Word-of-mouth marketing can make or break a small business.

In today’s world, most of this is done online on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and TripAdvisor. These sites are great for capturing real customer insights in a timely manner and allow potential customers to make informed decisions on where they will take their business.

Wherever a review of your business falls on the spectrum, it should be considered. These are your customers and they have taken time out of their day to give their opinion of your company.

We’ve put together some simple ways to help manage your online reviews.

Respond to negative reviews in private.

Unfortunately, no one is 100% immune to negative feedback. While there may be an impulse to respond immediately and publicly, these things are often best dealt with out of the public’s eye. Give the customer your personal email or send them a private message with your phone number, ensuring you can talk one-on-one without the whole world watching.

Take the comments seriously.

A customer leaving a review has taken the time to express their thoughts for the benefit of all – and that includes other patrons. If many of the comments seem to suggest the same thing – for example, your décor is dated or your store’s layout is confusing – consider implementing some changes in accord with these notes. Let your audience know about these changes, and that they stemmed from the reviews which members of their community left.

Don’t just focus on the positive.

Responding with several enthusiastic sentences to each positive review can seem inauthentic and some people may even believe that you’ve made up some of the reviews in order to boost sales. Stay even-keeled in your thanks directed towards a positive review.

Explain the steps you will take to fix problems.

Sometimes a bad review is given for nothing more than what most would consider a minor inconvenience. If you see reviews like this, assure your audience that you will take steps to fix those problems. Be specific, and respond to each review with a promise to focus on the issue that your customer presented.

Use make-goods, coupons and discounts sparingly.

In the wake of a particularly negative review, it may seem prudent to give the customer some sort of gift in order to make up for their bad experiences. Rather than giving away free products or services to anyone who complains, dissect each negative review before deciding whether or not to respond with an offer.

Online Comments