geralt / Pixabay

Of all the forms of digital marketing you can pursue, monitoring and responding to customer online reviews is perhaps the most important.

Gaining your customers’ trust is priceless, and there’s no better way to do it than through active participation in the conversation taking place online around your business, products, and services — a conversation largely driven by customer reviews.

Here are three reasons why:

Online reviews impact buying behavior. According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising Report, people trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other. That makes sense, but trust isn’t confined to your customers’ inner circle; they also put confidence in consumer opinions posted online.

People read online reviews before buying offline. More and more, people go to sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, OpenTable and local search listings on Google to read reviews of others before deciding where to spend their money. In fact, a Vistaprint Digital survey of 2,000 consumers found that 75% believe it’s important to read reviews before visiting a business.

Reviews are one way consumers find your business. The same survey revealed that 35% of people find new businesses through online research and 36% from word of mouth, including reviews.

It is not an overstatement, therefore, to suggest that the success of your business could hinge on your ability to actively monitor and respond to customer reviews — something particularly true of negative reviews.

That’s why, in this post, we share eight steps for managing negative online reviews in a way that builds trust:

1. Respond to complaints quickly

Nothing shows you care about your customers’ opinions more than responding to complaints quickly (and by that we’re talking hours, not days). It may be the catalyst that results in the customer giving you a second chance.

2. Acknowledge the complaint

It may be hard seeing someone complain about your business online, but as the saying goes, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” There may be value to what the person has to say, and it’s in your best interest to acknowledge the complaint, take it seriously, and respond with sincerity and respect.

3. Give yourself time to calm down

You care deeply about your business and do your best to provide excellent service. As such, when you see a negative review, particularly one that expresses a strong opinion, it’s understandable if you get angry or upset.

Before reacting in haste, take some time to calm down and think about the best way to respond. If that proves difficult, ask a trusted employee to handle the matter for you.

4. Move the issue offline

Rather than respond to a bad review online, sometimes it’s best to reply privately via email or phone. Yelp, for example, gives business owners who have claimed their page the opportunity to send the customer an email.

If you resolve the matter satisfactorily, leave a comment in the public timeline to let others know. (You might also ask the person to remove the review.)

5. Take action to resolve the situation

Apologizing for a mistake will only go so far. Your customer wants action, so find a solution that leaves him feeling good about the interaction. A restaurant, for example, might offer a coupon for a free meal item, gift certificate, or discount. Always remember, actions speak louder than words.

6. Actively monitor review sites

You can’t respond to a negative online review if you don’t know it exists.

Keep an eye on review sites (like those mentioned above) with monitoring tools such as Review Trackers or GetFiveStars, set up Google Alerts for your business name, and use a social media management tool to engage followers on Facebook.

7. Get as many online reviews as possible

Most reviews will trend toward the positive rather than the negative. For that reason, the more you get, the better the overall impression in consumers’ minds.

Put signs, table toppers, and window stickers in your place of business for review sites you want to promote. Add a note to receipts asking customers to leave a review, and place badges linking to review sites on your website.

8. See the benefit in a negative review

Negative reviews can benefit your business, in two ways:

Just having positive online reviews could raise suspicion among prospective customers who may feel the reviews are “manufactured” rather than being genuine. (The fact that negative reviews appear can actually build trust, particularly if people see you have responded and attempted to make amends.)

Negative reviews can also help you see areas for improvement in your products, services, or customer experience. As local search marketing expert Earl Netwal once said,

“Complaints are the raw material out of which a better business is built.”

Whether or not your business gets a bad review isn’t a matter of “if” but “when.” Employ these eight steps to monitor and respond to online reviews, and work to resolve your customers’ issues whenever possible.

Read more: