How To Deal With Online Reviews

Steps to deal with good, bad and neutral online reviews

               “The customer is always right” – by Garry Gordon Selfridge. This belief has been held for centuries and is quite prominent in the retail industry. Now, is it correct? Our perspective is that the quote aims to emphasize the importance of listening to a customer’s issue attentively and to remedy potential issues whenever possible so as to minimize attrition and drive long-term profitability. There are invariably multiple drivers of corporate reputation management, yet, one that continues to grow in importance is the Online Reputation System and Social Media Presence that envelops online reviews.

               Managing customer services can be an expensive endeavor, yet, the cost of poor service can be even higher. According to NewVoiceMedia, poor customer service costs US$ 75 billion in the US alone. Since complaints often requires some level of effort by the customer, many issues may be underreported. Therefore, when someone goes out of their way to raise a concern, it may be worth listening.

The Growing Value of Digital Reputation

               In today’s environment, an online review has become ubiquitous and a major source (or loss) of customer traffic. In fact, according to an HBR publication in 2016, a 1-star increase in Yelp rating tends to lead to 5-9% of increased revenue. A more staggering picture is that, according to Qualtrics’ research, 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business and only 53% of people would consider using a business with less than 4 stars review. The shift to the digital world has increased in pace, in part due to the global pandemic (COVID-19) that has impacted world markets. Therefore, it is essential that the organization continues to optimize its customer interaction to ensure improved customer satisfaction, which in turn, can lead to better reviews, higher sales and enhanced brand value.

            The Internet can certainly be a positive tool in the hands of a business. On the customer side, it allows individuals to make easier and faster bookings, see reviews from previous guests, make suggestions and complaints, and also voice their opinions about the booking. Businesses on the other hand can use the tool to facilitate customer care support and improve sales since these platforms can be used as a marketing tool since the greater the number of positive reviews, the more likely customers are to book your facilities.

            “Online reviews are a manifestation of a business’s reputation.”


            Undoubtedly, online reviews are nothing more than an online manifestation of a business’ reputation, which have the potential to greatly propel a business or sink it. Positive reviews are always welcomed and should be thanked. However, negative reviews can definitely hurt a business if responsible personnel do not know how to respond to the situation or ignore it.

            Dealing with Online Reviews

               Customers will raise issues from time to time, some might be truthful and a good learning opportunity, while others may be caused by a customer’s lack of knowledge, malicious intent or even something that may not be in the business’ control whatsoever, for instance weather. The way a business responds to online feedback may say a lot about their professionalism, organizational virtue and how engaged they are with customer satisfaction. Therefore, it is important to use a neutral and proactive language and not to respond to customers in a negative way under any circumstance. Keep in mind that whatever is written online has the potential to be saved forever, and once it is said, it can be difficult to take it back. Even worse, it can be seen by other customers who will judge your business for it. Generally, we recommend responses to be as such:

  • Response to Positive Reviews: always remember to thank the customer and say that you look forward to doing business with them in the future. For businesses that receive a lot of feedback, it might be difficult to personalize their responses, however, we highly encourage to have a few phrases that are worded differently to show a certain level of individual care to a specific review, this can increase goodwill and it only takes a few extra seconds to think. We encourage companies to create a few templates to serve as a guideline to employees dealing with reviews. More technologically advanced organizations may be able to use chatbots, automation and others to optimize their process.
  • Response to Suggestions: some customers will see room for improvement when doing business with you and they may feel inclined to provide you with suggestions. It is true that sometimes the customer is simply thinking about their own experience and tailoring this “improvement” to his or her needs. However, we strongly urge you to keep an open mind and take the suggestion for what it is: a possibility to improve your business and not an attack on it. In terms of response, again always keep a neutral tone but remember to thank the individual for taking the time out of their day to provide you with some suggestions. Think about whether the suggestion has merit and if your business can truly benefit from it. If the suggestion is positive to your business and implementable, do not let it pass.
  • Response to Negative Feedback: sometimes customers may outright provide negative feedback by attacking staff, or saying that they were not pleased with the services provided, or even complaining about the weather (something that no business has control over). We understand that depending on the review, you might feel wronged especially after understanding the reputational impact that such reviews may have on your business. However, businesses do have an opportunity to remediate such impact by carefully responding to the negative feedback. If you feel emotionally affronted by the feedback, step away from the computer and take a deep breath, then once you are calmer, again reply on a tone of neutrality, and, if appropriate, say that you thank the feedback and that you will try to avoid certain circumstances in the future. However, do not, under any circumstances, negatively confront customers online or personally attack them. We have seen this in many cases and to say the least, it is very unprofessional, immature, and one could be charged with slandering depending on the words and circumstances. Do not jeopardize your business’s reputation over emotional response. Remember that once posted online, it is very difficult to retrieve a comment.

               If you want to learn more about customer interaction, see our article The Golden Rules of Customer Interaction.

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