Customer Reviews Require the Right Response

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TripAdvisor officials suggest that companies highlight positive comments that reviewers have made and mention related services or planned upgrades that they want to share with potential visitors.

“Please do not post responses that include content irrelevant to the review in question,” TripAdvisor states in the rules posted on its website. “No personal insults or irrelevant comments of a personal nature. Management responses may not threaten or coerce a reviewer or attempt to suppress reviewer contributions on our site. No accusations of review fraud. No responses directed to TripAdvisor staff or commenting about TripAdvisor policies. Owner responses must be based on first-hand experiences of management or their staff members.”

To ensure a response is professional and error-free, TripAdvisor further recommends that management write responses in a word processing program with spelling and grammar check features, then copy and paste responses into TripAdvisor’s Management Form response application.

All of the above show people that businesses care about their customers, Washcovick says, because the owner (or another executive, if the business is large enough) is taking the time to acknowledge the customer’s comments and to respond professionally.

TripAdvisor agrees: “Some businesses respond to every review, while others focus primarily on critical ones.”

But ignoring responses entirely is overlooking a way to promote the business and to assuage people who have had negative experiences with it.

Though consultants recommend that business owners pay more attention to negative reviews than positive ones, too often proprietors focus on the positive ones, says Andrew Friedenthal, CRM market researcher at Software Advice, a Gartner subsidiary that positions itself as a go-to third-party software review site.

“People tend to pay more attention to the reviews if there is a combination of positive reviews and negative ones,” Friedenthal says, adding that business owners should do the same. “Ignore the outliers—the ones that are very positive or very negative. Companies should focus on the ones that are in the middle.”

THE POSITIVE POWER OF NEGATIVITY

And then, contrary to what one might think, negative comments can be beneficial for businesses.

Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center studied the responses that customers of Canada’s national Air Miles Rewards Program made on its website and found this surprising result: Viewing negative comments decreased future spending, but posting negative comments actually increased it, if the customer was given a chance to experience the value of the brand (redeeming Air Miles loyalty points for travel, gift cards, or merchandise). Negative comment viewers decreased spending (point accumulation) by 12 percent and purchase frequency by 5 percent. But those who posted negative comments and then experienced the value of the brand by redeeming loyalty points increased spending (point accumulation) by 58 percent and purchase frequency by 16 percent.

TripAdvisor also recommends taking the care and time to respond to negative comments: “It’s generally a good idea to respond to reviews that are negative, as well as those where you can correct a factual misstatement or write about an action you’ve taken to correct problems addressed in the review. Another best practice is to always have at least one management response among the 10 most recent reviews you’ve received. That will help ensure travelers don’t have to dig too far into your property’s review history to see a response from you,” it says on its site.

And then handling those comments in the right way is instrumental in turning negative comments into positive customer service.

“If you respond to reviews, you distinguish yourself from your competitors who don’t. Keep your response brief,” Washcovick advises. “Thank them for taking the time to comment. Address their general concerns. Remember that you’re not just responding to the customer, you are representing your company to the masses.”

When dealing with negative comments, Washcovick further recommends the following:

• Express empathy for any negative comments, by saying something like “I understand your frustration at your extraordinarily long wait for a table.” Then the business can offer an alternative time of day when business is slower, or explain any extenuating circumstance, such as higher-than-normal reservations.

• Mention any steps taken to correct any issues the reviewer expressed.

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