Who has heard somebody say this before? 

“I’m going to write them a bad Yelp review.” 

Just me? I didn’t think so. 

Table of Contents

Why You Have to Manage Online Reviews

A single bad online review can tank your business.

So much of business and marketing has moved to the virtual world today. And you, as a small business owner need to stay up to speed with what people are saying about you on websites like Yelp and Google and on social media.

Online reviews are nothing more than word of mouth recommendations or complaints. Because online reviews are written, they can be revisited, shared, and they remain on the Internet practically forever, while a passing comment on the street may not have the same half-life.

In a study of nearly 700 customers, nearly 99 percent said that reviews are influential when deciding which businesses to frequent. Yet, only 30 percent of businesses report that customer reviews have a major impact on their overall business success. If we measure the success of a small business by looking at customer satisfaction and acquiring new customers, then online reviews should have a major impact on overall business success. Online reviews are where we can gauge customer satisfaction and attract new potential buyers. 

A Process for Managing Online Reviews

If you’re with me so far, you might be wondering how best to go about monitoring online reviews. It might be time consuming. Business owners may not directly see the impact that online reviews have on their overall business success. But they are certainly important. If you’re ready to start looking at online reviews of your business, follow some of these simple rules. 

Schedule time to check your reviews. 

Depending on the number of online reviews you receive, you may need to schedule time to do daily, weekly, or bi-weekly check-ins. If you don’t have time to check reviews consistently, it might be best to delegate the task, ideally to someone who is very knowledgeable about digital marketing. When there is a particularly good or bad review, they can flag it. 

Address particularly good or bad reviews. 

Once you flag the reviews that need to be addressed, you can decide what to do. Approximately half of businesses will respond to both negative and positive reviews, and the vast majority respond to some or most reviews. Approximately 35 percent of businesses use positive reviews in their marketing efforts. As a business, you do not need to respond to every single review. But perhaps that glowing review from a valued customer can be used on your website as a testimonial or to further some of your other marketing efforts. If someone writes a complaint about your business, perhaps you respond saying you are working on a fix or will rectify the situation as appropriate. You can even prepare different templated responses ahead of time for positive, neutral, and negative reviews. 

Keep it positive. 

It can be tempting to write something nasty to a reviewer who wrote a review trashing your business. Sometimes the best thing to do in these situations is to stay silent. If you do choose to respond, apologize for anything you may have done and assure the customer that you value customer service and their issue is being addressed. Responding negatively or angrily to a bad review can make the business look worse. Pardon the cliché, but it is best to take the high road in the aftermath of a negative review. 

Discover where your customers live. 

Where are most of your online reviews happening? Find that out and prioritize checking those sites over others. Is it Google, Facebook, Yelp, Amazon, or another website entirely? Finding out what platforms your customers are using will help with your overall marketing efforts as you can also potentially use these platforms to target existing and future customers with paid ads. Discovering where your customers are most active will help concentrate your marketing efforts efficiently. 

Encourage positive reviews among your most valued customers. 

It’s alright to ask a valued customer for a good review. You want to find your cheerleaders who would be happy to write sparkling reviews for your business. Think of it like asking for a letter of recommendation. You could say something like, “Hey, I have really appreciated you as a customer for [X amount of time] and was wondering if you could take the time out of your busy day to write a review of my business on [ABC website]?” Keep it simple. Ask for what you want. You may be surprised at the responses you receive. 

Questions About Online Reviews

Which online review sites are most important?

The short answer is – it depends on your business and which online review sites your customers visit first and/or feel are most credible. Here is one answer you can be sure of; the reviews and testimonials on your own site are NOT as credible as third party sites.

Google my business snapshot of a restaurant with online reviews

Google search is still the first place your customers may start their search. And, Google My Business will come up in the search first and will aggregate reviews from around the web. Another reason customers take Google online reviews seriously is because they cannot be changed or removed. So, you want to make sure that you stay on top of that.

After Google, customers who want to see reviews on restaurants and hotels will often go to Yelp to see reviews. Some may even visit a business Facebook page. But remember that Facebook allows you to hide reviews. So you may not always get the most accurate pictures.

If you are selling a product, your customers may visit Amazon to see if that product has been reviewed and to see if the quality of the product is something they might be happy with. If your product is unique to your business, then your customers will most likely want to see Google reviews.

How to Respond to a Bad Online Review

a sad man dealing with a bad online review

Let’s get one thing out into the open. You WILL get a bad online review. Not only that, but it’s possible to get a bad online review from someone who was never your customers. It happens.

Are they a customer?

Your first step is to look into who left the online review. Next, you’ll want to read it carefully and see if there is any truth in it. Don’t be shy or embarrassed, reach out to your employees and the team and see if anyone can match the review to a customer. Even if they can’t, is it possible that any part of the review has merit?

Avoid escalation

You do NOT want to start an online “war”. In other words, you need to think before you respond because you do not want that person to come back and argue with you online. Having said that, not every bad review deserves a response. If you and your team determine that this was NOT a customer and that there is no validity to what was said. It might be best to leave it be. If you suspect that it’s a troll or a competitor and that the review is invalid, you can try and have it removed — but don’t count on it.

Often, your best bet is to respond to the review as soon as possible. Apologize for the poor experience. Do NOT make excuses. Instead, take responsibility and find out what you can do to make it right. In fact, you can ask that customer to call you so you can resolve the issue together.

Respond in private

Before you respond, collect your thoughts and get your facts together. Write up a draft and make any edits. The last thing you want to do is leave a response that is too emotional. Here is an outline that you can use for your response:

  • Thank them for bringing the incident to your attention.
  • Acknowledge their experience and then tell them what you’ve done to fix it. DO NOT make excuses as to why something happened, that is irrelevant.
  • Keep emotions out of it. You do not want this to escalate. Instead, provide specific contact information and have them take the conversation online.

How you respond to a bad review is a promotional opportunity. The best customer is often a customer who had a bad experience that was made right.

Finally, the best way to “remove” a bad review is to flood your stream with amazing reviews. So if you don’t have a process in place for getting reviews, a bad review will get that started.

How to Get Positive Online Reviews

small business happy after a customer review

The best way to get positive online reviews is to deliver AMAZING customer experiences. This isn’t scientific or official, but I’d say it’s proportionately correct. Your customer has to be about 10x WOWED to make the effort to go to Google reviews or Yelp reviews or your Facebook page and write up a review. Meanwhile all it takes is the slightest dissatisfaction to get a negative review.

  1. Create a process or system that consistently delights and wows your customers. This can include simple things like knowing who they are, using their name, remembering their order or just making them feel really special.
  2. Treat every customer as a “reviewer” or secret shopper. Because that is exactly who they are. Every customer has the power to make or break your online reputation.
  3. The best way to get positive online reviews is to make it a goal. Treat it like a game! In what ways can you make customers feel SO special that they are inspired to leave a review! Reward employees who get mentioned by name in a good review.

How to Ask Customers for an Online Review

asking a customer for an online review

A lot of businesses place signs around the office encouraging customers to leave reviews. I think a personal approach is better. If your customer looks happy and says something positive, then simply ask.

But here’s something better:

Provide a simple how-to instruction guide for customers and hand it out after they actually SAY that they had a great experience with you. For example. “WOW! That was amazing! Thanks so much for solving my problem.” Then you say “Thanks so much – we work really hard to make our customers happy. Would you mind sharing your experience online? Here’s a simple guide to leaving an online review.”

What are the Best Online Review Management Software Tools

There are a lot of wonderful online review tools that you can use to help you collect and manage online reviews. There are higher priced platforms like Birdeye or Grade.us, but I’ve focused on the two most affordable choices.

  • Pozative: This is one of the few tools that offers a free option for sending up to 25 email inviting customers to review your business for FREE.
  • Womply: The free options allows you to see all of your reviews in one place. For $69 per month you can read and respond to customer reviews.

Make Online Reviews a Key Component of Your Marketing

Undoubtedly online reviews are a key element to business today. Approximately 65 percent of businesses said most of the reviews they receive are online reviews.

Maintaining a positive sentiment and responsive reputation on online review platforms not only increases visibility for your business but it can earn you more customers. Focusing efforts on monitoring, addressing, and leveraging online reviews can prove to be beneficial to your business. It can help you keep customers happy and returning as well as earn you new customers too. People use online reviews to make purchasing decisions, so hunker down and start combing through them. If you already have, pat yourself on the back because you are seriously helping your business gain an advantage. 

Prioritizing and proactively keeping track of your online reviews can help you stay ahead of those negative reviews. Encouraging those with positive reviews to come forward combined with polite responses to negative reviews can tip the scales in your favor. Soon, your online presence will begin attracting more business and, yep, even more positive reviews.