Online Reputation: How to Monitor and Respond to Customer Reviews

how to monitor online reviews for retailers

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Online reviews expose your small business reputation in various places across social media.

While thinking about writing this post about how to monitor your online reputation, I recalled an afternoon when I was in the quad at Woodrow Wilson Jr. High, and Marnie James breathlessly asked me, “Do you know what Ben is saying about you?”

I had to know.

While that turned out to be nothing, customers are talking about and submitting their reviews about your retail store to various online social media networks.

Do you know what your customers are saying?

While you hope it’s nothing, knowing makes all the difference between competing and closing your doors. According to

  • 84% of Americans say online reviews influence their decision to purchase.
  • 97% of review readers find the review they read to be accurate. A few bad reviews can quickly drive away business.

There are several places where they’ll talk about you and post their reviews. One is Facebook, where two billion people hang out throughout the day.

Your buyers can share their negative or positive reviews on Twitter, Angle's, Foursquare or LinkedIn, - even make a video about their experience with your brand on YouTube.

If you are a hotel, TripAdvisor boasts 100 million users. Yelp, which used to be mostly restaurants, now has reviews for many businesses and services.

In fact, a study from Harvard Business School revealed a direct correlation between Yelp star ratings and business revenues.

Why the upturn?

New shoppers are increasingly going online on their smartphones or other devices and checking reviews before purchasing. Even though they may not know the reviewers on Yelp or some other networks, the more stars and positives, the more likely they are to shop with you.

That’s a game-changer because just a few years ago, shoppers would trust the direct mailer you distributed throughout the neighborhood. Now, they’ll check before visiting.

That’s why you must monitor what they say, good or bad.

Monitoring Your Online Reputation

So you understand you need to know what posters are posting, but how do you do it? Set up an automated alert to send you whenever your business is reviewed or mentioned on the web. I use Google Alerts:

While you can set it to send a compilation weekly or once a day, I prefer to set it to “as it happens,” as things can get out of hand quickly and go viral. On a side note, you can also set one up for a competitor, a shopping center you are considering becoming a tenant of, or a major product line you carry.

You should also set up an alert on Twitter to let you know when your business is mentioned in a Tweet. Twitter is especially important for your online reputation because people with smartphones use Twitter all the time.

Your clients are likely already using Twitter, and you want to pay attention to what they say. If you use TweetDeck, you can add a column for your business name with a hashtag in front of it. (For me, it is #theretaildoctor.)

A good site for this, even if you’re not on Twitter, is Tweetbeep a site that can email you alerts.

Still not sure you are monitoring as many sites as you should? Ask your shoppers what Internet sites they use to find businesses like yours.

Responding to Negative Reviews

Customers gripe for many reasons. Maybe they weren't waited on fast enough, or maybe a coupon expired, and your assistant didn't honor it.

The good news is that when they do—since you've set up the alerts—you can respond with an online message that prospective clients can see.

And thwart their impact.

Posting a response shows you are listening to your buyers and taking action. Write your post in words that directly address the complaining poster's concerns.

You also want to personalize your message with words such as, “I own the business with my wife Mary and we are sorry to hear you had a bad experience, Joe." Your post should also note that you thank them for their feedback and tell them how you are improving whatever the reviewer deemed unsatisfactory.

If serious, invite the buyer to contact you and include your email address or phone number. It shows you are trying. Like in your store, a carefully written response can turn a negative situation into a positive one. You can even turn an angry person into a raving fan.

Yes, there are “haters” out there who love to vent online. Since they have a free forum, they love to tell everyone they were wronged. When you respond to them, tell those negative reviewers that you took their comments seriously and are working to improve your business.

Don't encourage them. When you look at negative reviews as informal shopper surveys that help you identify and rectify business problems, you can welcome the chance to respond rather than sweat the review.

Make sense?

Responding to Bogus Reviews

Let’s face it: Some reviews could be from a competitor or someone looking to get a discount on their next item.

That’s why you need to respond. But be polite like one owner I know who ended his comment with, “I encourage viewers to read the other 100+ reviews who gave us five stars.”

Some people will give you a bad review in hopes that you will contact them with deals such as half off a future purchase.

Don't take the bait, or you’ll be riddled with negative comments looking for the same deal. Instead, post a reasonable response that conveys your actions to provide an exceptional experience.

Responding to Positive Customer Reviews

Like your employees, we often notice what went wrong. But you also need to notice when fans rave about you, just like an employee who excels for you.

A simple "Thanks so much for the compliment” may do for a general compliment, but to personalize the response, take time to address any specific topics the buyer has mentioned.

Bonus tip: You could also use these tips to respond to commenters on your blog or Facebook Fan page.

Adding Juice to Your Customer Reviews

Print out your good reviews and post them on a wall in your store, maybe under a headline such as "Raving Fans of Our Business."

Copy them to your website and to your Facebook page, as well. Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to ask people to post good reviews in a follow-up email or even at the cash register.

Again, don’t offer rewards for doing so.

Consumer groups, as well as online sites, aren't keen on that. While Google Alerts is the one I use to monitor my online reputation since it’s free, you may want to check out some of these as well: Chatmeter or Steprep.

In Sum

Managing your online reputation isn’t hard, but it does require your attention when researching how to attract customers. Please read some of our customer success reviews here.

Otherwise, you won’t know what people say about you online until you need them, and they stay home…typing.


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