A bad Google review can have a devastating impact on your business, as can reviews shared on social media pages or other industry relevant online portals.
So what can you do to take control of these reviews, or better still, prevent them from appearing online in the first place?
In this article I will explore the main reasons why reviews appear online. I’ll also detail what you can do to manage them, reduce the risk of receiving them in the first place, and even turn them into an asset for your business.
Why do people leave online reviews?
A positive or negative experience will motivate your customers to provide feedback, and they may have ideas on ways you can improve your service. But why do customers go to other sites online to provide feedback rather than contact you and your business directly? Here are the top reasons:
#1 There is nowhere else for them to provide feedback
If you don’t provide customers with a way to leave honest feedback, they may feel they have no other option but to go online.
#2 They don’t have the confidence to do so in person
Many people find providing feedback confrontational, especially if it is negative. Even providing positive feedback can be difficult sometimes. Online feedback becomes the more attractive choice, and has the added benefit of anonymity in some cases.
#3 They have provided feedback, and are dissatisfied with your response
When a customer provides feedback, they are expecting an outcome. This may be an apology, a refund, a change in your service, or maybe a thank you or an acknowledgement that their views are relevant (even if you don’t agree). If you don’t respond to their feedback adequately, or don’t respond at all, this can motivate them to go online to have their voice heard.
#4 You have your own online process for feedback, but you also publish feedback as testimonials
Many companies fall into the trap of harvesting customer’s feedback as testimonials that they then use to promote their business. Customers may be given the option not to have their feedback published, but that very option will reduce the credibility of the feedback process. Your feedback process should be kept separate from your testimonials process.
#5 You have a complaints process, but no feedback process
If a customer has a bad experience, they don’t always want to raise a formal complaint. Using your complaints process can leave them feeling labelled and drive them to provide their feedback elsewhere.
What can you do to take control?
A feedback process is essential to every business, but becomes increasingly important if you have layers of staff between you and your customers. For your business to stay successful, you need to know where the problems are, and consider new ways of aligning your service to your customers’ needs. Here are the top things you can do not only to mitigate the risk of negative public reviews, but to utilise feedback as an asset for your business:
#1 Provide your own online feedback process
Provide your own online feedback option so you control how the feedback is published. Common solutions include:
- An online feedback form on your website with optional name fields so feedback can be provided anonymously. It’s a good idea to also ask your customers if they would like a follow up if they choose to provide their details. Make it clear that their feedback will be kept confidential and will be individually reviewed, and responded to if a follow up is requested.
- An online survey with structured responses. If you would like specific or more detailed feedback about a product or service you are providing, the added structure of surveys make them a great tool. Customers find it easier to tick boxes and select options over written feedback, and response rates are generally higher than a general feedback form.
- An email address, particularly to a real person. For some customers the barrier to providing feedback is not anonymity, but time and convenience. Email addresses can by hyperlinked on your website feedback page so they open directly in your customer’s default email client.
#2 Provide an adequate response to all feedback
Regardless of where feedback has been provided, it is essential that you respond. Third party review services normally have a way for businesses to provide a response to comments. Google, for example, allows you to claim your business asset and provide direct responses to online feedback through the Google Business product associated with Google Maps. If the feedback is provided through your own process and a follow up is requested, make sure it is provided as soon as possible.
#3 Proactively seek feedback after a transaction
It is good practice to request feedback from customers after transactions. The simplest way is with a follow up email a few days after the transaction, directing them to an online feedback page on your website. Being proactive is a great way to head off a negative review that may be boiling away with the customer, and that you would otherwise have no idea about.
#4 Send targeted feedback requests for positive reviews
If you think a customer is likely to have had a positive experience, email them a request for a testimonial, or for a public review on sites such as Google. This is great way to tip the average reviews on these sites towards positive, particularly when there may be an associated star rating. Customers are generally less self-motivated to leave positive reviews than negative, so without prompting, these public sites will average over time towards negative.
#5 Demonstrate change as the result of feedback
If there is a pattern to the feedback that is being provided or if your customers are providing good ideas, reward them by communicating that your products and services have changed. This is a powerful tool for continuously improving your business and developing a sense of community in your customer base. Simply changing something about your business may be enough to satisfy a customer and keep them coming back.