Start managing the conversation around your brand and improve customer relationships with a review management strategy.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” – Warren Buffett

Consumers today have an unprecedented amount of power. Brand reputation is dominated by customer experiences and companies are left dealing with a myriad of critiques on a daily basis. Businesses are now confronted with the challenge of navigating what can seem like an insurmountable number of websites and reviews to regain control of their voice.

The transformative shift in consumer behavior gained momentum at the pinnacle of social networking sites. Customers today are presented with ample opportunities to provide feedback on every brand experience, both negative and positive.

Recent studies aimed at understanding these new patterns discovered that personal online recommendations, even from strangers, have a direct impact on purchasing decisions:

  • Dimensional Research found that 70 percent of Americans read through reviews before making a purchase.
  • According to Dimensional Research, 90 percent of consumers also said reviews influenced their buying decisions.
  • Bizreport found that 68 percent of consumers developed more trust in brands with a mix of positive and negative reviews.
  • According to Bizreport, there is a 67% increase in conversion rates with consumers who actively seek out negative reviews.
  • Online reviews even rival word of mouth, with Forbes citing that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Rather than taking a back seat, companies can seize the moment to manage the conversations around their brand. Implementing a review management strategy will enable your brand to use reviews to your advantage and help promote your credibility in the online community. It’s a great opportunity to learn, drive business and build stronger customer relationships.

You can choose to begin this process yourself or to partner with an external company, like ConsumerAffairs. Review management will help you organize and respond to reviews, invest in review collection and start soliciting reviews from your customers directly, if you don’t already. Your best asset in this endeavor, however, will be how you respond to reviews publicly and privately. Here are some response best practices to keep in mind:

Responding to the Happy Customer

  • Take the time to respond to at least every two or three positive reviews publicly.
  • Keep your responses short, straightforward and unique. Your thank you and appreciation should be genuine and personal, one or two sentences at most.
  • Don’t use generic or repetitive responses when responding to positive reviews. It’s easy to copy and paste, but you want them to know you value their feedback. It also reminds people that there are humans behind the company.
  • A great review from a customer could lead them to being a “promoter” for your company. Responding to positive reviews can increase customer engagement in other areas, for example liking your Facebook page and sharing your content.
  • Responding to positive reviews will increase customer retention, benefiting your bottom line.

Responding to the Dissatisfied Customer

  • Respond publicly to negative reviews as quickly and often as possible, with the goal of responding to all of them.
  • Thank the reviewer by name for their feedback and highlight any positive comments.
  • Address the issue in your response and send/request a private follow-up with next steps for a resolution. Apologize, if appropriate. Your main objective is to find a resolution.
  • Take action within the next 48 hours and decide what you are willing to do to save the relationship. For example, a refund or complimentary service.
  • You can’t always resolve the problem or satisfy a customer, but you can learn from your mistakes and reiterate what you’ve learned in your comment.
  • Avoid sounding impersonal or indifferent by not using generic responses. Every consumer has a personal experience with your company and you should take the time to craft a well thought out response, when time allows.
  • If you are able to come to a resolution, request an updated rating or comment.

You can’t control what people are going to say, but you can manage the conversation by joining it. Your responses will become part of the customer experience, and potential consumers want to see that. Review management will build your social credibility, allow you to influence consumers again, and drive business.

The bottom line is responding to reviews is good (for) business. By now, we’ve all heard the statistic that it’s five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. Customer retention is also directly linked to increased profit and reduced churn, according to the Harvard Business Review.

As more people elect to share their customer experiences, consumers are developing their own online knowledge base. If you don’t already have a plan in place, it may be time to start thinking about one. Learn more about the value of review management in the netSpend case study, created by our team at ConsumerAffairs.