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Top 10 Tips on Managing Small Business Online Reviews

Top 10 Tips on Managing Small Business Online Reviews

Customer reviews are one of the most trusted ways for people to vet a product or service. In fact, 84% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as they trust their friends’ personal opinions. Each review for your hotel, resort, restaurant, or other business is a calling card, and while you may not be able to control what consumers say about you, you can control the response. And the right response (to both positive and negative reviews) can establish your reputation, setting the tone for future customers making future buying decisions with you.

Below are our top 10 tips on managing small business online reviews, to help you put your best foot forward.

1. Be genuine.

Don’t be afraid to be human! Always sign your name and title to online reviews as an added level of transparency, and always apologize when it is appropriate to do so. When a customer’s issue can be resolved, or a more detailed apology is warranted, offer to reach out for further discussion. It’s okay to admit to a mistake and vow to make things right. Taking the issue offline can result in a happier customer, who may take a negative review down or even edit it to be a glowing positive.

2. Say thank you.

Sometimes this simple act is overlooked! Customers don’t have to take the time to leave a review, especially positive ones, and when they do so, thank them for taking the time out of their day to gift your business or service with their endorsement. Also, thank customers for their insights and feedback when the review is negative. You want to be seen as open to constructive criticism.

3. Respond to ALL reviews, and in a timely manner.

Businesses that only respond to negative reviews risk appearing ungrateful for the positive ones (see above) and those that only respond to positive one's risk looking like they are avoiding the negatives. Show future customers that you care about everyone. Ideally, all reviews should be answered within 24-48 hours. An online reputation management company can assist with this (see below).

4. Let the customer’s tone inform yours.

If the customer is casual, mirror this in your answer (part of that ‘being human’ thing). If the customer is formal, respond in kind. It’s okay to play off the reviewer’s tone, and even joke with the customer when appropriate. When the tone is angry, take the high road. Never engage in a back-and-forth as to who is right or wrong, and when you disagree about a customer’s experience, simply expressing condolences that the experience did not go as intended is a much better option than arguing.

Ensure unhappy customers feel heard by validating their concerns and mirror their complaints without repeating any negative keywords. For example, if the customer mentions bed bugs, it’s possible to validate this without repeating the negative keyword. Use ‘less than ideal experience’, or ‘less than fortunate encounter’ instead of ‘bed bugs'.

5. Keep it personal.

If the customer mentions celebrating a milestone or event, congratulate them, or compliment their family member’s accomplishment. If they mention being at your hotel or resort for a family emergency or illness, humanize the experience by offering your condolences on the circumstances of their stay. If they mention that they stayed with you on business, invite them back for a vacation.

Don’t be afraid to address the customer personally if you or another member of your team had a positive personal interaction. “It was a pleasure to greet you on your way out of our dining establishment to learn about your meal” is a great way to let future customers know they can expect personalized attention and a human touch.

6. Put a spin on the concept of the ‘compliment sandwich’.

Start your response by mirroring a positive the customer noted about their experience. If there was nothing positive mentioned, start by simply thanking the customer for the review. Then address any negative issues and end the response with another positive. Again, if no positives were mentioned, this is the chance to invite the customer back for a better experience or to wish them safe and happy travels in the future.

7. Take advantage of ‘free advertising’.

Just because the customer didn’t mention the happy hour menu doesn’t mean you can’t. Express that you hope they discovered the excellent value offered at the bar every day from 4 pm to 6 pm, for example, or mention that you hope their server introduced them to their favorite light bites available during happy hour. This is your chance to advertise all you offer to future customers.

And for negative reviews, this is your opportunity to show future customers the level of care and attention you provide to customers who are not happy or need further support. Statements such as ‘we trust our front desk team proved prompt in providing the extra towels you needed as soon as they were made aware of your situation’ can go a long way.

Other tips on managing small business online reviews, it doesn't need to be expensive.

8. Let future customers know what they can expect.

Review responses are your calling card! Potential customers pay attention to responses, especially to those negative reviews. They want to know: will the hotel take care of me if I have a problem? Is this restaurant attentive to customers’ needs, or do they avoid responding? Addressing negative reviews directly and compassionately can give future customers the confidence in your service they need to book their stay or make their reservation.

9. Keep it professional.

This means using proper grammar and punctuation, of course, but a professional response goes beyond this. Your attitude in your response allows future customers to sense the vibe and culture they can expect at your hotel or restaurant. That vibe is up to you…be it casual or formal. Either option (and anything in between) can still be professional, as long as you are consistent and in tune with the customer’s tone as well (as explained above).

10. Hire an online reputation management company.

Still overwhelmed? Online reputation management companies such as The Reputation Lab can take the burden off your shoulders and provide the tone, professionalism, and swift response time you need.

To learn more about how we can help your hotel, restaurant or other consumer-facing venture create, implement, and manage a reputation management strategy, we invite you to send us an email through our secure contact form or call us at 855-979-6800. For those wishing to manage reviews on their own, our The Reputation Lab platform is an all-in-one dashboard that aggregates reviews, provides sentiment analysis, sends alerts and reporting, manages your local listings, and the platform even provides an AI tool for responding to reviews.


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