The internet has exploded with viral memes about Karen, the graduated “Becky” of this millennium. Sir Mix-a-Lot innocently personified a sense of entitlement in the 90s that has somehow come to define how people respond to customer service and general business practices today.
While we like to joke about oblivious Beckys judging what we pack into our mission and cringe at the vicious Karens who tear apart our business offerings, we still need to take their feedback into consideration.
Convenience makes and breaks your online reputation.
Instant access to your company’s social profiles and countless review sites, as well as consumers’ personal blogs and social media feeds, makes it easier for people to share their purchasing experiences than word of mouth. Not to mention, it expands their reach.
The convenience of consumers reviewing your products and services creates a boundless opportunity for free and steady marketing if your brand’s reputation is positive. However, if you’re not on top of customer feedback, it can quickly damage your reputation.
This occurs not only because word spreads about inefficiencies, poor service, or defective products, but also because you’re not hearing what customers have to say. Without tracking and responding to feedback to gather more insightful recommendations, you cannot effectively meet immediate or future customer needs.
It’s critical you look at the convenience of online reviews from both sides. Rather than dismissing or micromanaging what is posted online by your customers, create a strategy to follow and respond to their feedback.
Respond, don’t react
Regardless of the tone or intent of consumer reviews, it’s critical customers receive a sincere and timely response. Address their immediate needs or acknowledge their appreciation or praise, but do not react in any way that can be interpreted outside the personality of your brand. This tone sets certain expectations.
Unfortunately, if one employee reacts differently than a previous rep when a customer posts questions or feedback, the opinion of your brand can quickly shift. Customers no longer trust the reliability of your services if there is no consistency in their direct engagement with your team.
Customers can also see right through scripted responses. This kind of canned interaction makes people feel devalued and dismissed. Be sure your team is trained to respond empathetically and candidly in the tone and personality your brand aims to project.
Responding to the good
Positive reviews are, unfortunately, too often underappreciated. Customers should be thanked for their business and for going out of their way to share their positive experiences. Ultimately, reinforcing positive feedback encourages dedication to your brand because customers feel valued as individuals. This sense of value is what new customers are looking for.
In some instances, it can be completely appropriate to reward people who leave positive feedback. A modest token of appreciation, such as a discount toward a future purchase, is generally acceptable. Soliciting positive reviews by offering free or discount products in advance, however, is widely frowned upon.
In fact, this form of incentivizing reviews is prohibited on many sites, like Amazon and eBay. Amazon actively removes reviews that have been provided in exchange for free or discounted products. They’ve even put actions into place, such as setting purchase limits to discourage the practice of setting up fake accounts in order to receive free products for reviews or creating reviews for yourself.
eBay, on the other hand, incentivizes leaving reviews by making it possible for buyers and sellers to improve their reputation mutually — a positive review for a positive review, given the experience was acceptable for both parties.
The principle of mutual benefit in the buyer-seller relationship as well as building trust in eCommerce remains the same no matter what niche your particular goods or services fall into. No matter how you choose to reward positive feedback, a simple ‘thank you’ or a discount code, the intention must be deliberate and transparent. Your message should be of genuine appreciation for your customers and concern for their buyer experience.
Responding to the bad
I hope it goes without saying, no matter how rude or severe a customer might be when sharing their negative experience through consumer reviews, it’s unacceptable to react defensively or disrespectfully.
Some companies have made a mild level of snark a part of their customer service identity. But for this tone to be well-received, it has to be consistent across all facets of the brand and align with the personality of the target audience. More importantly, it must never cross the line to inappropriate.
Finding a resolution
There are a few ways you can address public customer complaints. The most common is to invite the customer to contact you privately to resolve the issue. This is well-intended and sometimes effective. However, if your contact information is public, there’s likely a reason they broadcasted their dissatisfaction for all to see.
To some people, quickly ushering the conversation into private and making it their responsibility to reach out again reads as though you’re not taking responsibility for whatever instigated their reaction. There is a reasonable way to avoid creating this assumption. It’s important you’re very specific about how you word your response to show genuine concern and ownership.
For example, rather than automatically suggesting they email or private message your team, you could offer a personal response such as:
Hi [customer’s name],
I’m deeply sorry you had [specific experience]. I would like to learn how I can correct/improve the issue. Please contact me at [direct email or phone extension] so we can discuss your experience and come to a solution together. I look forward to hearing from you!
Alternatively, you can always contact the customer privately. Be sure to thank them for reaching out directly on their original review. It’s best practice to alert them to look for your private message as well as to publicly acknowledge you’re taking their concerns seriously
Most importantly, never ignore negative reviews. Even if the customer isn’t right (I personally disagree with the old adage, “The customer is always right.” Quite frankly, no, they are not.), they still should be shown respect. Besides, there is an effective way to bring most customers back around (and subsequently impress potential customers): Kill them with kindness.
You also want to track your online reviews to be sure your customers are not being trolled by anyone posing as your customer service team. Regardless of whether their responses are well received, you owe it to your customers to ensure their experience is monitored for fairness and authenticity.
Tools to keep your rep on track
It’s simple to set up Google Alerts for your company name, specific products, niche industry terms, and more. Just type in your query and specify how frequently you want alerts, from where, and to what email address. Vwalaa…you instantly see what the Google machine sees and stay up to date on what people are saying about your brand online both through consumer reviews and their personal content.
You can easily track social media reviews through Hootsuite’s free service. If you’re just looking to keep an eye on basic customer engagement, Hootsuite allows you to monitor up to 3 social media profiles, with the added bonus of scheduling up to 30 shares. If you need to track more profiles (up to 10) or want access to unlimited message monitoring, it’s easy to upgrade your account without losing any of your current information or metrics. This enables you to stay on top of the pulse of your customers’ needs, ensuring you’re one step ahead of concerning public reviews.
Unlike Hootsuite, which offers only one user/manager account, Social Sprout includes a number of collaboration tools that allow you to more effectively manage your business reputation across your team. This high-end tool comes at a high price, but it allows you to monitor your social media accounts and messages from one platform, while also providing optimization through customer relationship management (CRM) tools and social media listening. You can even try Social Sprout for free (no credit card required) for a full 30 days.
This app differs in that it primarily focuses on content analysis, however, it also acts as a social listening tool. You are able to track engagement and links across content, including those posted through social media. BuzzSumo allows you to set up custom email alerts to meet your specific marketing needs based on brand mentions, keyword mentions, backlinks, content from a website, and even competitor mentions. Because BuzzSumo crawls content, it’s far more likely to bring up results within blog content online, a consumer review trend that is gaining popularity.
If you’re looking for a tool that will reach every nook and cranny of the web to find mentions of your company, Brand Mentions is the way to go. This application not only crawls every mention and conversation about your brand, but it also assesses the tone and builds a comprehensive sentiment analysis. And it doesn’t stop there. You are even able to gain insights into your competitors’ reputations by researching any brand in any industry. Learning how consumers react to competitors gives you alternative insight into how to update your marketing strategy. Keep in mind, their customers are your potential customers.
Google Play and the App Store reviews, unfortunately, are some of the easiest to fake/manipulate. However, they should not be ignored. Most of your mobile app users will default to the app store on their device to decide whether to install or leave a review, especially when it is negative. Left unchecked, these reviews can rapidly downgrade your user rating. Be sure to check-in on your app rank frequently to catch any potentially suspicious activity, such as bots spamming your reviews, so you can quickly report foul play to Google or Apple. And respond to consumer reviews quickly to resolve any user experience conflicts so new customers can see your attentiveness directly at the source.
Social Media Notifications
While there are a number of great platforms/apps that simplify tracking and responding to reviews and comments on social media, you should still be active in your profiles. At times, visitors will express their concerns directly below posts rather than starting their own message, or they may share their experience within someone else’s post. Manually scrolling through notifications within social media platforms ensures you haven’t missed anything or anyone.
Public Review/Ranking Sites
There are a number of sites dedicated to collecting consumer reviews. Some are niche, such as Four Square, which focuses on restaurants or Angie’s List, a collection of reviews for service-related businesses. Others are open to any business, such as the Better Business Bureau, Yellow Pages, Yelp, Manta, and Google my Business. It can feel impossible to keep track of all of the possible places users can leave reviews, however, you can create a strategy that works for your schedule and team to check in on different sites at least a few times a month. The important thing is to be sure your customers feel seen and heard.