When it comes to review monitoring, there's a right and wrong way to do it.
When it's handled well, review monitoring converts both positive and negative reviews into higher rankings, increased visitor traffic and compounding revenue.
What if it's handled poorly?
Poor/no review monitoring means there are no mechanisms in place to counteract accidents or mistakes. No way to adjust dynamically to customer expectations or negate predatory demands.
Customers expect you to monitor your reviews
More specifically, it's your unhappy customers who demand an engaged response. When customers are unhappy, they expect you to go out of your way to make things right. This is (a small part of) how you convince unhappy customers to change their negative review to a positive one.
If we're looking for a clear recounting of our customers' review monitoring expectations we need to understand why they write reviews in the first place. The research on this is clear.
Here's a quick recap.
1. Customer evangelists. These are the customers who leave a positive review. They're grateful for your help and satisfied with your product or service. They also have a desire to help your company. (positive)
2. True believers. These customers feel so strongly about your product or service that they feel compelled to share their good news with those around them. Writing a positive review relieves the tension build up caused by their consumption experience. (positive)
3. Prestige reviewers. Your product or service fulfills an emotional need. Reviewers receive attention, show connoisseurship, convey rank, assert superiority and display insider status. Your product or service is simply a proxy, a way for them to meet their emotional needs. (positive)
4. Vengeful customers. These customers want to punish you. They're angry and they're out for blood. A scathing review is an easy, low-risk way to damage your business. Typically, these customers aren't looking for justice or reconciliation. They're looking for destruction. Ragers, sadists and trolls are typically focused on vengeance. (negative)
5. Altruists. These reviewers are looking to take care of their fellow customers. They share their honest feedback and experience with potential customers, giving them clear feedback they can use to make an informed decision. An altruist's review can be either positive or negative. (positive/negative)
6. Advice seekers. Something's gone wrong. This customer has had a bad experience with your business. They're using their review to ask for help or advice. They don't want to offend, so they won't approach you directly. They'll approach other reviewers instead. This negative review is the most devastating because it allows a potential customer's imagination to run wild as they mentally try to fill in the blanks in a reviewer's story. (negative)
7. Doubters. A customer has signed on the dotted line. But they're feeling buyer's remorse. They're nervous, concerned they've made a mistake. A seemingly insignificant problem has ballooned in their mind to an insurmountable disaster. Their negative review is a form of catharsis, a way to relieve the cognitive dissonance that's fueling their doubt. (negative)
8. The Fearful. These customers are highly agreeable. They're terrified of conflict, so there's almost no chance they'll be open or honest with you. These customers will smile, tell you everything is fine, then post a demoralizing review (anonymously) when they get home. They're unfairly characterized as cowards, but it's more accurate to say they're conflict-averse. (negative)
9. The Standard-bearer. This is a negative review from a loyal or engaged customer. They know exactly how things are supposed to be. They're unhappy that you've fallen short of your own standard or ideal and they're going to let you know. What makes this customer's negative review different from all the other types? This customer is looking for restoration. They want you to fix the problem so they can continue to have a happy relationship with you. (negative)
Here's the research paper if you're looking for a deeper dive into the data.
What Motivates People to Wr... by on Scribd
Here's the important distinction we need to make.
There's a huge opportunity here.
Businesses can make happy customers happier. They can convert unhappy customers to happy ones. The method used is fairly straightforward. Simply take the time to respond to your reviewers. Respond with empathy, warmth, clarity and sincerity.
Be kind, be helpful or be gone.
Not sure how to respond to your customers' positive or negative reviews? Here are some response templates you can use/customize for your business.
Use these templates to meet customer expectations and improve review performance.
These customer expectations create more questions.
Why bother responding? How soon should you respond?
A research study by Uberall found customers felt the majority of retailers, 65 percent, should monitor and respond to all online reviews, regardless of the tone or content of individual reviews. Unsurprisingly, 78 percent of these consumers also expect a personalized (thoughtful) response.
Then there's response time.
A Yotpo survey found the majority of reviewers expect a response within 24 hours after posting their review. 42 percent of customers expect a response within 60 minutes if their review is posted on social media.
Then there's Jay Baer.
Baer teamed up with Edison Research to assess customer expectations regarding review responses. They made a surprising discovery. Yes, the speed of your response is expected and important. But there's something that matters more to customers.
Making sure you respond in the first place.
This is the real problem. The vast majority of customer complaints go unanswered. Most unhappy customers are ignored, neglected or underserved. This isn't because brands want to ignore their customers, it's because they're unaware these customer complaints exist.
The Hug Your Haters formula is: Answer every customer complaint. In every channel. Every time.
What does this mean?
It means you'll need a consistent way to monitor your onstage and offstage customers. Offstage customers communicate via private channels (e.g. email or phone). Onstage customers prefer public channels (e.g. social media, review sites and online forums).
Here's the key distinction.
"Offstage haters want an answer. In many cases, onstage haters want an audience."
Is there an upside to responding to these reviews?
A recent study found when hotels responded to reviews consistently they received 12 percent more reviews and their ratings increased by 0.12 stars. One third of the hotels in their study increased their star ratings by half a star or more within six months of their first management response.
The studies I've shared above bear this out for other industries.
Responding to reviews creates a virtuous cycle. This virtuous cycle boosts local search rankings, producing more traffic, conversions and revenue for consistent review responders. It's a win for everyone.
But it all starts with review monitoring.
Do you know what review monitoring entails?
The requirements of review monitoring are reasonable and straightforward.
1. Identifying the review platforms used by your customers/industry. Identifying platforms with a strong presence in the search results.
2. Knowing when new reviews are written about your business.
3. Knowing how to respond to the various reviewer types (items 1- 9 above).
4. Responding to reviews quickly/in an appropriate time frame.
5. Analysis and reporting tools to identify important metrics, trends, changes and details (e.g. sentiment analysis, overall rating, performance by platform, aggregate stars, etc.).
We've already discussed the various reviewer types. We've also discussed appropriate response time frames. Most review sites provide businesses with the ability to set/receive review alerts and notifications.
Here's an example of an on Yelp...
And another example on Google My Business.
These alerts/notifications are handled differently depending on the review site you use. Some platforms send...
Immediate alerts are best. As I mentioned earlier, customers expect a response within 24 hours. General alerts don't give you a whole lot of time to craft a careful response. If you're looking to scale review management this is a difficult way to go.
Moderated alerts seem like a great idea, at first. However, if your customer's review is negative, this can backfire. If customers aren't allowed to speak freely, or they're forced to deal with unreasonable obstacles they may choose to share the review in multiple places, amplifying the amount of damage that's done.
Then there are customer notifications.
Some review sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google My Business, notify customers of your response to their reviews. You'll need to have a plan in place to manage these responses.
Here's the problem.
Review monitoring requires that you focus your attention on multiple review sites, each with their own set of rules, regulations and requirements. It's difficult enough for a single person to keep track of all of these. It's more difficult when teams are involved.
If you're running a business you need a review management platform like Grade.us ;-). I'm biased but I also believe I'm on the right side of things here. Your review management platform accounts for these variances. The right platform provides you with a single dashboard you can use to monitor the reviews across a wide variety of sites.
It also provides your campaigns with structure. Your team receives the same set of alerts, data and updates. Everyone is on the same page.
Review monitoring success means your team is on the same page
You'll need clear policies and procedures for review monitoring. All of this begins with answers to simple yet important questions.
1. Who's responsible for monitoring reviews? (e.g. marketing, customer service, public relations)
2. Who's responsible for responding to reviews?
3. Who has decision-making power/authority regarding review resolution (e.g. apologies, refunds, credits, exchanges, etc.)
4. Do responses need to be vetted by a third party before being published? (e.g. legal, marketing, directors, managers, etc.)
5. How much time do you need to respond to an individual review? A batch of reviews (e.g. 25 - 100 reviews at once)?
These questions require careful and precise answers. You'll need to map the relationships and dependencies required for each. This step is essential because the industry, size, and structure of your business determine how you monitor and respond to your reviews.
Here's what I mean.
Not sure where to begin? Here are a few guidelines you can use to get started.
Do your best outline the workflows, policies and procedures required in your business. Take the time to answer the questions, map out relationships and outline dependencies required for each phase of the review monitoring process.
It's a lot of upfront work but it's worth it.
It's sort of like insurance. It's important to set your review monitoring policies and procedures ahead of time. Wait until you actually need it (or you're caught in the middle of a crisis) and it's too late.
Review monitoring is the foundation
When it's handled well, review monitoring gives you the ammunition you need to convert positive and negative reviews into rankings, traffic and revenue. The majority of your customers expect an official response to their review whether they're positive, neutral or negative.
With review monitoring, you have a chance.
An opportunity to monitor customer engagement on a consistent basis. The vast majority of customer complaints go unanswered. Most unhappy customers are ignored, neglected and underserved. Businesses are unaware of their customer complaints.
Review monitoring is the secret to Jay Baer's Hug Your Haters formula.
Answer every customer complaint. In every channel. Every time.
Consistent, omni-channel review monitoring is the only way forward. As your business grows you'll need a consistent, third-party tool to manage your onstage and offstage customers. Choose the right tool and you'll have the firepower you need to convert reviews into revenue.