How reviews can make or break a small business

Aim for good reviews and embrace negative feedback as an opportunity to grow.

As a small-business owner, reputation means everything – as it should if someone has poured their heart and soul into building up a business. However, at some stage, a business owner will realise through reviews that not everyone is going to love the product or service.

Whether a customer dislikes a product or service offering, or has had a negative interaction with a staff member, it is likely that their experience hasn’t lived up to expectations.

Today, all it takes is a few clicks of a smartphone for someone to share their experiences and interactions with the world.

True Local research found that more Australians are turning to review websites to help them make purchasing decisions, with nine in 10 people claiming to have used a review site in the last year. In 2016, over a quarter (29 per cent) of Aussies said their usage of review sites had increased in the last 12 months.

More than ever, it makes sense to have a sound strategy when responding to reviews, both positive and negative.

No one wants to receive a negative review of their business, however, negative reviews are not always a bad thing. In fact, they can help a business appear authentic, according to new research from True Local, which found that two thirds (66 per cent) of Australians questioned the credibility of a business that only has positive reviews to its name.

A business owner will likely hope that the majority of interactions with a business and brand are positive, but should embrace negative feedback as it also provides an opportunity to grow and improve the product or service offering for future customers.

If someone has taken the time to share their experience, business owners should consider that feedback and respond in an appropriate manner. Responses that are defensive, aggressive or don’t consider the customers point of view, risk not only losing their business, but the business of others who are researching you to seek a second opinion.

Small businesses also have a huge opportunity to build trust with consumers through reviews as responses are visible to both existing and potential customers. Nine in 10 Australians admitted they would feel more positively about a business that had responded to negative reviews in an attempt to solve the problem.

When responding to negative reviews, there are four crucial steps to take:

1. An introduction goes a long way – the person responding on behalf of a business should provide a name and business title to show customers that real people work there – this will make the process more personalised and conversational.

2. Thank the reviewer for providing feedback.

3. Apologise to the customer for the fact that the experience didn’t meet their expectations. Acknowledge the issue and let the reviewer know the business will attempt to rectify the situation to ensure if doesn’t happen again in future.

4. Take it offline – to stop the issue from escalating in public, provide a direct email address so that the customer can email privately to discuss the matter further.

While there’s no doubt that having positive reviews will help to attract new consumers, the most important thing is not to be scared of a bad review.

As research suggests, businesses need to remember that customers are open to forgiving and changing their opinion of a brand, provided appropriate steps have been taken when responding to a negative review online.

Rob Tolliday, Commercial Director, www.sensis.com.au

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