Business owners have made a strong case for responding to online reviews.


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Behind the Review host and Yelp small business expert Emily Washkovic shares a look at this week’s podcast episode.



Courtesy of Yelp

The landscape of online reviews can be difficult to navigate, but harnessing their potential is worth the effort. Yelp small business expert and host of The Review Podcast, Emily Washkovic, revisits interviews she’s done with several business owners from past podcasts and gathers their unique approach to online reviews — positive and negative — and how they turned them to business advantage. Let’s take a look at their review response playbooks.

Use positive reviews as positive reinforcement

Positive reviews are a great way to reinforce what you’re doing right—but you can take it a step further. Bring them offline to motivate yourself and your team, and use them to express your appreciation for your customers while making a positive impression on their future customers.

Robert Meyer, CALA

The positive [reviews] I focus a lot on I think a lot of owners take it and go, ‘OK, cool’ and move on. I try not to. I took it to the staff and said, ‘Hey, look! Someone said something nice about you’ because it makes them feel good. And then try to do better.

Read more: A 360 customer experience starts with the hiring process.

We’ve been putting together a little book with great reviews—both like, ‘Hey customers, while you’re waiting around, here’s a great book to check out,’ but also, ‘Hey Corrie, you’re having a bad day. Read this.’ [Positive reviews] Make me very happy as I know not many people review. But it means that those people had such a stellar experience that they felt the need to tell strangers how cool we are. And that just makes my day.

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If someone is taking the time to write a review for you, the least you can do is acknowledge them. The least you can do is say ‘thank you’. I always love talking to them about their experiences and how much we appreciate them. If the client logs back in, they will see that I have responded. And if someone else is looking for our business, they’re going to see how we responded.

It all depends on how people treat your business and see your business. And if you’re going to let things sit there without any response, [as a customer,] I’m lucky enough to go to a business that acknowledges me and says ‘Thank you for taking the time to write a review’. Because no one should. It means a lot to them to do this.

Read more: 3 lessons for success in opening a second storefront

Turn negative reviews into positive results

Negative reviews don’t feel good right now – but responding to them (and acting on them) will help you improve customer service, identify new business opportunities, and strengthen your reputation.

If you have something good to say, say it right away. If not, take a deep breath. I respond to all negative reviews personally, and writing back is never fast. I let it sit for a day or two. Second, I write the response in Word, on a document that cannot be accidentally pasted. And I read it. I’ll read it again, and then maybe edit it. And finally, I’ll post it.

If we’re lucky enough to track this person down in some order, before I get on Yelp, I’ll email them personally and address their frustrations. Hopefully we can fix it. You know, most of the time, a negative review online isn’t bad if it’s followed by a decision and how you solved it.

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We make sure we understand because in my opinion, if there is a negative review, no matter what, it’s a good time to teach. Even if we don’t do anything wrong, it’s still a good teaching time. So we address that. We try to respond to every review to say ‘thank you’. It’s important’

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I got a 1-star review once. It was the funniest thing ever. Furious that we are pre-order only. It was during the epidemic. I had no staff. It was literally just me and my husband. So I could only be pre-order and I couldn’t afford to hire people. It is said everywhere that we are pre-order only online.

I responded to the review and I don’t feel it’s fair that he’s holding us to the standard he’s created and not the standard we’ve established as a business model. We’ve made it clear from day one that we’re pre-order only. That’s been our service model all along, and we’re never really going to walk away. The only reason we [started to offer] That was the reason for this 1-star review.

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[Reviewers] They want people to listen. I listen to them, and I say, ‘I’m taking action on this. I go to my company. I’m going to build a better company.’ Every time I thank them: ‘Thank you for the 1-star review. That’s how I grew up. Without you bringing these errors to my attention, I would never have known they were happening. You are a layer of accountability for me to build a better business.’

Read more: Great customer service starts at the top and flows through this HVAC company

Listen to the episode below and subscribe to hear live from these businesses and more Behind the review Every Thursday for more from new business owners and reviewers.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and SoundCloud



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