Review Responses: An Untapped Branding Resource

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With the holiday season in full swing, odds are that you have some travel plans ahead. For many, that includes hotel bookings. If you’re anything like me, you tend to search around before booking a hotel to find the best price. In my experience, there’s a key player in that search that routinely impacts my ultimate decisions.

That would be consumer reviews.

Whether it’s on Google or a third-party site, the reviews of people who have actually stayed at the hotel have a huge impact on where I end up spending my money. Why? The main reason is obvious - their opinion gives me a window into the experience I might have before I have to spend any money.

Even more importantly, these reviews can also be a window into the personality and service of the hotel in question. Those hotels that respond to their reviews showcase that they have an eye for service down to the last detail. Even if the review is a negative one, the fact that they gave a response will at least give me reason to pause and consider them further.

A recent blog post from Revinate.com explains the value of review responses in the hotel industry in further detail. But I think this opens up a discussion for marketers in all industries.

Care about Your Customers

Reviews often vary in their degrees of positivity or negativity. It can be tempting to only focus on the positive feedback and disregard the negative, but this can have drastic implications.

Hearing from your customers can be a valuable window of insight for your organization. Your customers may not know all the ins and outs of your business, but they do know about your outward-facing performance. Their feedback can help you locate some blind spots in your process that you may have missed.

And if you leave negative feedback without a response, you run the risk of being seen as inattentive and having a lack of focus on details. This can have much greater impact on your brand image than just one bad review.

Digging a little deeper, I think the reason for responding to your customer reviews should come from a place that has nothing to do with brand image or your business performance.

You need to see your customers as human beings and care about their opinions.

It is easy to simply see responses as just another set of binary numbers that populate the internet. But those reviews are coming from real people who care enough about your business to comment. Either that or they have had an experience so visceral that they felt the need to leave a review. In either case, you should at least hear them out.

Responses Can Have a Long-Standing Impact

As I said before, negative reviews can have a broader impact on your brand image if they are left unattended. However, on the flip side, negative reviews can have a massive positive impact on your brand image if you do take the step of responding.

When someone goes to see the reviews of your organization, they will surely find the negative ones. However, if they see that you have responded to these reviews they will at least see you as a brand with attention to detail. The negative impact of the review itself will be lessened by the fact that you cared enough to respond. Make sure that in your response you do not come off as defensive, but rather acknowledge the person’s experience and explain how you are handling the problem or issue that they presented.

Make a Plan

If you do not currently have a plan in place for how you will respond to customer reviews, there are a few things you can do. Your type of business will dictate the lengths to which you will need to go in order to accomplish this. For instance, if you are in travel & tourism, you should probably start with TripAdvisor.  If you are a food service brand, you may want to include Yelp and sites like it as well as TripAdvisor. But for any general business, Google will probably be your starting point. Simply type your organization’s name into the search bar and see if any reviews have been posted. You should be able to find this beneath your company’s Google listing on the right-hand side of the page.

Beyond Google and third-party sites, be sure that you are routinely checking your social pages for any customer reviews left there. Facebook is especially important for this, as customers can easily leave reviews right on your company page.

Once you’ve located where customers are leaving reviews, work with your team to outline the team members who will routinely check and respond to these reviews. You’ll also want to have protocols in place for who will be alerted of reviews and have final say on the wording of responses. This process make take some time to set up initially, but it can have a massive impact on your brand image going forward.

Aaron Charles is a content specialist with Villing and. Co.

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