7 Things Every Business Must Do When Responding to Online Reviews

04/27/2015 03:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 25, 2015

2015-04-25-1430003146-797173-Feedbackreviews.jpg Let's face it, knowing how to properly handle and manage online reviews isn't just important, it's a must. 85% of customers read online reviews for local businesses and this number is likely to further increase.

When your business gets positive online reviews, it's great - it's assurance that you're doing something right. Reading fantastic reviews can be a euphoric experience. You likely know this first hand.

In contrast, negative reviews can leave you with a big pit in your stomach. It's hard to get online reviews taken down and you realize that a large number of people will possibly read the disparaging comments - potentially causing serious damage to your business.

In this article, I'll explain how to deal with both positive and negative reviews and best practices when it comes to online reputation and review management. Next time you see those disparaging remarks, you'll know how to deal with them effectively.

Tips for Handling Online Reviews: Negative Reviews

1. Respond, respond, respond

Many people think that by ignoring negative reviews, they'll somehow magically disappear or that people will forget about them. But that couldn't be further from the truth. You need to respond to all negative comments. But first, don't take the review personally. Put your emotions aside and stay calm and collected. And make sure you address the specific issue the complaint is about.

2. Turn a negative into a positive

Sometimes, responding to negative reviews gives you an opportunity to talk about things you're proud the company does or the business' positive qualities. Shama Kabani, author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, uses this example: "I'm sorry you had a bad experience. We've been in business 25 years, we serve thousands of customers a week, and we strive to create the best possible dining experience for the community." Remember to avoid being defensive. Instead, respond in a calm and professional way - even if you feel the customer is wrong.

3. When appropriate, offer to bring the conversation offline

If you find yourself going back and forth with the customer in a long thread of comments, it may be better to take the conversation offline. Sometimes it's beneficial to set up a time to chat on the phone to resolve the issue. It's not always necessary to have your entire response be public.

4. Don't forget the value of negative feedback

While positive feedback is great, it often doesn't give you insight into where your business may need to improve. Look at negative feedback as a learning opportunity and chance to build your business into something bigger and better. When you view feedback in this light, it's much easier to take your emotions out of the equation and respond in a professional, friendly, and helpful manner.

Tips for Handling Online Reviews: Positive Reviews

5. Thank the reviewer and let them know you care

Showing appreciation goes a long way; it makes the customer feel valued and encourages them to further spread positive word of mouth about the business. Let the customer know you value their feedback and thank them for sharing it.

6. Share the review

Testimonials are one of the most powerful and persuasive tools in a marketer's toolkit. If you received a particularly positive review, think about asking the reviewer if you can leverage it on your website and/ or social media channels.

7. Share the review with your staff

Positive reviews makes your employees feel good and motivates them to do even better work. It also reinforces that they're valued and that the work they do hasn't gone unnoticed. So be sure to share the reviews with your staff.

Reputation and Review Management Best Practices

  • Have a blog and consistently publish great content. Content helps you appear more places when someone does a search of your brand. If you have negative reviews, you also want people to see some of the excellent content you put out.
  • Have a social media presence. This prevents others from hijacking your brand name, gives you a larger online footprint, and helps you control more spots in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Have a PR strategy that outlines how you'll secure media coverage. You want people to Google your client's business and see reputable publications with great write-ups on them.
  • Have a process that outlines how you'll handle online reviews and make sure your staff are trained on that process.
  • Monitor what people are saying online so you can respond right away. And remember that time is of the essence; people expect fast response times and it's important to keep the situation under control, preventing further negative word of mouth.

At the end of the day, it's crucial to have these key best practices in mind when it comes to dealing with reviews and managing your online reputation. Keep in mind that there is some good software on the market that can help you in this area. Vendasta, for instance, makes it easy to track which words are appearing in reviews about your business, discover what people are saying about you, and generate valuable insights into how to improve.

I hope that this article has given you a great toolkit for helping you respond to, and prepare for, online reviews about your business.