Guest reviews, comments and messages live on the internet in perpetuity, making it crucial for business owners to take action when it comes to maneuvering the narrative surrounding their business. What is said about you on review platforms, in comment threads and on message boards shapes your brand beyond your control. In fact, approximately 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses before buying into the company’s goods or services.
Customer comments are a form of engagement, which is a top priority for most marketers. However, every business owner must monitor the sentiment behind these digital interactions rather than assuming all of the posted opinions are positive. So, how can you play an ethical role in the maintenance of discussions about your business? Here are a few questions you should consider when monitoring your brand’s online presence.
How do I respond without sounding defensive?
Rule of thumb is to avoid responding in the moment. Ethical business management requires you to take in and independently assess comments from your customers, removing ego and properly investigating complaints. You want to remain completely neutral in your response, and you don’t want to respond with emotion, making your company look defensive and combative. You always want to go in with the mindset of resolving the issue – not with the mindset of being right.
Keep in mind that online trolls will look for any slip-up to help their case, which is why you should think through your company’s key messages and weave those in while calmly responding to their specific claims. How you respond publicly is equally as telling about your business as the initial review is.
Do I need to respond to every comment?
Generally, yes, it’s important to offer a response to every review of your business, whether positive or negative, as intentional and helpful responses solidify your online reputation. However, there are circumstances where your company will have to decide if there is truly a need for a response. For example, if a thread has amassed hundreds of comments, it may not be wise (or feasible) to respond to every one. In this instance, your company should consider making one concise statement to address the issue and let the comment thread fizzle out. In our ever-changing digital landscape, there will quickly be a new and unrelated scandal commenters will focus on, taking the spotlight off of your business.
Your response approach is going to differ depending on the type of conversation that’s being had online, so always take it on a case-by-case basis. However, one review response guideline that will remain constant is to take a heated conversation offline instead of adding fuel to the fire on the comment thread.
Where do I go from here?
Though you may find it difficult to sympathize with a guest who’s posting negative sentiments about your business, it’s important to take a hard look at the content of the review. Opinions and experiences are perceived differently, but your customer's experience is valid. We may think our business is operating the best it can, but keep in mind that guests leave their comments for a reason. Take note of the points that may have some merit and think through how your staff can course correct. Working to rectify perceived wrongdoings is part of doing good business.
It’s never too late to take control of your online reputation. Every company will see at least one review, comment or message come through online, and it’s imperative to establish a strategic reputation management plan, as every good and bad review that makes its way online can affect potential sales.
Gracie Lee is an account executive for Obsidian Public Relations, working primarily in the education, food, restaurant and hospitality industries.