You already know that online reviews shape consumer behavior, with some research showing that customer feedback “influenced buying decisions” in up to 90% of people surveyed. What you might not realize is that the responses to those reviews can be just as impactful. For example, in its 2019 Local Consumer Review Survey, marketing company BrightLocal found that “among consumers that read reviews, 97% read business’ responses to reviews.” This data is significant because, as the survey also revealed, “71% of consumers say they’re more likely to use a business that has responded to their existing reviews.”
The bottom line is that online reviews — and how you approach them — can shift your company’s odds toward failure or success. While responding diligently can help you build and maintain a customer base, ignoring reviews can erode that base, eventually tearing it down altogether.
If you own, operate, or manage a business, you need to take online review responses seriously. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at three of the most important reasons why.
Why is it Important to Respond to Reviews of Your Business?
Think responding to business reviews is optional? Think again. Here are three key reasons you should always reply to online reviews, no matter what type of business you own.
Reason #1: Responding to Reviews Improves Customer Retention
As a business owner, you’ve likely considered strategies for customer acquisition, or gaining new customers, and customer retention, or keeping current customers. Though both are essential for continuing success, many companies place a disproportionate emphasis on customer acquisition, allocating their resources toward aggressive marketing campaigns while ignoring simpler, more cost-effective strategies that target existing customers.
One of these strategies is to reply to your reviews — but we’ll get to that in just a moment. First, let’s take a look at some surprising business statistics.
As Forbes reported in 2016, citing research by Bain & Company, as many as four out of five consumers — anywhere from 60% to 80% — “do not go back to do more business with the company that initially satisfied them.” These findings suggest that many companies, despite scoring high marks on customer satisfaction, are still struggling to retain customers effectively.
So why is this a problem, and why should business owners care? For two reasons:
- Poor customer retention could forecast financial failure. In 2014, Entrepreneur warned that the loss of initial customers, also known as “customer churn,” could “cause your business to crash and burn” — in part, because “you are back fishing again in expensive pools for new customer acquisition.”
- By failing to retain customers, you’re decreasing profits — and hurting your bottom line. As Forbes explained in 2018, “Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%,” again citing data from Bain & Company.
Responding to online reviews is a simple, affordable step you can actively take to retain more of your customers — who may place a higher priority on human connection than you think. In the era of mobile apps, chat bots, digital assistants, and automated phone systems, where an abundance of technology can sometimes leave consumers feeling frustrated or disconnected, the personal touch of a custom response can help you stand out as a business that truly listens and cares. By personally thanking a reviewer for feedback, you can enhance the customer’s overall experience with your company, increasing the likelihood of repeat business. After all, as we mentioned a little earlier, most consumers say they are more likely to return to businesses who replied to their reviews.
Want to create loyal customers who will return again and again? Then make sure you’re replying diligently to online reviews — and be sure to check out our other tips on increasing customer retention rates.
Reason #2: New Customers Are More Likely to Trust (and Hire) You
We’ve explained how responding to online reviews can help your business retain customers, potentially increasing profits. But while you need to keep your existing customers satisfied, you also need to reach new customers in order to continue growing.
Fortunately, customer acquisition is another area where review responses can benefit your business. By responding effectively to positive customer feedback — a task we explain how to approach step-by-step here — you’re broadcasting the message that you are a friendly, approachable company. Just as importantly, you’re conveying the message that your brand is legitimate and credible. Thoughtful, personalized responses put consumers at ease that you aren’t a scammer or bot. They may even decide to check out your website or Facebook page. This is less likely to occur if you neglect your reviews, which means only one thing: lost business opportunities.
While it may seem counterintuitive, even responding to negative reviews can help to convince consumers that your company is trustworthy. By acknowledging the dissatisfied customer with a response, rather than downplaying or skipping the bad review, not only can you potentially keep the old customer — you also signal to prospective customers that your business is reliable, responsible, and ready to help.
Think of it this way: which person is more likely to check out (and potentially hire) your business? The person who sees that you ignore all your bad reviews on Yelp? Or the person who sees that you’ve taken the time and care to address each complaint personally?
Of course, it’s essential to craft your responses carefully, which is where an experienced review responder can help you save time (and avoid stress). Whether you’re too busy, don’t know how to respond, or simply don’t like writing, our professional response scribes are here to help you manage your company’s online reviews more productively.
Reason #3: Customers Expect You to Respond
As technology has evolved, so have consumer standards — especially when it comes to communication. Customers expect you to respond to your online reviews — and if you don’t, they won’t think twice about leaping to one of your competitors instead. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Just consider recent research by ReviewTrackers, which “found that 52% of customers expect to hear back from brands within seven days of giving an online review, particularly one that’s negative or critical,” according to Social Media Today.
But don’t get too comfortable with the idea of taking a full week to reply. Not only do customers expect you to respond — many expect you to do it quickly, underscoring the need for fast turnaround when composing replies. In a 2019 survey by MyCustomer.com, which writes about ways to “improve the customer journey and enhance customer experience,” nearly 25% of the 152 respondents said they “expect a business to respond to their online review within three days.” Additionally, more than 20% said they expect a review reply “within 24 hours.”
If you still aren’t convinced that review replies are important, consider one final piece of research: in 2018, the Harvard Business Review published findings which strongly suggested that “replying to customer reviews results in better ratings” for businesses. The Harvard researchers, whose study highlighted hotel reviews, observed that “when hotels start responding [to online reviews], they receive 12% more reviews and their ratings increase, on average, by 0.12 stars.” Even more impressively, about one third of the hotels in the study “increased their rounded ratings by half a star or more within six months of their first management response.”
That may not sound like much — but in a competitive landscape where up to 87% of consumers “won’t consider businesses with low ratings,” that extra half, quarter, or even tenth of a star can help nudge your business in a better financial direction.
Need Help Responding to Online Reviews? Hire a Response Scribe from Shout About Us
From establishing yourself as a quality brand and gaining consumer trust, to fulfilling customer expectations and improving your company’s rating, there are many important reasons you should respond to online business reviews. Unfortunately, while responding to reviews is essential to success, it can also be time-consuming — particularly for companies with multiple brands or locations.
As a business owner, this places you in a difficult position. Even though you recognize the importance of responding to customer reviews, you likely don’t have time to craft hundreds or thousands of personalized responses. Shout About Us offers seamless, scalable solutions, enabling you to engage with customers while focusing on running your business.
Serving digital agencies and brands, our response scribes provide custom replies with 24-hour delivery, ensuring your customers receive prompt attention. Each response is crafted to fit your brand, your messaging, and your industry, from hospitality and food service to automotive and real estate.
Find out why Chick-fil-A, Jersey Mike’s Subs, CertaPro Painters, Wyndham Garden Hotels, PostalAnnex+, and thousands of other businesses trust Shout About Us to help manage their online reviews. Book a demo to learn more about the services we offer.
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.