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How to Handle Good and Bad User Reviews – Avoiding the Traps

Online review management is increasingly important. Most shoppers now look for online reviews, and won’t even consider a purchase without them. Reviews are that critical.

Online reviews and online review management can be powerful sales stimulators for an ecommerce or lead generation website.

They can also give irate customers and deceitful competitors a place to speak ill of your brand.

Reviews pose a classic conundrum. Which monster do you confront?

Should you only allow kind reviews and risk appearing dishonest?

Or should you allow your critics a voice, and risk brand erosion?

Let’s take a look at how top-performing websites are embracing online reviews as a way to grow online revenues.

Online Review Management – How Important are Online Reviews?

Not too long ago, websites could opt out of showing reviews altogether. Consumers didn’t expect to see them.

Digital marketing is a work in progress, though, and times have changed.

If there’s a flaw in your work, your products, or your customer service, the word is going to get out. Whether your site has reviews showing or not.

Smart ecommerce managers and digital marketers see the wisdom of encouraging reviews on a site you control. That gives you maximum ability to respond to and guide the conversation.

Reviews help visitors to your product or service pages determine whether the item in question is right for their particular need.

Don’t fear that process. Instead, figure out how to help prospects reach the best conclusion. And that’s always the decision that’s best for the prospect, not necessarily best for you.

You WANT prospects to tell you what they like and what they don’t like. Don’t you enjoy comparing options when you shop?

Most shoppers now look for online reviews, and many won’t even consider a purchase without them. Share on X

Most shoppers now look for online reviews, and many won’t even consider a purchase without them.

Not only that, but your visitors are often more motivated by a stranger’s opinion than by the recommendations of their own friends and family!

Reviews are that important.

Online Review Management for Ecommerce Websites

We won’t consider the mechanics of setting up online reviews here. See Effective Ecommerce for that discussion.

Rather, let’s consider three of the trickiest topics you’ll be faced with in online review management:

  • How to get customers to write online reviews
  • How to get rid of bad online reviews
  • How to prevent bad reviews in the first place

At The Good, we help clients minimize the risk and magnify the benefits of online reviews. We’ve found that, once the mechanics of online reviews are worked out, these three sore spots are at the top of client concerns.

How to Get Customers to Write Online Reviews

Online review management can be a frustrating ordeal. You work hard to get the formatting just right, and you know your products or services are stellar, but reviews may only trickle in.

You want a torrent of reviews – especially when you want to promote a special or introduce a new product.

Consider these tips. They can help open up the flow:

To get more reviews… remember to ask for them

People like to help you, especially after you’ve helped them. They aren’t always thinking about the importance of leaving a review, though.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking.

Not only will you not offend them, but most people will also feel honored that you consider their opinions valuable. You can “pre-sell” reviews by letting your customers know three things immediately after the transaction is completed:

  1. You want them to be 100% satisfied with their purchases
  2. If they aren’t satisfied, you want to know, so you can correct the problem
  3. Once they are completely satisfied you would appreciate an honest review

Make leaving a review simple and enjoyable

Review forms are the last place you want to get long-winded or employ obscure terms. Keep it light, fun, and straightforward.

Put all your user experience skills to work here.

Research over the past several years consistently shows that online reviews affect conversion rates, influence consumer trust levels, and can even be reflected in per-transaction totals.

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Help your customers write great reviews

Do this well, and many of your reviews can double as testimonials.

There are four necessary steps to the process. By prompting the reviewer to respond to these questions, you can strike social proof gold.

Here is the sequence you want to encourage:

  1. What was the customer’s situation before purchasing your product or service?
  2. What did the product or service do for the customer?
  3. What happened as a result?
  4. What would the reviewer say to someone considering a similar purchase?

Leading the review along that path could result in a review similar to this:

Before hiring The Good to help with our ecommerce website, our conversion rates were pathetic. Jon MacDonald and his team surveyed the situation and recommended several conversion optimization modifications for testing. Consequently, our conversion rates began climbing rapidly. The result on ROI was spectacular. If you’re fortunate enough to work with The Good, get ready for growth!

Would you like to see reviews like that on your website? Then work out a process to help the reviewer turn out simple, effective, testimonials with ease.

People want to help you. Your job is to show them how to do that conveniently. Give them a template to follow, and they’ll love you for it.

Time the request appropriately

Whether you’re asking for a review via email, telephone, letter, or in person, it’s important to give the customer time to get benefits from the purchase. Don’t wait too long, though, or the impact of how smooth and enjoyable the transaction was will not be as fresh.

Soon after a purchase isn’t the only time to ask for a review, though. You could build the request into your response to positive feedback, for instance, or launch a review-acquisition campaign via social media.

What should you do if you ask, but there’s no response? Ask again!

Respond to reviews

When a customer takes time to leave a review, you should take time to acknowledge that review and express your gratitude. Treat your online store and online customers the same as you treat visitors to your local store or office.

When someone says “Your products and service are fantastic. I tell all my friends about you!”, don’t you take time to thank that person?

If you bought something at a local store and told the manager how thrilled you are with the business, wouldn’t you be a bit put off if you didn’t receive a reply, even a simple “Thank you”?

When you show your appreciation, customers respond in kind. When you fail to acknowledge your customers’ input, though, don’t expect them to keep coming back for long.

How to Deal With Bad Online Reviews

Negative reviews are part of the price of doing business. There will always be complaints – sometimes without justification. While you can’t escape criticism, you can certainly employ wise and tactful ways of dealing with it.

While you can’t escape criticism, you can certainly employ wise and tactful ways of dealing with it. Share on X

Learn from your critics

When someone levies a complaint about your ecommerce website, products, or services, don’t go into instant denial mode and strike back (perhaps igniting an online firestorm).

Stop, breathe, and listen.

Perhaps there is some truth in the negative statement.

First look for a point of agreement. If nothing else, you should definitely be able to affirm that both you and the complainer expect your products and services to be well worth the price.

There’s no more important skill to impress upon your staff than that of listening to learn.

Respond appropriately

Always take the high road approach to a dispute. Never roll in the mud with the critic. Respond respectfully to the person and to the situation. Admit your part in the matter, and promise to immediately correct the mistake. Then do it.

If you don’t think you deserve the attack, then say so… but also ask for clarification. Make it clear that you want to get to the bottom of the issue and will take quick action to correct any problem.

Where possible and appropriate, move the complaint to a different means of communication (phone call, email, direct messaging, e.g.), rather than continuing to discuss the issue in public.

Make liberal use of jiu-jitsu

Martial arts practitioners learn to turn the force of an attack against the attacker. While you don’t want to transform the complaint into a personal battle royal, you can often find ways to turn a negative into a positive.

If you sell tires, for instance, and someone complains about your high prices, you could use the event as an opportunity to point out that there are things in life so important that consumers are wise to pay attention to quality.

You sell tires with your customers’ safety in mind. Moreover, when the cost of your tires is compared to the longevity and reliability of cheap tires, yours aren’t so expensive after all.

Rightly viewed, negative reviews are simply additional opportunities to increase goodwill and highlight the benefits of your products.

Negative reviews are opportunities to increase goodwill & highlight benefits of your products. Share on X

Online Review Management – The Bottom Line

We’re not ignoring the strategic potential online reviews give your competitors. It’s easy to plant criticisms or purposely try to harm others by making hurtful remarks or spreading lies online.

Proper online review management includes a number of sticky questions that must be addressed in your strategic plan:

  • Will you filter or otherwise censor reviews and remove those that are offensive in some way?
  • Will you state which reviews are from those actual customers and which are not?
  • Who makes the final decision on questionable reviews, and what are the criteria for deciding when a review needs attention?
  • Will you provide incentives for reviews? If so, will you acknowledge the practice?
  • How will you handle reviews by employees? Will you discourage or encourage them? Will the employee status be revealed?

Prepare a set of guidelines that spell out your policies, and make sure your employees,especially the customer service staff, are versed in them.

The best way to get favorable online reviews is to make sure you deserve them. Share on X

The Internet has a way of exposing those who depend on hype and pretense to build business. The best way to get favorable online reviews is to make sure you deserve them.

To get help with finding weak spots in your ecommerce or lead generation presentation, get your complimentary Stuck Score™ from The Good.

Let us help you boost conversion rates and grow revenue.

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Jon MacDonald smiling at the camera for The Good

About the Author

Jon MacDonald

Jon MacDonald is founder and President of The Good, a digital experience optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest companies including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Verizon, Intel and more. Jon regularly contributes to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc.