Strategies for Responding to Online Reviews

Voyager’s World --- an “India’s premier Travel and Tourism monthly” --- featured my comments about online reviews in its cover story of this month’s issue. I believe that no business can ignore online reviews anymore. It would be too late to fix a problem if a business has been labeled in the “worst list” of some sort by online review sites. Businesses can either manage their online presence with designated staff or pay for an agent to periodically feed the online reviews and comments about their establishments.

If monitoring online reviews is not a question, then how should a business respond to online reviews? Here are some suggestions: 

  • If the business makes a mistake, acknowledge it and fix the problem.
  • If customers repeatedly complain about one issue, it is very likely that this is a serious problem, and the business needs to address it.
  • If customers said anything good about the business, “publish” and “share” it on as many social networking sites as possible.
  • In particular, if a customer reported an “isolated” negative review about a business, the managers need to fix the problem immediately and more importantly, encourage other customers with positive experience to post their positive comments and reviews on social networking sites.

For example, I reported a personal negative experience about a dry cleaner on my blog and on Google. After the managers read my comments online, the store took immediate actions to acknowledge the issue and tried to find ways to fix it. The owners felt it was “unfortunate” that I had such a bad experience and took the approach to share my negative experience online. They assured that my experience was an isolated incident and that many loyal customers would not feel the same way as I did. I can trust the managers because I know this is an “old” family business in Syracuse, but I will not change my review because mine was still a negative experience. We cannot change what had happened in the past. The managers, however, can ask their loyal customers to post more positive comments about their business. Eventually, one “isolated” negative review will be buried by those positive comments. 

Regardless the “trustworthiness” issue of online reviews (as discussed in the cover story on Voyager’s World), I believe that authentic online reviews can benefit both customers and business. In my experience of dealing with the dry cleaner, I believe my negative review on Google helped me gain big attention from the owners. For businesses, the feedback they can get from real customers can also be priceless. The key is to develop a valid and reliable rating system that helps customers and managers measure the business performance. Fake reviews will not help. 

What are your experiences about online reviews? How do online review sites help you as a customer? If you are running a business, how important do online reviews mean to you? How much do the online review sites help you improve your operations? 

References:
Firoz Fazil (December, 2011). Is that review genuine? (cover story). Voyager's World, p. 12 - 15.
The picture was downloaded from CommonGroundWorks.com

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