review has far greater weight. Potential customers could see it and think it accurately reflects your business. This is a simple matter of maths – one negative review among 100s of positive ones will be considered an outlier by potential customers, but one negative and only 3 or 4 positive reviews will be seen as having more credibility.

As a company, we encourage feedback and actively promote the review sites Google, Facebook and TrustPilot. Click here.

Have faith in your business

If you have only a few reviews, why?

Unfortunately, people are still far more likely to leave you a review if they have had a negative experience. The assumption is that good service is what they are paying for and so why should they review it? This is very true but, from the perspective of the company, unhelpful. 

What to do when you get a negative review

In my experience, top of your list should be – don’t ignore it. For a start, if you ignore a review (good or bad) it looks like you don’t care about your reputation. At the same time, if you leave a negative review unattended, other readers might assume it is accurate.

Our first action when we get a review is to acknowledge it. If it is positive, we thank the person for taking the time to give us feedback. If it is negative, we start to look into what has happened and, because we have faith in our service, we can do this with the confidence that something has gone wrong – after all, we are all human – and not that there is something fundamentally wrong with the business. 

Sometimes the best policy is to just to hold up your hands and admit a review is justified. Legitimate criticism is hard to argue with because deep down you know it is right. By admitting your error and sorting the problem, you cut short the conversation and stop the negativity spreading. It may be too late to make an unhappy customer happy again, but you can make sure it doesn’t start to infect other potential clients. 

Secondly, if the review is negative, don’t get angry and defensive. We’ve all heard stories of chefs responding to a bad review on TripAdvisor and, while they may garner a certain amount of support from other chefs, ultimately they are damaging their reputation and potentially alienating customers.

An example might be this chef in Chester who responded in detail to a review that said his restaurant was a rip off. The only problem is that in responding it comes across as if the review has hit a nerve – which leaves the faint idea that there may be some truth in it. In this case, the story came from 2020 but it is still on the internet doing damage to his reputation. Gaining notoriety for the way you respond to criticism isn’t the same thing as becoming well-known for the quality of your cooking. 

I’ve never been to the restaurant, but this story still comes up in a Google search and if I was seeking to find a place to eat in Chester I’d probably choose somewhere else. It should be noted, the restaurant is still going and has a TripAdvisor rating of 4 ½ stars, so it may be that the chef had a right to be aggrieved but that doesn’t mean his public response has helped his business. 

As I said, thankfully the vast majority of our feedback is positive. Even if I say so myself, this is as it should be because I am extremely proud of our service and performance. That doesn’t mean we never get feedback that makes us reflect and, when we do, we respond to it. At the end of the day, we need to make sure every customer is happy AND we need to make sure negative comments don’t impact the future of the business. 

Read our testimonial page here.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay