It's easy to see why building a strategy for reputation management matters: your brand's online reputation directly influences whether customers choose to do business with you — and your reputation depends on the customer experience you provide across all touch points.
The first step to building a great customer experience online is to manage your brand information so that you're providing consistent, comprehensive, and correct details (NAP data, business attributes, and more) everywhere your customers might interact with your business. Your brand needs to be informative and helpful across the many maps, apps, and AI-powered services consumers use every day.
But once you've made sure that your brand information is accurate and verified across services like Google, TripAdvisor, and Yelp, it's time to turn your attention to the reviews listed there, which are a fundamental part of your business listing. Remember, your reviews are a spectator sport. For each person writing them, there are hundreds — or thousands — more people reading them.
Why respond to reviews?
Listening to your customers' feedback via online reviews can help you improve your business and stay ahead of trends — and responding to reviews directly gives you the added benefit of publicly demonstrating your responsiveness and customer service. What's more, it's 6–7x more costly to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one* — meaning that it literally pays to address negative experiences in the hope that a customer will return.
Businesses that respond to reviews see a .28 increase** in their star rating on average.
This elevates your reputation online — especially in search results. When a search includes the term best, as in "best Italian restaurants," Google pre-filters to show results for businesses with a 4-star rating or above.
Listening and responding to reviews helps you retain customers, raise your star rating, and showcase your business to potential new customers — but only 40% of business today are responding,** so there is a sizeable untapped opportunity in this space.
Which types of reviews should you respond to?
Research suggests that responding to 60–80% of your reviews is optimal, if you want to see the greatest benefit in terms of customer engagement and star ratings increase, but you can see a benefit after beginning to respond to just 10%. This is often a more achievable figure for businesses in the beginning — though local businesses who receive fewer reviews may be able to aim higher without seeking outside assistance.
The question, then, is which reviews to respond to in order to provide the best service to your customers and benefit your business. Yext research suggests responding to:
ALL reviews 3 stars and below
Reviews 4 stars and above that contain detailed comments
Which sites are the most important? As customers interact with your brand across more touch points than ever, the answer is as many as possible. But it's a good strategy to start with Google (because of its share of search, as well as the auto-filtering for "best"), Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and your own website. Make sure to take into account your business vertical, and where your customers are most active, to see the maximum benefit.
Regardless of platform, an effective review response is prompt, thoughtful, and assistive. Provide information that a customer might be seeking, and in the case of a negative review, apologise earnestly and offer the customer a chance to return.
Keep in mind that this only works if you have a process for who on your team(s) addresses the reviews that need a response. It should be a customer care team, a local manager, or a trusted partner — and determining who is responsible is an important part of building your reputation management strategy as a whole.
The review response impact
Monitoring and responding to reviews so you can address complaints and provide a better customer experience has a significant impact on your brand reputation. It can help you turn bad news into good news, create customer advocates, gather insights, and at its best, differentiate you from your competition.
"If you want your guests to return, then responding to reviews is going to be critical to build your reputation and avoid people going to a competitor," said Will Hanaran, Digital Marketing Manager at Fazoli's. "Responding to a customer can be the quickest way to fix something and give the customer the feeling that they are being listened to."
Check back next week for the third installment of our reputation management series.
**Yext study, 2018