“It used to be word of mouth, now it’s word of mouse.” The meaning behind this saying is that referrals online through review platforms like Google, Facebook, Yelp and Trip Advisor, for example, are more important than traditional word-of-mouth referrals. 5-10 years ago, you learned about peoples’ experiences with businesses by a conversation with your next-door neighbor or your father in law, now reviews are accessible with a few clicks on your smartphone or computer.
Whether you’re a business owner, or you’ve been tasked to handle the reputation management, it’s a great idea to research the best practices before you start reaching out to your client base. If done correctly, reputation management can benefit a business by encouraging more inquiries and boosting brand sentiment. If done incorrectly, you may unwittingly enable a flow of negative reviews which could leave lasting damage to your business.
It’s important to handle reputation management with care. The first step is developing a plan to start growing your review base online. This can be done in a few different ways:
The easiest way to consistently get online feedback from your customer base is to ask your customers in person when interacting with them. This may mean training your staff to recognize a happy customer, and then to ask for a review online, giving them options for websites like Google, Facebook, or any other relevant website. A happy customer will probably be more than likely to leave positive feedback, so don’t be afraid to ask!
There are advertising agencies that can help your business use a Reputation Management software to grow your online reviews. Softwares like Birdeye, Review.us, Capterra, and so many more are built to grow online reviews of a business. Many of these pieces of software can only be accessed through a third-party agency, but this ensures that your business is following best practices when using what can be complex software.
When users are on your business’ website, soliciting reviews can be done through a “Review Us” page. Our agency uses Form Logic on many of our customer’s websites. The benefit of this is being able to give direction to a user whether they leave a positive or negative review (and it’s not done publicly like on Google, Facebook, or Yelp).
Form logic allows your website users to be put into two funnels, [4-5 out of 5 stars] or [1-3 out of 5 stars]. If a user completes a review giving positive feedback (4 or 5 out of 5 stars) we follow up with a message encouraging them to post that review on a list of sites we provide. If a customer leaves negative feedback (1 to 3 out of 5 stars) a message is sent to your business directly allowing your business to right whatever wrong that user feels encountered.
One of the simplest ways to encourage reviews is by putting signage or postcards in your place of business. Many times Google will provide this to your business when you register your business with Google My Business. It could be as simple as creating and purchasing a sticker for your front door asking customers to review your business online.
When asking for reviews online, it is possible and likely, inevitable, that your business is going to receive some negative feedback. When this happens there are different ways to approach this situation. First and foremost, if the review is deemed “inappropriate” by Google, it can be flagged and removed. Please read Google’s policy for flagging inappropriate reviews. This could mean it’s spam, illegal content, offensive, etc.
If you do receive a negative review, and it is legitimate, there are tactful ways to approach the user. Because the user reviewed your business in a public forum, you are going to want to respond to the review in the same way. Many businesses like to add a personal touch by apologizing, asking for further feedback in an email or phone number, and finally signing their name as the owner or manager of the business. This enables other users to see that you do care about your customers, and you want to do whatever it takes to right that wrong.
Lastly, it is essential to stay ethical when soliciting online reviews. It would not be ethical to offer a buy one get one free coupon for anyone who leaves a 5-star review of your business. It would not be ethical to ask all of your employees to leave fake 5-star reviews pretending to be customers. It is not always a fast process, but if you work at growing your online reviews it will happen over time. It is best to be done in an ethical way.
Now it’s time to take action and start developing a plan to grow reviews for your business. Remember, it’s not a sprint. If your business plans to be around for a long time, understand that this may be a long process. If done quickly, a few missteps could hurt your business. If done correctly, your business can benefit from positive online reviews!