The first quarter of the year is a great time to set new goals. For many small business owners, earning glowing online reviews is high on the list. After all, online reviews can entice new customers, build your reputation and create vital buzz for your business.
Sure, it's important to consider the tactics you use to gather online reviews. Digital marketing tools can help you stay in the loop as new online reviews trickle in across the web. And when it comes to leveraging post-sales emails or social media to ask for reviews, most companies have room for improvement.
But in reality, online review management is about so much more. In fact, it all boils down to how you nurture customer relationships. Little by little, daily practices accumulate into valuable relationships that manifest online.
Read on to learn three habits that will set you up for success, in the new year and beyond.
Online Review Management Habit #1: Practice Empathy for Your Customers
No matter how many reviews you score, successful online review management requires empathy. When you can put yourself in your customers' shoes, you'll get the most value out of online reviews.
Empathy translates into a variety of good habits for online review management. Let's start with response time. Experts say you should respond to negative online reviews as quickly as possible. Replies that come after 24-48 hours or more miss a critical window for engagement.
No matter how you look at it, that's fast. Businesses might feel stressed by this quick pace, or wonder if it's a needless hassle. Some businesses might shrink from online reviews, neglecting to reply at all.
But when you view this from the customer's perspective, it makes perfect sense. Customers who post negative reviews still want to engage with your business. Their reviews often represent a last-ditch hope to make things right.
Left waiting too long, and customers' openness will harden into frustration or indifference. You wouldn't ignore a ringing phone or a knock on your door. Don't wait to answer online reviews, either.
Instead, try centering empathy in your online review management strategy. In practice, treating customers the way you would like to be treated means:
- Replying promptly
- Writing personalized responses (instead of canned or stock messages)
- Offering helpful solutions
Best of all, empathy will prevent online review management from feeling like a burden. Instead, you'll be able to recognize online reviews as one more way to connect with customers.
Online Review Management Habit #2: Offer Fair Solutions
Think of the best manager you ever worked with. What did you like about that person? Maybe they pushed you to think creatively, or opened new doors for your career. But chances are, they treated you—and your colleagues—fairly.
When it comes to online review management, fairness and consistency go hand-in-hand.
Solutions that are fair are proportional to the problem. For example, a customer who receives a defective item should receive a complimentary replacement.
Customers also notice whether your company offers solutions consistently. If you offer a more generous solution to one customer over another, you'll risk losing credibility. This means you should offer the same solutions, regardless of how polite or rude a review might be.
Some companies, such as L.L. Bean or Costco, have taken this approach to an extreme. These companies accept all returns, no questions asked. A small number of customers abuse these generous policies. But most customers appreciate the simplicity of a blanket return policy.
Treating customers fairly has another hidden benefit: it's easier for your employees. For example, you can remove guesswork by establishing set rules. This way, certain complaints will always trigger the same solutions.
Over time, you'll develop a well-earned reputation for fairness.
Online Review Management Habit #3: Offer Gratitude to Reviewers
The final habit is also by far the simplest. When customers write online reviews, thank them. It's that easy!
When thinking about online review management, it's easy to miss the forest for the trees. Negative reviews can sting, and positive reviews can fuel your ego.
But think of it this way: Customers who take the time to write reviews offer valuable feedback, for free. That's time they could spend reading, cooking or doing any other task. Whether they offer positive or negative feedback, customers who write reviews are choosing to engage with you.
Customers are also smart, and they're paying attention. Saying "thank you" costs nothing. But writing a sarcastic reply or fake review could permanently damage your reputation.
On- and offline, operating from a place of gratitude rather than fear drives better results.
It's Time to Invest in Online Review Management
Cultivating a healthy perspective on online reviews isn't easy. But actually managing your reviews doesn't have to be hard.
GoSite's Reviews tool pulls all of your online reviews into one streamlined dashboard. You'll never struggle to keep tabs on your online reviews again.
Ready to get started? Check out our Reviews tool today!