As a consultant at Digital Apeel, there’s one question I’ve asked so many times, I’ve lost track: have you checked or responded to your online reviews?
Reviews are still not considered super important for small businesses, which is probably why the answers I receive are all over the map. A lot of business owners still feel that word of mouth is how they get business. That may be true, but in today’s online world, traditional word of mouth is no longer how people choose a business. Let me give you a quick example:
If you ask me for a dentist, I can give you the name, phone number, and website, but most people will still do an online search¾just to be sure. Even though you know I’ve had a good experience, you’re likely to want to do your own due diligence. I do the exact same thing. We all do! We also do a lot of research before choosing a company or service. According to Google, we check 5 to 10 sources, on average, before making a purchasing decision.
What does that mean for you, as a small business owner? Two things:
- They view all your reviews, your website, secondary reviews on other websites, and any other information they find out there on the world wide web;
- And, after reviewing all this information, they either make a phone call or request a service online.
That’s just how it works these days.
So, back to the initial question. Have you checked or responded to your online reviews? I can’t count how many times I’ve asked this, but most of the answers (right or wrong) go something like this:
“We don’t really check Google reviews, no.”
“I don’t respond to them.”
“Do you think Google reviews matter?”
“Should I be responding?”
“I don’t think online reviews are that important.”
“Reviews frustrate me because I can’t get my customers to post any.”
Let me be totally honest: the initial reaction isn’t where it should be. Do you value word of mouth? Reviews have word of mouth trust, but with an infinite, online reach. This is what makes them so very important to your business.
Best of all, there are 5 small steps you can take to make this powerful tool work for you:
- Make sure you have access to your Google My business account. That’s where your map listing sits. If you have a marketing agency, or marketer running this for you, request access immediately. This should be in your hands, not theirs. They don’t deal with your customers every day, so why expect them to respond to your customers for you?
- Respond to every review¾bad or good. I know this can be difficult, but if ever the time comes that you have to face a bad review, there are ways to minimise the damage (I’ve included some quick tips later in this post!)
- Use key phrases anywhere you can. Download our How to Respond to reviews PDF here.
- Check all review sites. There are numerous ones out there. Make sure you claim ALL your profiles. A lot of small business owners don’t claim their profiles on websites, and I promise you: it’s a risky move. Information about your business on those websites could be wrong. I’ve seen cases where reviewers have posted reviews to the wrong business. Some sites to check are:
- Trip Advisor
- Open Table
- Dentists/Doctors check Rate MDS
- Home Stars
- Angies List
Yep, there are a lot. Do a search for your business and check what comes up, and where. Start responding to any that need a response.
- Following on from the last point: check all your listing information. Make sure it’s up to date. Optimize your Google listing (need help with that? Check out our article here). Make it easy for a potential customer to engage with your business: tell them your hours, list your current services and info, and be clear about your location(s). This information also affects your SEO, as you won’t be found in Maps for key services and phrases if you haven’t listed them. Google has been better lately in sending out notices¾you might have seen what they just did about “Christmas Hours.” Make sure you update everything you can, as this is what your customers see.
- Keep track of these sites. You can have sites send automatic emails to you when a customer posts a review. Some sites will even take down your score rating if you don’t reply within 24-48 hours. That may seem lame, but it shows if your business is truly engaged in the overall customer experience. Respond as fast as you can to any and all reviews. I know you’re busy, but showing your customers that their experience is a priority benefits your business in the long run.
Dealing with a bad review:
Try not to panic.
Surprisingly, bad reviews actually make your business look more human. I know it’s extremely disappointing when it happens, but take a minute and step back from the review. There is damage control to be done, and it starts right here:
- Before responding, check with all levels of your business¾yet another perk to being a small business: this is a fairly quick check to do. Check with any technicians, front office staff, etc. Find out if this customer is even in your database. Sounds odd, right? If you don’t think your competitors may try to be nasty and leave your company bad reviews ¾think again! Thankfully, this kind of poor sportsmanship is not common, but it can happen.
- Once you do a check with your team, see if the information stated in the review is true and correct.
- If it is, respond, apologize, and see if you can make the experience right for your customer.
- If it isn’t, still respond and apologize. Don’t be defensive.
- If this plain old just isn’t your customer, there are simple ways of responding. One way is to say “Dear X, We are very sorry you had this experience. Upon checking our database, however, we don’t have a record of providing you any service. Could you please get in touch with our team and we will do our best to provide you with the exceptional service our company is known for.”
- I’ve said it once, but it’s worth repeating: don’t get defensive. Ever.
- Ask for more clarification from the customer, by posting an email address. Businesses have asked if this actually does anything, and the short answer is “Yes!” When I spoke to the Google Maps team, they told me that when a business replies to a customer review, the customer gets an auto email to let them know. By posting an email address, your customer can contact you. Best case scenario, they could remove the review or update it. This is fantastic, especially if they gave you a bad rating.
As you continue to respond to reviews, you will get into a rhythm. It’ll become a habit for your business. These are real customers – your customers – and we need to deal with our customers as people, not sales. Prospective customers do read reviews, and they’ll continue to do so before they choose a company. It’s time to make your reviews work for you.