The reputation of a business is dependent on a number of things: pricing, customer service, product, media mentions—the list goes on. But perhaps the most important factor that affects brand reputation is what other people have to say about it. Dollars and cents may determine how successful a business is, but when it comes to reputation, reviews are the currency of customers.
The importance of reviews has only grown in the digital age, because many users consult the existing reviews of businesses and brands before ever making a purchase. In fact, consumers can form an opinion after reading just one or two.
As such, it's imperative for business owners to pay attention to the testimonials that exist about their brand, while trying to generate positive reviews moving forward. And while that may sound like a daunting task, there are actually a handful of ways to help streamline the reputation management process through reviews. Here are a few tips to help you get started.
1. Ask for reviews.
Following up with customers and asking for reviews is a practice that you should consider building into your customer service model. Never be afraid to ask for reviews, because most consumers are not only used to it, but are expecting it and are willing to give their feedback.
Consider following up with your customers by sending an email that prompts a review. Something like, “We value your input and would love to hear your feedback! Please tell us how we did and rate your experience." Provide a link—and all they'll have to do is click and write.
2. Check reviews regularly.
By regularly, I mean all the time. Think of customer reviews as free performance indicators. You can see how well your business is or is not doing in the eyes of consumers, while also discovering key insights as to where your business can improve.
You definitely want customers to actively post feedback about their experience so other consumers can see what you have to offer. Your job in that process is to also remain active and engaged in what people are saying about your business.
3. Respond to reviews.
Whether it's a good review, a bad review or a downright ugly review, my advice is that you must, must, must respond. Not responding makes it look like you don't care, which can turn a lot of customers off.
A quick reply that expresses thanks for the review and a commitment to providing a positive customer experience should do the trick—and takes little effort.
4. Use negative reviews to showcase professionalism.
Even the worst reviews can be used to your advantage. Every business will have its share of disgruntled customers, but that doesn't mean you can't rectify the situation while demonstrating your problem-solving skills.
To handle a bad review, start by apologizing and responding respectfully. From there, try and diffuse the situation by removing the interaction from whatever platform it's off.
Example: “Hi [customer name], we're so sorry about your bad experience. If you're open to it, we'd love for you to directly contact us at [company email address] so we can get more feedback and make it up to you."
Responding in this manner will show that you prioritize customer service.
5. Monitor your mentions.
People might be saying things about your brand without directly leaving a review, but the opinions expressed by a mere mention of your business can still have an impact on brand reputation.
There are tools that allow you to track mentions of your brand name across the major social platforms. Tracking what people say about your brand can help tie up the loose ends of your reputation.
6. Get on relevant review sites.
Other than Yelp and other popular review sites, there are many industry-specific sites that people look at. Users might check specific business categories, such as resort or hotel reviews, and conduct their research there.
Do a little digging and find out which review platforms are most relevant to your industry—and see where users look for feedback to make their decisions.
7. Use reviews to make improvements.
The most important factor I can relay here is to use the reviews you have to improve your business. One of the worst things you can do is ask for feedback from your customers, pretend to care about their opinion—and then not actually use it.
Instead, use these reviews to analyze your business. What's working? What isn't? Is there a common complaint customers have? Is your customer service lacking? Often times, the most important questions of your business performance can be answered through customer reviews.