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How great businesses respond to reviews in three simple stepsHere, Katie Byrne discusses how three companies reacted to reviews left by customers online.

Once upon a time, word of mouth recommendations meant one great experience led to, maybe, ten friends and family members hearing about it. Today, when customers interact with your business, they are going to share that experience through online reviews. More often than not, people are taking time to talk about their great experiences online. On Yelp, 79 per cent of reviews are three stars or higher. That said, at some point you will come across an unhappy customer online, just as you would in person. The good news is that the negative review that’s really bugging you isn’t always negative for business if you respond correctly. Here are three top tips for responding when you are faced with reviews ranging from the weird to the wonderful.

Public vs private responses

On some review platforms you can choose to respond to a review publicly or privately, both of which are powerful in their own way. When you respond publicly, all potential customers now see your response, not just the original reviewer. Reading a negative review about your business is not easy. Try to remember that you can’t please 100 per cent of people 100 per cent of the time. Whether through private or public messaging, it is important to try and remove any emotion and drop any attitude in your response. If you cannot resolve the issue, agree to disagree and shake it off.

After Noah, a family-run toy shop in North London, provides us with a great example. This business owner used the public response tool to address pricing concerns by a reviewer. He first acknowledged the good in this review, highlighting that he has items priced from just 10p and that their average sale is £4.99, before inviting the customer back to visit them again. The lesson is to politely respond to the review by acknowledging concerns while highlighting potential discrepancies or misunderstandings without getting into a dispute. Just remember: Whether private or public, craft a response you would be proud for all potential customers to hear you say.

Show you’re listening

How you respond to a review can make all the difference in how your potential customers perceive your business. When a customer has a valid complaint which you would like to remedy or to hear more about, keep your response short and thankful for the feedback. Acknowledge publicly that you are also going to follow with a private message. It’s a good idea to thank customers for their feedback and acknowledge the good in the review.

Businesses such as Feel Hairdressers in Soho take the time to thank customers for their feedback. This allows prospective customers to see that your business is committed to providing the best possible customer service.

Amplify your content

With the explosion of new social media channels and the huge demand for content it can be hard to keep up. Your online reviews can be a great way to build out fresh content as you can share your favorites directly to your Facebook and Twitter. This lets your customers do the talking for you and lets your audience hear all the great things they are saying about your business. Photos are another great way to share customer experiences with your business. Take this example of Brother Hubbard cafe, who received a glowing, and undeniably, quirky review from Colin D, this is the ideal content to share via Facebook or Twitter. It’s always nice to remember to thank the reviewer for sharing their feedback, and, in this instance, if you start serving chai lattes, be sure to let him know!

Always be open to feedback

Remember, consumer reviews can be an insightful part of your market research. Read them with an open mind and try to identify any recurring themes. Research your competitors too and see what their customers are raving about! Responding to reviews is a free tool you have in your arsenal which allows you control the conversation about your business online. Just as no two customers are the same, no two reviews will be either. It is important you listen to each review and respond as you would in person. The same customer service policies should apply online as they do offline.

Katie Byrne | | Comment & opinion | Business management