5 Ways (Not) To React To Online Customer Reviews

Knowing how to engage with customers and handle reviews properly is key to your company's success.

Photo: Florian Huebner, co-founder and Managing Director of Uberall; Source: Courtesy Photo
Photo: Florian Huebner, co-founder and Managing Director of Uberall; Source: Courtesy Photo

New research from the University of Colorado suggests there’s a “very low correlation” between online ratings and the overall quality of a product. With this in mind, it’s pretty surprising that reviews have any impact on us at all.

I mean, we should know that there are sometimes fake reviews, paid reviews or people that leave bad reviews because they were in a bad mood, for example. Nevertheless, reviews still influence customers.

Search Engine Land reports that almost half of all customers who read online reviews form a strong opinion by reading just 1-3. That means one bad review, and your business can suffer.

Knowing how to engage with customers and handle reviews properly is therefore key to your company’s success. And to help you understand that, here’s a look at the top 5 ways you don’t want to act when you’re responding to customer reviews.


1. I could care less about online reviews

Who cares about reviews and social media anyway, right? It’s not like it matters what people say about you online — it only matters about the quality of service in-store. Well, that’s 50% true.

Apathy towards your online presence sends a clear message to customers: According to research carried out by Search Engine Land, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.


Photo: © YakobchukOlena, YFS Magazine
Photo: © YakobchukOlena, YFS Magazine

Change your thinking. Instead, think of your online profile as another bricks-and-mortar location, with a welcoming shopfront, and a pleasant in-store experience. You’d never justify a dirty shop floor or grubby table cloths with a casual shrug, saying, “Ah, nobody’s going to notice!” Customers do notice when you tidy up your website, and take care of negative online reviews. Change your attitude to your online profile and respond.


2. Delete, delete, delete

Ah the deleter. Is there anything easier than to simply make a negative comment or review magically disappear? But this is the worst response you could make. Unless the comment is obviously inappropriate, deleting it is a deeply disengaged approach.

It can be easily interpreted as an admission of guilt, and displays a crass unwillingness to respect the wishes of a customer.

A much more positive route is to respond to the negative online comment. Not only will you gain a valuable lesson about how your customers feel by not deleting the comment, according to research by CRM software company RightNow, 1 out of every 3 consumers who receive a retailer response to their online complaint ends up re-posting a positive review. In addition, a further 34% end up deleting their negative review altogether.

That is a powerful demonstration of transforming customers into brand ambassadors.


3. Panick mode

You have to have empathy for the panicker. They just want to please, and seeing a negative comment or review about their business will render them scatterbrained in an attempt to rectify their mistake.

According to Lee Resource Inc., 95% of unhappy customers will return if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently. But herein lies the problem: The panicker can respond quickly, but not efficiently, or respond with the right comment days after the negative review’s been posted.


Photo: © GaudiLab, YFS Magazine
Photo: © GaudiLab, YFS Magazine

Everyone panics sometimes, but the fact that the panicker’s comments are visible to everyone is a serious issue. Research from Bazaarvoice.com shows that if you respond in the right way, 71% of customers will leave with a more positive perception of your brand.

Don’t panic and take things personally – just relax, engage the consumer, and offer to take the conversation offline. Efficient, quick and showing them you care.


4. Oh, well … it happens

Closely related to number one, every entrepreneur can be the “ah well” apathetic type sometimes. The point is not to see social media and online reviews as a closed loop. They can have a real impact on your business and provide excellent opportunities for marketing and up-selling.

The very existence of customer reviews can positively affect your Google search ranking. According to a recent study by marketing network Chitika, the first listing in an organic Google research received 33% of all traffic, whilst the second position receives about half, with 18% of traffic – that means 50% of all sales are made above the fold.

That means one thing: You should encourage your consumers to review you. Thank the good reviews and engage the negative ones – that boosts the ranking.

Next up: Take each review as a marketing opportunity. Offer rewards, incentives and that most simple thing of all: Friendly words. Thanks, we hope to see you again sometime! Now, if that isn’t easy marketing, I don’t know what is.


5. You’ve got to be kidding me, that #$@&%*!

Stop. Breathe. Take a minute.

We know, we know. You built the business from the ground up. You know what you’re talking about. And then, along comes this guy, with nothing better to do than to trash your online reputation? Who does he think he is?


Photo: © ave_mario, YFS Magazine
Photo: © ave_mario, YFS Magazine

Before you respond … stop and breathe. According to the Washington Post, 80% of complaints come to the notice of SBOs via review sites – which means you have more chance of not understanding what the customer is complaining about – meaning you’re probably going to get angry over the wrong thing.

Find out what they’re angry about and use it as a learning opportunity.

You don’t want to be like the infamous Claudio Menichetti who runs Vecchia Bologna in Bridge of Allan in Scotland, who not only recently threw customers out when they commented they weren’t receiving a high-quality service, but then trolled them online.

Rather than rage, think “How would I handle this in the store?’ Exactly. “Sorry to hear that, tell me more about it so I can improve in the future…”

If you want to learn how to engage with your customers online, then download our free white paper, Understanding the Powerful Voice of the Consumer, today.


This article has been edited and condensed.

Florian Huebner is the Co-Founder and MD of uberall. He was previously a management consultant with McKinsey & Company, and studied at the universities of Karlsruhe, Southern California and Sydney. uberall is a comprehensive Online Presence Management system for businesses, driving client sales by expanding their visibility online. Connect with @flohuebner on Twitter.


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