After a conversation about a panel I will be participating on around review management, I thought it would be a good idea to go in more depth about review management, and also how and when to appropriately respond to reviews. While I had a busy day or two, the folks at GatherUp beat me to the punch.  They put together a great and in-depth article on the best way to handle responding to reviews. I highly recommend you read it and follow their suggestions, not just for the sake of your SEO, but for your business in general.  Potential customers are often googling your business to just see your reviews, so even if you aren’t using it to help your ranking (and it will), you should make sure you stay on top of this to capture leads and control the message that is being sent out from those reviews, both positive and negative.

When to Respond to Reviews

Online Review ManagementThe simple answer here is that ideally, you should respond to all of them.  That being said, if you have been asleep at the wheel for some time, it may be a little strange to start responding to reviews from a year ago now.  At least going forward, you should try to respond to each review, or appoint someone with some power to respond to each review.  Responding to positive reviews is pretty easy, but the negative ones are a little more touchy. Think of people leaving reviews as talking to you. Especially nowadays where Google notifies them if you respond.  If someone walked up to you and said you did a great job, you wouldn’t just ignore them. You would respond. Reviews are the same thing. Studies mentioned in the GatherUp article say reviewers like to see a response within three days.  Keep these people that are touching your business happy and with a positive view of your business.

Responding to Positive Reviews

Positive reviews seem like the easiest type to respond to, but it should be a little more than just a thank you. If someone went out of their way to put a positive review online, give them more than that. Try to write back something personal about them and your interaction that is positive.  They will remember that you made that special effort to mention something a little more personal, which gives more of a chance that they will come back, or go that extra step and refer you to someone else.

Responding to Negative and Meh Reviews

These are a bit more challenging and the reviews can range from fairly calm to quite inflammatory.  Try not to elevate the issue. No matter what happened, consider apologizing for the fact that they weren’t happy with their experience, and possibly take it offline. Ask them to reach out to your office to try to work it out.  Sometimes it is simply a misunderstanding and you can actually turn them around.  Negatives turned to positives can be pretty warm leads.  If it is within your power to offer them some sort of extra deal or incentive to make it better, go ahead. It is probably worthwhile.  Remember, when you respond, you are not only responding to this one person who left the review but to everyone in the future that will be reading through your reviews and especially wondering what those negative ones are about.

Flag negative reviewIf you can explain the specific situation in a fairly positive light, go ahead. I know some people are just crazy or impossible to deal with. Some negative reviews are fake and are devious tactics by your competitors. You can actually flag reviews if they are fake. If you hover over the review,  you will see a flag pop up to the right, and you can follow those procedures. They often don’t get taken down but you can try. One way to point out a fake one (if it is truly fake) is to mention you have no record of working with the user, so to please call the office so we can figure out where the miscommunication is and serve you properly.

Use this opportunity to explain your services more thoroughly to someone that may be reading the review, and show what a great company you are and how you bend over backward to make your customer happy. People reading reviews can tell who the crazies are too. Don’t run from your bad reviews. Embrace them and use it as a marketing opportunity and a way to better explain your business.

Responding to Reviews is Critical

This is just a very brief overview of how and why to respond to online reviews, but please check out that GatherUp article for a thorough dive into the importance and how reviewers are tremendous ways to help you market your business even better.  Interacting with reviewers does also help your local listing presence as well, as Google rewards customer interaction, and reviews and questions are the main ways for people to interact with the business. You shoud be staying on top and answering both reviews and questions.  Make sure it is a part of your business process.