Managing online reviews – the good, the bad and the ugly……

Managing online review feedback

There’s an old adage that a bad word spreads quicker than a good one. Now, whilst that may well still be true, the growth and acceptance of what is said on social media via online reviews has the potential to make the ‘spread’ faster, wider and potentially uncontainable.

As we are a B2B agency, this article mainly deals with businesses that trade with each other, but I still think these overarching principles of how to manage reviews are similar.

In the main, the most common method for buyers to leave B2B reviews online are via:

  • Social media
  • Leaving comments on your website
  • Direct via email or from customer satisfaction surveys
  • Review platforms such as Feefo, TrustPilot and Google My Business Reviews, Amazon

Trust is a very important buyer motivation, so it’s easy to see why so many people jump quickly into launching feedback systems without fully weighing up the consequences and the pro’s and con’s of having your products, service quality and the attitude of your people open to public review.

I am sure this article will cause lots of debate, particularly in a world where there is so much potential to gather data on your customers to tailor their experience in such a way they they are delighted. However, we mostly advise small owner managed businesses who have outsourced their marketing to us because they are already juggling a hundred and one balls.

For this reason the following is our first key principle:

Principle One – if you can’t monitor reviews, don’t offer the ability!

At least any that that are going to show up on public platforms. Obviously you can’t help it if a disgruntled customer goes to town disparaging your name on their own social media profile, but if you haven’t got the trained resource to manage reviews in a timely manner then don’t even begin doing so until you have. Stick to encouraging feedback by phone or email.

Why? Please see principle three!

Principle Two – Have a clear strategy

By this we mean you must have clear objectives for why you plan to launch the facility for customers to leave reviews:

  1. Customer service issues: If this is your objective we recommend that you start from a position where you are confident a bad review will not be the norm. Do not start unless you have absolute trust that your people are delivering a great service and your products and services are high quality. A build up of negative views will not serve any purpose.
  2. Enhance trust: Trust is a great starting point. If you know you already have trust, there is no better way to build it further than a continuous flow of glowing customer testimonials and five star ratings.
  3. To enhance web search performance search and google ranking: Reviews are a great tool for enhancing your search positions, however bad reviews can also have a devasting impact, so remember point 1!

This strategy should also substantiate why you have chosen the platforms you will use, outline your process, identify the people who will monitor reviews, and how they will be trained to respond to feedback. This should also include how you will use the data you receive  to improve performance.

Principle 3 – Ensure you reply to feedback quickly

Because social media is a 24/7 worldwide business, you’ve got to be on the case and ready to deal with any negativity to prevent lasting harm to your reputation. As we said right at the beginning – if you can’t do this, then don’t implement a feedback mechanism until you can!

Having that said, even if you don’t have the function for customers to provide online feedback, you may still get direct contact via email or telephone. So it is still important to ensure your team understand your complaints process, have the communications skills to deal with and take ownership of problems.

Sometimes, receiving negative reviews can be a good thing because you get the opportunity to learn of a problem and bring a dissatisfied customer back on side as a result of the way you have responded to their feedback. It can also highlight issues and enable you to rectify or improve your products or processes. If  feedback is managed effectively, it may even leave you with a more loyal customer because you have shown that you care.

Principle 4 – Don’t be afraid to say sorry

Make sure you take time to listen to customers explain what they think went wrong, that you show that you understand and empathise with their disappointment. Don’t be afraid to say sorry. This does not show weakness. It is possible to say sorry meaningfully without admitting any liability. This word can make a huge difference to how your customer feels.

Principle 5 – Trust, train and empower your customer service person /team

Effective management requires that you have appropriate training, policies and procedures in place to empower those that have been given responsibility to respond to customer feedback make the right decisions. This includes ensuring you have confidence that their written and verbal interactions result in outcomes that do not damage your reputation further.

Principle 6 – Research and reply quickly

Most of the algorithms on Google, Amazon and social media platforms have the capacity to determine how quickly your company responds to feedback and in turn this can help your customers (and the reviews platform) see your company in good light.

More importantly, a quick resolution has a better chance of ending up with a happier customer.

It is important therefore to set expectations early about the likely speed of your response. Let customers know what your next steps will be and when they can expect to hear back from you. It’s always best to be personal, yet professional in your responses. Try not to have ‘cut and paste’ style answers! You may also decide to take the conversation “off-line for now’ so that your dialogue is not public whilst you investigate the complaint. You can then perhaps bring it back on line when resolved so show how well you have responded.

Above all be solutions orientated. A happy customer will come back and buy again and tell others (and may well update their review positively if you ask them once their issue has been resolved).

An unhappy customer won’t buy again, and has the potential to ensure lots more don’t either!

Whilst negative feedback is a fact of life when doing business and dealing with people (who have emotions) and machinery (than can malfunction ) and products (that can be faulty) and delivery times (that can be affected by traffic). The way you handle the feedback really can can be the difference.

Summary

There are so many factors to consider when developing a customer feedback programme that we’ve only been able to cover the basic principles in this short article.

If you are considering whether to establish a customer feed back programme we hope this have given you food for thought and made you aware of the need to seek professional advice before jumping in without a clear plan and the people to manage the process competently.


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