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Business Owners Make a Strong Case for Responding to Online Reviews In this episode, hear from several business owners about how they use online reviews to strengthen their business practices, boost morale, and encourage customers to return again and again.

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Courtesy of Yelp

Behind the Review host and Yelp's Small Business Expert, Emily Washcovick, shares a look at this week's episode of the podcast.

The landscape of online reviews can be tricky to navigate, but harnessing their potential is worth the effort. Yelp's Small Business Expert and host of Behind the Review podcast Emily Washcovick revisited her interviews with several business owners from past podcasts and collected their unique approaches to online reviews—both positive and negative—and how they turned them into a business advantage. Let's take a peek inside their review response playbooks.

Using positive reviews as positive reinforcement

Positive reviews are a great way to reinforce what you're doing right—but you can take them a step further. Bring them offline to inspire yourself and your team, and use them to communicate your appreciation for your customers while making a good impression on future customers.

Robert Meir, CALA

The positive [reviews] I do focus a lot on. I think a lot of owners just take it and go, 'Okay, great' and move on. I try not to. I take it to the staff and I say, 'Hey, look! Someone said something great about you' because it makes them feel good. And then they strive to do better.

Read more: The 360 customer experience starts at the hiring process

Korri Burton-Universe, Uncommon Closet

We've been putting together a little book of good reviews—both as a, 'Hey clients, when you're waiting around, here's this cool book you can look at,' but also, 'Hey Korri, you're having a bad day. Read this.' [Positive reviews] make me really happy because I know most people don't review. But it means that those people had such a stellar experience that they felt the need to tell strangers how cool we are. And that just makes my day.

Read more: Lessons from an entrepreneur: turning setbacks into a comeback

Keith Zeiler, Paws on Chicon

If someone is taking the time out of their day to write a review for you, the least thing you can do is acknowledge them. The least you can do is say 'thank you.' I always like to talk to them about their experience and how much we appreciate them. If the customer gets back on, they're going to see that I responded. And if someone else is looking for our business, then they're going to see how we responded as well.

It's all about how people are going to treat your business and see your business. And if you're just letting things sit there with no response, [as a customer,] I'm more likely to go to a business that acknowledges me and says, 'Thank you for taking the time to write a review.' Because no one has to do it. And for them to do that means a lot.

Read more: 3 lessons for success in opening a second storefront

Turning negative reviews into positive outcomes

Negative reviews don't feel great in the moment—but how you react to (and implement) them can help you improve customer service, identify new business opportunities, and strengthen your reputation.

Nic Faitos, Starbright Floral Design

If you have something good to say, say it right away. If you don't, take a deep breath. I reply to all the negative reviews personally, and the write back is never immediate. I let it sit for a day or two. Secondly, I'll write the reply in Word, on a document that cannot possibly accidentally be posted. And I'll read it. I'll reread it, and then maybe edit it. And then finally, I will post it.

If we are fortunate enough where we can track this person down to a specific order, before I even reach out on Yelp, I'm going to send them an email privately and address their disappointment. We hope to be able to make amends. You know, oftentimes, a negative review is not bad if it's followed up online with a resolution and a show of how you resolved it.

Read more: Seeds of wisdom from a New York florist on building lasting relationships

Dennis Akers, The Candle Pour

We make sure we understand because in my opinion, if there is a negative review, it's a good teaching moment, no matter what it is. Even if we didn't do anything wrong, it's still a good teaching moment. So we do address that. We try to respond to every single review to say, 'Thank you. That's important.'

Read more: An unexpectedly memorable candle-making experience

Natasha Burton, Mixed Fillings Pie Shop

I got one 1-star review once. It was the most hilarious thing ever. He was mad that we were pre-order only. It was during the pandemic. I didn't have any employees. It was literally myself and my husband. So I could only be pre-order and couldn't afford to hire people. It said everywhere that we were pre-order only online.

I responded to the review and told him that I didn't feel it was fair that he was holding us to a standard that he had created and not a standard that we, as a business model, had ever set. We had explicitly said from day one that we were only pre-order. That was our service model all the way, and we actually were never going to be walk-up. The only reason we [started to offer] walk-up was because of this 1-star review.

Read more: When pies are the catalyst for important conversations

Josh Campbell, Rescue Air Heating and Cooling

[Reviewers] want people to listen. I'll listen to them, and I'll be like, 'I'm taking action on this. I'm going into my company. I'm going to build a better company.' Every time I thank them for it: 'Thank you for the 1-star review. This is how I grow. Without you bringing these mistakes to my attention, I would never know they were occurring. You're a layer of accountability for me to build a better business.'

Read more: Great customer service starts at the top and flows through this entire HVAC company

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from these businesses and more, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.

Available on: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Soundcloud

Emily Washcovick

Small Business Expert at Yelp

As Yelp’s Small Business Expert, Emily is meticulously focused on helping local business owners succeed and grow. Her expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management, and all things digital marketing. Through speaking engagements and thought leadership, Emily shares industry insights that entrepreneurs in any business category can leverage for the growth and well-being of their businesses. She is also the host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media, where each episode features conversations with a business owner and a reviewer about the story and lessons behind their interactions.

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