As I’ve worked with businesses on their digital marketing strategies, I’ve been shocked at how often people ignore their business’s Google reviews. While it’s common not to have systems in place to encourage reviews or respond to reviews, you might be surprised to hear that many business owners don’t even read them.
Your Google reviews—and even reviews on other sites—are an incredibly powerful tool for your business if you take the time to leverage them. Be honest—when was the last time you read your reviews on your Google My Business listing? If it was not within the last month or two, you’re ignoring a very valuable resource.
Why should you read your own reviews? They’re not just there to tell others about your business, though that alone should be enough of a motivator to stay up-to-date and be aware of what people are saying. They’re also a resource for you to understand how your customers are interacting with your business, what they think, and how they feel about you. It gives you a valuable kind of direct feedback that you can use to make improvements.
It may be true that reviews are made up of the worst and best experiences among your customer base, because people tend to speak up when they feel something, but that also means that you’re getting feedback on exactly what you do best and what needs improvement. It tells you a great deal about what your customers or clients are experiencing, which allows you to make adjustments to improve your business.
Reading your reviews also gives you an opportunity to respond, which can serve a number of purposes. First, it can improve your SEO, because Google’s algorithm likes it when businesses are actively responding to their customers. Secondly, because many prospective customers will look to reviews when determining whether to do business with you, responding to reviews is an important part of curating your online image. For positive reviews, saying thanks lets viewers know that your business is attentive and engaged.
While you don’t need to respond to every positive review, especially if you have a lot, it is important to respond to all of the negative ones. The way you respond will tell prospective clients a great deal about you, so it’s important to word your reply carefully, depending on what was said in the complaint.
In many cases, the best approach may be a simple apology with a promise to improve, letting the reviewer know that you’ve heard their feedback and have taken it to heart. This looks much more professional than a rebuttal, especially one that places blame on the reviewer. When a business does not handle negative reviews gracefully or even gets belligerent and begins pointing fingers, it does not help reassure prospective customers reading the reviews. If they’re considering doing business with you, they could be in the same position as the client with the complaint, so demonstrating that any problems that arise will be handled with care and compassion rather than blame and misdirection shows the quality of your customer service and caring. Along with an apology, you might also include an explanation if the problem arose from some circumstance that has since been resolved.
No matter what, never respond by calling a reviewer a liar. Unfortunately, this is a mistake many businesses make. If the information they’ve posted is false, you can take steps to have it removed. But if it is true, you will not be able to remove it, because reviews are federally protected (which, by the way, also means it’s illegal to fabricate positive reviews).
Taking responsibility for the negative experience and resolving to improve will always create better results. It’s important to demonstrate compassion, which will reflect better on you. Surely you’ve read negative reviews where a business responds by saying the customer was lying. While you may not be sure who you should believe, it certainly leaves a negative taste in your mouth, and it casts doubt on the business’s ability to handle customer dissatisfaction.
It can also be extremely effective to provide a solution to the unhappy customer. You might ask them to reach out by emailing a manager. This does two things: first, it shows prospective customers that you are actively listening and providing solutions with excellent customer service, and second, it can help convert that customer’s negative experience into a positive or neutral one, possibly saving you a customer who may decide to return because they know you are accountable and trustworthy.
In a world where search results pages are flooded with options for people to choose from, reviews play an important role in bringing you the right customers or clients. If you don’t have many, there’s a simple solution: ask. Reach out to past happy customers or clients and let them know how much a 5-star review would mean to you. When you finish an interaction with a client, ask them to leave a positive review. Unless they have strong feelings about their interaction with you, they may not think to leave a review unless you ask them.
While asking for reviews, reading them, and responding to them may take a significant amount of work, it’s an important element of your digital marketing strategy, and taking the time to do it can help you reap a number of benefits, from boosting your business above the competition on search results pages to finding ways to improve your business using the direct feedback your customers give.