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Managing customer reviews: 5 best practices

18 April 2024

Make customer reviews work for you! With a staggering 75% of consumers searching online for reviews and information of a product or service before making a purchase, integrating customer reviews into your business strategy as an independent retailer is non-negotiable. Learn how to successfully manage online customer reviews today!

Alrie Velleman

As an independent retailer, you have no doubt seen the growing importance of customer reviews posted on Google. Customer reviews significantly impact your online reputation and prospective clients’ buying intention. Additionally, customer reviews have a major impact on local SEO, i.e., the way your physical shop is listed locally. The more your business is referenced locally, the greater your visibility will be with customers who are geographically close to you. 

We’ve outlined five best practices below to help you effectively manage customer reviews, both positive and negative.

1. Rule number one: leave no review unanswered

Responding to all customer reviews, whether positive or negative, is crucial. You need to show internet users (read potential future customers) that you take a close interest in their experience and feedback, and, most importantly — you can be trusted. 

😀 For positive reviews, (everybody likes these) a simple thank you goes a long way in showing appreciation for their feedback and highlighting the strengths of your service or products.

☹️ When it comes to negative reviews — well that’s a different story. It’s important to approach it calmly, carefully and with a friendly demeanour. Take a moment before responding, as maintaining professionalism is key.

Here’s how to handle negative reviews effectively:

  • Respond in a friendly tone that strikes a balance between formal and familiar. This helps to humanise your response and shows empathy towards the customer’s concerns.
  • Provide a concise and clear answer to address the problem raised in the review. Avoid getting defensive or making excuses, and focus on finding a solution.
  • Invite the customer to reach out to you directly via email or phone for personalised assistance. This demonstrates your commitment to resolving their issue promptly and efficiently.
  • Try to see the situation from their point of view and don’t attach too much emotion. Humility is key here, don’t take it too personally and type a sincere apology. 
  • Thank the customer for taking the time to share their feedback. Acknowledging their input shows that you value their opinion and are dedicated to improving their experience.
  • Sign off with a personal touch, such as initials, to remind the customer that there’s a real person behind the business account. This adds authenticity to your response and fosters a sense of connection.

Remember: these negative customer reviews are rarely personal attacks, but merely expressions of their experience (even if it does seem unfair, rude or biased.) Feedback is always valuable and can provide insights that you would not have had otherwise. Additionally, the way you respond to negative reviews can actually be good for your image. By taking the time to write a response while keeping the above points in mind, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to win the hearts of prospective customers.

2. Time is of the essence: respond quickly to customer reviews and personalise your message

Effectively managing customer reviews necessitates vigilant and thorough monitoring of the different online channels associated with your business. By consistently monitoring platforms where internet users share their feedback, you empower yourself to promptly address customer concerns, solidifying the perception that you are actively engaged. Regarding response timelines, replying within 24 to 48 hours is a good rule of thumb. 

Examples of the different platforms to keep an eye on: 

  • Google My Business (or Google Business Profile)
  • Truspilot
  • Verified reviews
  • Yellow Pages

Top tip: Remember to monitor the comments on the business’ Instagram or Facebook pages, as some users leave reviews on those platforms. 

Establishing a predefined process is essential to ensure you manage swift responses to reviews, whether positive or negative. We recommend creating standardised response templates tailored to common scenarios: a thank-you message for a positive review, a message to refer to customer service, an apology message or a request for direct telephone contact. In addition to helping to make the process easier, these templates also help you use the same tone of voice across all your messages and channels.  

However, it’s still crucial to personalise messages and avoid a copy/paste feel. Incorporating the customer’s name and echoing specific terms from their original message convey genuine engagement, ensuring your response is perceived as thoughtful rather than generic.

3. Analysing customer reviews: it’s all in the details

Customer reviews enable you to manage your company’s e-reputation and strengthen the trust of your customers and prospects. They are also a valuable source of feedback and data about your business, your services, and/or your products. By analysing them regularly, you can gather information that will clearly show you what works and what doesn’t. 

To make the most of your customer review analysis, you need to create a tracking file indicating the review date, the tone (neutral, positive, negative), the subject of the review, and the sales outlet concerned. As time goes by and the number of customer reviews increases, you will be able to identify trends and make the necessary decisions to address recurring problems, improve the shopping experience, or reinforce the strategies that are working.

What’s more, some paid review management platforms offer integrated analysis solutions.

4. Sharing is caring: encourage your customers to post their reviews

Google reviews, especially positive ones, can have a significant impact. They’re one of the key components in an effective online reputation management strategy, as they boost online visibility and search engine rankings. By actively encouraging and managing customer reviews, businesses can capitalise on this powerful marketing tool to attract more customers and outperform competitors in search results.

Here are a few ways to help you gather reviews: 

  • Use a QR code linking directly to your favourite review page (Google, Trustpilot, etc.): add it to a small sign on your checkout counter, till receipts, or business cards.
  • Collect reviews via e-mail or SMS campaigns: don’t hesitate to your customer database a feedback-request campaign once or twice a year. If you have an online shop, add this request to one of the e-mails in your post-purchase sequence.

5. Highlight the good: share positive customer reviews

Boost the power of positive reviews by sharing them strategically across different platforms:

  • Your website’s homepage: Placing glowing reviews right on your homepage gives visitors an instant confidence boost, enticing them to explore more about what you offer.
  • Social media: Whether it’s a cheerful Facebook post, a captivating Instagram story, or a visually stunning post, sharing customer testimonials on social media seamlessly integrates with your content schedule, making them more visible and impactful.
  • Newsletters: Spruce up your email campaigns by adding widgets from review platforms. By flaunting your star ratings and testimonials to your subscribers, you’re not just boosting the appeal of your emails but also reinforcing your brand’s trustworthiness and credibility.

By following these best practices for managing customer reviews, you can turn them into a real asset. Not only can customer feedback strengthen your e-reputation and form an integral part of your marketing strategy, but it can also guide you in your efforts to improve your business. 

Wishing you an abundance of shining five-star reviews ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!

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