Say What?! Do You Know The Odd Truth About Reviews?

How often do you get honest feedback about how you’re doing? I mean, honest….it doesn’t NEED to be brutal, just a truthful, balanced opinion from someone, based on their experience. A large number of businesses are scared of feedback and reviews on their various social media pages. This is despite the fact that this is an important form of social transmission and enhances the word of mouth referrals they value so much in the off-line world. These can make or break a business.

Social proof is a fuzzy concept to some, but basically it is an accumulation of the clues in our environment we use to make decisions when we don’t know the truth (a H/T [Hat Tip] to Mark Schaefer for this clear definition!) Reviews are one avenue for prospects to check you out if they’ve never heard of you before and are considering buying what you offer. Nielsen reports that 84% of people say that online reviews influence their buying decision.

There are two components to successfully working with customer reviews.

The first is having a solid internal process for capturing and maintaining a steady stream of customers willing to write reviews. As a small business, you will likely manage this yourself or you may designate someone else (perhaps someone in sales, for example). You may feel uncomfortable about asking for a review, but think through how you can be authentic about it and make your customer comfortable. Say something like, “Our business is based on referrals. Would you take a couple of minutes to visit our Facebook Page and write a review of a couple of sentences to refer us to your friends and family?” This is just a start, but it’s a good one.

A couple of other things to think about while you’re setting this up for your business:

  • Make sure someone owns this process. If you designate Joan in Sales as the owner of Reviews, make sure she has a clear view of the process, the metrics, the monitoring, etc. She’s now in charge of this part of your online reputation and getting customers involved. Make sure she also gets the recognition for the great job she does.
  • Reach out to your raving fans. You have them….especially those who have been with you for a long time. Ask them to share an honest review…..don’t push for positive reviews, per se. Highlight the individuals and their businesses, and they are likely to become even stronger evangelists for you.
The second component is to have an effective process for both thanking reviewers for great reviews and working through a customer satisfaction process for those who aren’t so happy. Acknowledging others is a critical activity that keeps us human online and emphasizes (and enhances) the connections you make with your customers.  Acknowledging the great reviews is a nice ‘problem’ to have, and should be done promptly, with genuine gratitude and personality. Never use a canned response and be sure to recall some of the experience from your point of view if you can. Again, this emphasizes the importance of this customer’s business and opinion, as well as recognizing the extra effort that writing a review takes.

Approaching the negative reviews is the thing that gives most business owners the shakes. So many business owners are concerned about the potential headaches of a negative complaint that they prefer not to allow any customers to review them. Well, rest assured, if they’re not talking about you online, they are offline….where you don’t know who’s saying what, nor do you have any chance to find out what’s really going on and respond.

  1. Acknowledge their right to complain. It’s OK to be unhappy and a good thing when they tell you about it.
  2. Apologize for their situation or your mistake, if warranted. “I’m sorry” can diffuse many tense situations. You don’t have to claim responsibility by doing this, especially when you don’t have all the information. Still, you can be sorry that they had a negative experience and ask for more information on how you can help.
  3. Assert clarity in your policy or reasons. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, like if they’re unhappy about a return policy or some legal issue. It is OK to assert your reply about this, but be polite and have some compassion, supplying the reasons the policy exists. Don’t make the reason for the policy about the person complaining, make it about the betterment of the customer’s experience.
  4. Assess what will help them feel better. Ask “How can I help?” This turns the power of the conversation over to the customer (which for many of them will be a bit of a shock…). They can now, if only for a second, state clearly what would make things better for them. This is incredible information, and valuable to the company. When the customer feels empowered, the company’s credibility and authenticity is enhanced.
  5. Act accordingly. If possible (that is, within reason, company policy and the law…) do what the customer says will make them happy. There will be times when that’s not possible, but discovering the range of what is possible and increasing satisfaction of the customer’s experience with you will land you at a point of agreement most of the time.
  6. Abdicate. You’ve exhausted all reasonable discussion of addressing the customer’s problem and they’re still claiming an “all-or-nothing” response from you. Time to step away. Politely offer the solution once more, kindly stating that it really is all you can do and that you are happy to do so. Further resistance on their part places you in the position of needing to move on.
There terrific thing about this process taking place online is that the rest of your audience gets to see you being fair, honest and reasonable, while watching the customer with the complaint be unreasonable. You come out looking like a champ as the result of a negative review.

Do you have a process for garnering and working with reviews for your business? I’m interested in any signature or unusual instances of how it works for you.  Please share them in the comments, and share this post with other entrepreneurs and businesses who you know have had some touchstone reviews.

One thought on “Say What?! Do You Know The Odd Truth About Reviews?

  1. Pingback: What is Social Proof and Why Should I Care? | Authentic Voice

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