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NAVIGATING ONLINE REVIEWS

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NAVIGATING ONLINE REVIEWS

I know this is a pretty sore point. You work hard in your business but, let’s be honest, we all have bad days, there are a million things to do so it is impossible to get it all right all of the time.

After talking to a lot of customers over the last few years about online reviews, I remain convinced having a proactive approach and a set of rules when dealing with reviews will help you navigate this process.

Our pointers assume the customer is genuine and should give you a format that will help you keep your cool.

First of all

Respond by trying to take the review to a private place. Private message the customer, email them or call if you have their details.

Don’t take it personally

I know how hard this can be, but try to separate your feelings from the review. The customer is not insulting you personally if they had a bad meal or bad service, then that’s the issue at hand. Don’t lose sight of that.

Respond ASAP

Reply quickly, ideally within 48 hours, especially if the review contains negative feedback as it will adversely impact potential customers.

Be brief​

Always thank the customer, speak to the specifics of the review and offer a genuine apology if applicable. If the review contains mixed feedback, acknowledge the positive first and then the negative.

The non-apology

Never offer a non-apology, here’s a few examples if your not sure what they are.

Non ApologyType of Non ApologyExamples
"I am sorry if . . ."This is a conditional apology. It falls short of a full apology by suggesting only that something might have happened.❎ I am sorry if I did anything wrong.
"I am sorry that you . . ."This is a blame-shifting apology. It is no apology at all. Instead, it puts the onus on you as the problem.❎ I am sorry you think I did something wrong.
"I am sorry but . . ."This excuse-making apology does nothing to heal the wounds caused.❎ I am sorry, but most other people wouldn't have overreacted like you did.
"I was just . . ."This is a justifying apology. It seeks to argue that hurtful behaviour was okay because it was harmless or for a good cause.❎ I was just kidding.
"I have already . . ."This deja-vu apology cheapens whatever is said by implying that there is nothing left to apologise for.❎ I already said I was sorry
"I regret . . ."This sidestepping apology equates regret with apologising. There is no ownership.❎ I regret you felt upset.
"I know I . . ."This whitewashing apology is an effort to minimize what happened without owning any hurtful effects on you or others. The whitewash may seem self-effacing, but on its own it contains no apology.❎ I know I shouldn't have done that.

Try to respond to at least half of reviews​

If you cannot respond to all reviews, prioritise reviews that require an explanation or apology and, of course, don’t forget to acknowledge those that do praise you or come to your defence. Try to respond to all negative reviews and at least 50 per cent of reviews overall.

Reflect the personality of your business

It is vital to maintain an informal yet professional tone that reflects the personality of your business.

Clear up misinformation​

Customers often get facts wrong in reviews, and it is generally not intentional. If the mistake is minor, let it go. If it will set up expectations that you cannot meet for other customers, respond to clear up misinformation. Make sure you remain diplomatic and never accuse a customer of lying.

Follow up

It’s important to let customers know how you intend to act on their feedback. For example, if it’s a positive review, tell the customer that you will share the feedback with the team. If the review is negative, be clear about the specific action that will be taken to improve.

Invite the customer to return​

Finally, make sure you encourage customers to return whether they left a positive review or not. This increases the chances of repeat custom and the opportunity to rectify a bad experience.

If you build a set of rules based on the above, then it should help you get the right tone time after time. It’s worth remembering that the way you deal with reviews is an advert to others reading reviews. In some ways, it is an advert of how your business deals with customers.