Sydney Schalit: Handle reviews with grace, gratitude | SteamboatToday.com

Sydney Schalit: Handle reviews with grace, gratitude

Sydney Schalit/ For Steamboat Pilot & Today

— Whether you are tech savvy or not, monitoring your business' online reviews is important, because online ratings impact revenue and reputation. Review sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor give consumers the opportunity to express their impressions of your business and, simultaneously, give prospective consumers a look at what to expect. Those looking you up online will not only see the reviews, but also how they were handled.

Was the author comforted or confronted? Were they thanked for taking the time? Were the reviews ignored? Often, monitoring and managing online reviews is as important as having your front doors unlocked.

As a small business owner, it is wise to embrace the reviews, recognize their benefits and use them to your advantage. When responding to any review — good, bad or ugly — make sure your response is personal, customized and sincere. Responding to each review demonstrates you care about your customers and can often make a bigger impact on customer relationships than the review itself.

Regardless of the tone of the review, always thank the author for taking the time. Even if the customer is wrong (and we all know that the customer is not always right) showing empathy for their perspective and taking the time to invite them back will win over those reading the review and maybe even the author.

For a bad review, offer to make things right or let the client know you are investigating the complaint and mention that you value their feedback. Give contact information in order to get more information from the client, and always use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Reviews themselves come in all kinds of formats, with reviewers often ignoring the rules of capitalization, punctuation and even using all caps to try to accentuate their point. No matter what the review you're responding to looks like, the best practice is to always adhere to proper writing style. Your response will be seen by many potential clients, and you want to appear professional and articulate.

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It is wise to pay attention to any patterns you find among your reviews; though it can sometime feel as though people are just complaining to complain, there is almost always valuable feedback to take from their experience. When reviews say the same thing repeatedly, it's usually a sign you have an issue that needs to be addressed.

And, while it can be tempting to let those angry replies gather dust, the best solution is to respond (the exception to this being, obviously, false or malicious reviews). Not responding maintains the negative impact of the review; conversely, if you add a customer service message in your response, you leave the reader on a positive note.

See a positive review? Thank the author for taking the time, then spread the word by sharing it on your brand's social media sites. Remember, you can solicit positive reviews by simply requesting them from your clients via email following a positive visit.

Taking the time to respond to customer reviews with personalized attention can set you apart from the competition. Monitor your business' online reputation by performing a weekly, or at least monthly, check of review sites for mentions of your brand, and stay ahead of the competition. Responses, both to positive and negative reviews, build trust, which translates into higher loyalty and increased sales.

Sydney Schalit is the content manager at Steamboat Digital, a local digital advertising agency specializing in web design, video production, social media marketing strategy and beyond.