In the era of call centers and terrible customer service, having a plan in place to put yourself ahead of the competition with online reviews is a great strategy. This is a new piece of the customer service puzzle. Many customers that are not comfortable bringing up issues in real time have a new outlet, but when should you respond and why? Use the questions below to keep yourself calm and consistent and use them as a guide when deciding whether or not to respond to reviews and how to respond.
- Is there an Action Item?
Some reviews are very vague saying things like “the service was bad” others are very specific like “our server John Doe did a great job and we will be back soon”. If there is an action item that is reasonable to respond to, go ahead and do it. Always keep the mantra of praise in public in mind. Respond to positive reviews in a public setting if possible and try and keep negative reviews responses private, operating under the assumption that they could become public, as many upset customers will copy and paste your private comments into the public sphere.
- How much time has elapsed?
If you have a consistent plan in place this should not be an issue, but if you are not able to respond in a timely manner to the reviewer, it may not be worth the fight. Just like in real life, if an apology or resolution comes with too much delay it can create a volatile situation and actually do more damage than good. The expectation is now a timely response and if more than a week has passed, it may do more harm than good.
- What other reviews has the individual written?
It is no secret that some people can be difficult to please, the world of online reviews is no different. Many sites will allow you to view what other reviews an individual has written about other local businesses. If you run across someone who is consistently rating businesses badly, you may consider saving your time. Some users certainly use online reviews as a platform for complaints only, which goes against the intended spirit of the platform. Make sure that you do not get caught in the crossfire and remember to always keep it professional because everything you are saying is in writing and that is powerful stuff!.
- Did I do something wrong?
Although it is frustrating to receive a bad review, business owners should be listening with all ears, because it could bring to light a real issue with your business. If it was an off day, try and make it right if possible. If it is an ongoing issue, try and explain a resolution that you have in the future for the problem or explain why it cannot be changed and offer an alternative. For instance, in large cities parking is often times an issue and sometimes cannot be fixed. In this situation, the business may respond publicly with a list of a few garages with the best rates in the area. This type of response may very well turn a frustrated customer into a loyal patron. Just be sure that if you are posting a resolution, which it is indeed going to become a reality, otherwise you may be doing more damage than good.
Of course there are countless considerations when it comes to effective customer service efforts, but if you keep these questions in mind when deciding whether or not to respond it will be a good start. Remember, we all are protective of our businesses, it is what puts food on the table right, but keeping it professional and reacting in an appropriate way will only put your business on top. Timeliness, professionalism, and humor are great tools in the world of online reviews and it is becoming more important every single day.