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The Power of a Response

There was a time when complaining about poor service or faulty products meant customers had to speak one-on-one with a manager. But with the proliferation of online business listings on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Maps, it's becoming easier for customers to share their experiences directly and publicly. This leaves businesses struggling to control their online reputation⁠—and in the digital age, negative feedback can quickly go viral and become significantly detrimental to a business.

But other than resolving negative reviews, what is the benefit of staying on top of all your online reviews? Well, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) recently conducted a study looking at hotels on TripAdvisor to see if responses⁠ to reviews—negative and positive reviews alike⁠—make a difference in overall online reputation and business (spoiler: it makes a big difference!).

Proof that review responses matter

The study compared the star rating of specific hotels on TripAdvisor, using the same hotels on Expedia (where the reviews were not responded to) as a control group. This way, factors such as renovations or the addition of facilities or amenities could be accounted for in any changes in average star ratings.

HBR discovered that, on average, hotels that were responding to reviews received more reviews (12% increase) and a 0.12-star rating increase. This might seem marginal, but remember these sites display average star ratings (on a scale of 1 horrendous to 5 spectacular) rounded to the nearest half-star. That means if you are at 4.21 stars, you will display as a 4-star average, whereas if you are at 4.33 you will display at 4.5.

This can be a big difference when customers are doing research—and can mean the difference between a potential customer choosing your business or skipping to the next one in the list. This change was apparent whether the reviews being responded to were positive or negative.

How to respond to online reviews

So, what are some of the best practices for responding to customer reviews? We have some handy guidelines we'd love to share with you, but they boil down to these four key points:

  1. Be polite
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Express thanks for the feedback
  4. Don't be a salesperson

Really what you want to portray in the response is that you understand a negative experience happened and that you are there to help resolve the issue. For the most part, you can't remove reviews (unless they contain vulgar language), so if you demonstrate you are listening and willing to help, your online reputation will reflect this.

These findings can really help businesses justify spending both the time and money to get a grip on their online reputations. When there is a direct correlation between the response and an improved rating, it just makes sense. Done the right way, the insights that come from engaging with customer feedback can prove invaluable.

Want to master the art of responding to reviews—or help your clients do the same? Contact ConvergenSEE today.



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