Long-time readers of our blog might remember an article we published last year covering four of the most common review management mistakes. In it, we discussed issues like prioritizing the wrong review platforms, responding to customers with generic language, and failing to respond to reviewers within an appropriate time-frame. More importantly, we also shared practical solutions to each of those problems, such as customizing your replies and using a review response service that guarantees 24-hour turnaround.
But why, we wondered, stop there? After all, as every successful business owner knows, it’s essential to continue learning and improving if you want to deliver the best customer experience — and reap the biggest rewards for your brand.
To help sharpen up your review response strategy and kick off 2022 on the right foot, we’re sharing three more review management mistakes to avoid — plus tips on how your agency or brand can fix (or completely dodge) them. If you haven’t already, we also recommend checking out our original post on this topic, which you can read in full here.
Mistake #1: Paying for Good Reviews
Maybe your business has recently received a string of damaging reviews. Maybe the business is in a rut and needs every boost it can get to recover. Or, maybe the brand just launched and needs to start generating some positive buzz.
Whatever the situation may be, it makes total sense to get the ball rolling by paying for positive reviews — right? All you have to do is offer a discount, gift card, or exclusive item, then sit back and watch the 5-star reviews start pouring in.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
The problem with this strategy is that Google My Business, Yelp, and most other platforms all have rules that ban businesses from paying for good reviews (or offering other incentives, like freebies). Yelp is especially clear on this point, with one Support Center article (bluntly titled “Don’t Ask For Reviews”) warning businesses they should not “offer freebies, discounts, or payment in exchange for reviews,” noting that this “will turn off savvy consumers and may also be illegal.”
Yelp also takes steps to warn consumers about reviews that violate its policies, which it flags with various alerts depending on the nature of the violation. For example, if Yelp determines that a positive review has been purchased rather than earned, it will generate a “Compensated Activity Alert” (pictured in the screenshot below). If you’d rather not have your brand publicly shamed by Yelp, never incentivize your customers, friends, family, or staff members to lie about their experience with your business.
Other than making you look bad (or getting you banned) on Yelp and other platforms, purchasing positive reviews can also lead to another problem that’s even more serious for your business: the potential for FTC fines or lawsuits. Remember how Yelp used the phrase “may also be illegal” in the article we quoted? Their Support Center wasn’t exaggerating, as more than one business has learned the hard way. In 2019, one retailer was fined almost $13 million for using fake Amazon reviews — and as recently as October 2021, the FTC warned over 700 companies that using “influencers, fake reviews, and reviews by customers with connections to the company” could result in fines of over $43,000 per violation.
To learn more about why you should never purchase reviews — plus, some safer strategies for scoring positive ratings — check out our article that delves into this topic. Otherwise, here are a few quick tips.
- If you need more reviews for your business, we recommend using a review generation service that specializes in collecting customer feedback.
- If you’re already getting lots of reviews, but few of them are positive, look for recurring themes or complaints and take proactive steps to tackle them. For example, if you’re receiving numerous 1-star or 2-star reviews that complain about issues like “poor customer service” or “unhelpful staff members,” you should assess your team’s performance — not try to bury the bad reviews by purchasing fake 5-star ratings.
Mistake #2: Neglecting Older Reviews
There’s a common misconception that only new reviews of a business matter. While it’s true that consumers attribute more value on average to recent reviews, comments up to three months old still have the power to impact buyer behavior.
This data is based on the most recent available version of BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, which was published in 2020 and surveyed over 1,000 respondents. According to the survey, “86% of consumers say they only look at reviews from the past three months, while a huge 73% say customer reviews must be from the last month to influence their choice to use a local business.” Additionally, the survey noted, “50% [of consumers] only take into account reviews from the past two weeks.”
The takeaway from this data? Though reviews inevitably lost some of their power over time, the survey authors still concluded that “older reviews aren’t completely worthless (to readers or search engines),” either. With that in mind, the most logical approach is to initially focus your resources on reviews from within the past three months, starting with the newest reviews; then, consider responding to reviews that are over three months old.
Whether the review you’re replying to is three hours old or three months old, most of the same basic rules apply: use the reviewer’s name, feature personalized content in your response, empathize with the reviewer’s experience, and open the door to a follow-up visit or chat — for instance, “We hope we’ll have the opportunity to serve you again soon, [Reviewer Name]!” or, “Please reach out to our office at [number] or [email address] so that our team can help get this resolved for you.” If an old review contains a request for help or a complaint about an issue, apologize for your delayed response and assure the reviewer that your team is there to help make things right with their past bad experience.
Ideally, you’ll never have to worry about old reviews, because your agency or brand will have a system in place to ensure all reviews receive prompt replies from your team. Shout About Us provides that system via our 24-hour response scribe service for digital agencies and brands. Paired with our secure custom dashboard, which is designed to seamlessly integrate into your clients’ current platform, our response scribe service empowers you — and your clients — to provide better service, faster. Learn more about our white label review management platform and explore the features it offers, or find out what other satisfied agencies are saying about us.
Mistake #3: Arguing with the Reviewer
Your team was courteous, prompt, and professional — but that’s not how this reviewer perceived them. Despite providing a great product or service, your business is now being unfairly and inaccurately described in a review. The customer is leaving out critical details, making baseless accusations about your staff members, or complaining about an incident you have absolutely no record of. So how do you proceed now?
Your instinct, of course, is to protect your brand’s reputation. You might feel tempted to argue, defend your actions, or otherwise give “your side of the story” in your review reply. However, while it might feel satisfying, it’s never a good idea to get snarky or defensive in your reply — even if the reviewer’s tone isn’t exactly polite. Here’s how we recommend handling this situation instead.
- Whether or not you feel the review to be warranted, you should still apologize for the poor experience and reinforce your commitment to making the customer’s issue better. That means stating you’re there to assist, offering your contact information, and asking (or encouraging) the reviewer to get in touch with you — not picking apart their review or explaining why they are wrong.
- You can defend your business — without becoming defensive. For example, you can use language like, “We are sorry to hear that you were frustrated by the response time of our maintenance staff. This is not the type of efficient service we aim to deliver to our valued residents. We understand your concerns and want to assure you our team is here to help resolve the issue with your heating promptly.” This sort of language allows you to assert that great customer service is a priority for your team, without being confrontational or minimizing the customer’s experience.
- If you think a review crosses the line into slander, libel, harassment, or abuse, you can always flag and report the comment. Just don’t abuse this option, or you’ll find yourself on the slippery slope to review censorship — which, as we’ll explore in an upcoming post, has been shown to negatively impact the businesses that engage in it.
Schedule a Demo of Our Response Scribe Service and Review Management Platform
From review marketing and automated review generation to review response and management, we offer solutions designed to help your agency or brand drive growth in any vertical. Whether your team needs an extra hand responding to reviews, you want to gain actionable insights about your business, or you’re looking for ways to increase your efficiency by using a centralized platform, our technology allows you to monitor client listings across 100+ directories, with more available upon request.
Find out why Smart Link Solutions, V Digital Services, CallSource, Qebot, and other agencies trust Shout About Us to manage their clients’ online reviews at thousands of businesses across the U.S. Book a demo of our platform to learn more.
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than seven years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.