Online Reviews in 2017: Turning Challenges into Opportunities

We will remember 2016 as the year of post-truth and a deluge of online negativity. As a business, you may feel insulated from these trends, but you should face the truth: they are widespread, they penetrate your online reviews, and they affect your business profoundly. Here is why you should care about this challenge and how to turn it into an opportunity.

First of all, it helps to think of online reviews are your word-of-mouth, grassroots ad campaign. An overwhelming majority of customers turn away from media and base purchasing decisions on past buyers’ reviews. If they see bad ratings, they shop elsewhere. This is how online reviews are the digital equivalent to word-of-mouth advertising – that desirable, low-cost, high-yield kind of promotion reserved for the best products and brands. You can make it into the big league with a twofold strategy: managing bad reviews and soliciting more good reviews.

Bad reviews are a fact of life, and they have the nasty tendency to stick out even in a sea of positivity. There are two general kinds of bad review: the objective expression of customer discontent and the juvenile, petty, overly bitter rant. The latter is especially irksome, but both of them require customer support to keep a friendly and civil tone and react quickly and professionally.

Businesses have to concentrate their efforts on either fixing the problem (if the complaint is warranted) or managing the customer’s unmet expectations (if the complaint stems from a misunderstanding about the product or service you provide). The general rule is to stay out of all mud fights. Some customer support representatives may score points by trolling juvenile bad reviewers, but a business will always lose some face in the general case.

Online review management is not all about putting out fires, though. In fact, amassing positive reviews is a much bigger task. Businesses go to great lengths to engage their customers and weave an online community which is replete with positivity and dialogue. It starts with soliciting positive reviews from satisfied customers; it can then evolve organically into a support community where you merely get to look on and occasionally moderate the conversation.

Once the positive words are in, it is just as important to display them prominently! Let them do their word-of-mouth job in attracting new customers who, in turn, become positive reviewers and helpful community members.

Online review management, when done right, offers tremendous opportunities. Knowing the where’s and how’s of it pays off handsomely, especially today, so don’t wait up; get ahead!