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This post was originally published in MarTech Cube

As is the case with many marketing obstacles, the only way to address negative reviews is to approach them head-on. Businesses that develop a proactive reputation management strategy can actually benefit from negative reviews — using them as touchpoints to turn unhappy consumers into loyal advocates.

In this post, reputation management professionals from SOCi examine the data behind negative reviews and explain how a sound review response strategy can help multi-location businesses win more customers and avoid a drop in star-rating.

Incorrect Perceptions About Online Reviews

While the general perception seems to be that customers only leave reviews after negative experiences, the facts tell a different story. According to a recent report, reviews are increasingly shifting from being a place where consumers air their grievances to being a place for customers to recommend businesses after a positive experience.

While consumers are more willing to share positive experiences through online reviews, when consumers do post negative reviews, the business must respond and respond quickly; 40 percent of consumers expect a response within 24 hours of them posting a negative review.

Research shows that while 60 percent of business owners say they respond to reviews within 24 hours, 40 percent respond more slowly or don’t respond at all. Comparing consumer expectations to business owner practices shows the gap between how the two parties view reputation management. While consumers value timely responses immensely, business owners have yet to understand the importance.

Winning Customers Over with Your Negative Review Response Strategy 

To properly address the issue of negative reviews, multi-location businesses must deploy an active reputation management strategy that empowers them to provide rapid responses.

Every negative review represents an opportunity to win back the customer with a sound review response strategy. After all, 89 percent of consumers express a willingness to change a negative review depending on how the business’ responds.

Still, some business owners are failing to take advantage of this opportunity. Businesses that don’t take the time to develop a proactive approach to reputation management may experience reduced online visibility, diminished consumer consideration, and ultimately, a decline in foot traffic.

The Real Story Behind Review Rating Expectations

Reviews and ratings go hand in hand, and both play a critical role in the customer journey. Sixty-eight percent of consumers won’t even consider a business unless it has at least 3.5 stars, and some have even higher expectations; 53 percent say they won’t consider a business with less than 4 stars.

Businesses can improve their star-rating by increasing the volume of reviews, so one negative review won’t drastically impact the overall star-rating, and responding to negative reviews, which can encourage the reviewer to turn a negative review into a positive one. Here are some tips:

Tips for Increasing Volume of Reviews

  • Make Reviews Easy and Accessible – Your customers won’t leave reviews if they can’t quickly find the form to do so. Leave call-to-actions throughout your site so your customer knows where to leave their feedback and that their input is valued.
  • Send A Follow Up Email – Customers are more inclined to write a review right after they receive and use your product or service. Send them a follow-up email after one to three days and inquire about how they liked their purchase or experience.
  • Deliver a Better User Experience with Reviews – Customers love a more tailored, personalized experience. Deliver this to them by using their past reviews to make more accurate product recommendations the next time they shop or purchase.

Tips for Responding to Reviews

Show your customers that you recognize when they have a negative experience at one of your business locations. However, that doesn’t mean you have to accept fault for their experience. You can toe this line by apologizing for the negative experience — and not the specific issue — so as to avoid accepting any blame.

Additionally, try to move the conversation offline quickly by providing contact information and encouraging the reviewer to reach out. That will give your team a chance to understand the details and merits of the issue so you can address them accordingly.

Negative reviews don’t have to be obstacles. In fact, they can provide immense opportunities for multi-location businesses to directly affect their online reputation. Taking the time to monitor reviews and incorporate critical feedback into day-to-day operations will not only help increase a business’ star-rating but also improve the customer service both online and offline. Business owners that embrace negative reviews by developing a proactive strategy will win over more customers, learn valuable insights about their business, and ultimately, improve both online and offline customer experiences.

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