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Using Customer Behavior to Maximize Your Online Presence We know that digital presence is a critical part of business strategy, but how can business owners and marketing managers ensure that their plans are effective?

By Emily Washcovick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

SOCi

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

Businesses come in many shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: the need to manage customer relationships. After all, doing so effectively can boost sales and reputation. One great way to facilitate dialogue between your brand and consumers is through online reviews. According to a recent study, over 89% of consumers are more likely to use a business that responds to online reviews. Knowing the ins and outs of review management, therefore, can significantly benefit your business.

The authenticity of online reviews

Business owners sometimes worry about the validity of reviews and the intentions of the people leaving them. Damian Rollison, director of market insights at data-driven marketing platform SOCi, argued that many reviewers have good intentions.

"Brands share this perception that reviewers are there to complain. What's actually true is that most reviews are sincere customers—people sharing their experiences with their peers in an effort to help people understand when a business is doing well and how they might want to encourage more people to share the experience they've had."

While Damian concedes that ill-intentioned reviewers do exist, they are in the minority. In a survey commissioned last year by Yelp and Kelton, a consumer insights firm, 92% of respondents said they write reviews if they were very satisfied with their service—meaning businesses are far more likely to receive positive reviews than negative ones.

Using reviews to spur improvement

There's much to be gained from meeting reviewers where they are—and opting out of the conversation can give an advantage to competitors focusing on building their reputation in your market. Additionally, reviews can hold untapped potential for your business while also confirming the areas where you excel. Responding to reviews, both positive and negative, shows consumers the business cares about their experience, values their time, and wants to connect meaningfully.

"When a brand ignores their negative reviews, or all of their reviews, and doesn't respond, and their competitor by contrast is right there engaging with the reviewer, thanking them for their praise and apologizing for bad experiences… that stands out in the mind of the consumer," Damian said.

To simplify review management, SOCi uses a double-pronged approach:

  1. Extension of customer support. Timeliness is key in this approach, where businesses focus on awareness of review content to improve customer service and make visitors feel valued.
  2. Feedback loop. This approach uses the customer voice to help business owners figure out which aspects of the experience are going well and which need improvement.

Reviews are a high-quality source of information about your business available to you for free. They provide the same insights businesses pay survey companies to obtain—so digging into your online reviews personally can save you money and remove the mystery around customer perception.

"Businesses should think about review responses as something beyond the person who wrote that review—it's about every other person who's going to read those reviews and check to see whether you're responding," Damian said. "You're forming your reputation as a business with every response that you publish."

Damian also noted that the result of responding only to negative reviews could be the unintentional formation of a defensive attitude online. Thanking loyal customers for their repeated business is just as important. Online viewers will notice and build their perception of your business accordingly.

Review response strategy

Once you've decided to respond to reviews about your business, the next step is to lay out your strategy. Depending on your business's reach, you may have hundreds of reviews to deal with—how can you respond to all of them and be organic in your replies?

Template responses can be tempting, but customers tend to notice when a business is repeatedly responding the same way. Instead, Damian suggests thinking of review responses as a formula. Keeping track of common points of feedback can help prepare you for what to expect and how to reply.

Crafting two or three different responses for the same type of review helps mix it up, and you should always mention the person's name to help make the dialogue more personal. You can avoid rewriting the formula each time by paying attention to specifics.

"80% of the work is already done for you," Damian said. "You're filling specific details to personalize that response so it does not feel robotic to the reader. Then you've covered a good percentage of the reviews that you'll receive."

This way, you'll reserve energy to write original responses to reviewers who bring up new feedback and reduce the time and effort required to invest in your review response strategy.

Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Damian and Emily, 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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