Customer Reviews Require the Right Response

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However, there are times that a third-party review is blatantly wrong or has inaccuracies that can do long-term harm to businesses. In those instances, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and similar sites offer business owners ways to remove reviews that fall into this category, though not all negative reviews will be removed, nor should they be, according to marketing experts.


Of course, positive reviews are extremely important, as the best ones can be used as part of a marketing program. With more positive reviews come higher star rankings, which will likely encourage consumers who are unfamiliar with the business to buy its products or services, as mentioned above.

In responding to positive comments, TripAdvisor recommends that businesses avoid using the same standard reply in every post, as that can come across as repetitive and insincere. It also suggests referring to the reviewers’ positive comments about your business to both personalize the response and reiterate the compliment to other potential visitors.

Professionalism is also important in review responses, even if the review is less than professional (but still meets the third-party site’s rules of conduct).

“I never ask for reviews, but when my customers take the time to write me great reviews on Yelp, I send them a direct message to tell them how much I appreciate it,” wrote Julie Lim, owner of OC Wine Mart, which has several locations in California’s Orange County, in a Yelp blog. “Once in a while, I’ll respond to good reviews publicly so potential customers looking at my page know that I care.”

If a more involved response is needed, a brief response should be online and available for all to see while a more detailed portion of the response is communicated to the customer via a private email or phone call, Washcovick says. “Back-and-forth communications shouldn’t be conducted on the public site.”

“The first thing I do is use the [Yelp] direct messaging tool to gather more information about why the reviewer is unhappy,” Lim says in the blog. “While I am waiting for the user to respond, I also post a more generic public message. This way other potential customers know that I am listening to their feedback and that I genuinely want to make my customers happy. Once I have the details of what went wrong, I offer a solution based on the situation and invite the customer to come back. In my experience, about 30 percent of my negative reviews are updated to reflect the customer’s most recent experience with my business.”

With Yelp and some of the other third-party review sites, anyone can click on a reviewer’s name and get other details regarding that person’s reviewing activity. This enables business owners to determine if the person offering a particularly good or bad review tends to always praise or always complain, or if the reviewer has a mix of positive, negative, and in-between notices. Reviewers with more varied comments are generally considered more trustworthy by the public.

“On those rare occasions when a review appears to be an unhelpful rant, I look at their user profile,” Lim says. “If the majority of their reviews is negative, I know it’s not worth my time to respond. I also know my customers are smart enough to see the big picture when it comes to my overall star rating.”

Some Yelp reviewers are extremely active, while others post reviews only occasionally, Washcovick says. “We have more five-star reviews than one- to three-star reviews. We have reviewers who are excited to let their family, friends, and other people know about good local businesses.”

Yelp, other third-party review sites, and marketing consultants recommend that businesses ask for reviews, both to promote their businesses with positive reviews and to learn how to improve their customer service from negative comments.

Yelp offers businesses free “Find Us on Yelp” stickers to display on their point-of-sale systems or front doors to show customers and people passing by that they value customer feedback.

Yelp also recommends that businesses set up automatic check-ins to make themselves look more appealing to customers searching on Yelp. When someone checks in to a business from a mobile phone, the user is later prompted to write a review for that business the next time he logs in from a desktop computer, laptop, or mobile device.

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