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When it comes to Google Reviews, small business owners get a lot of advice about how to reply to them — but not so much about how to respond. What’s the difference? Replying is about the written reply you send. Responding is about what your business does internally to improve in response to reviews.
Whatever your industry, successful business today is about agility. In the last year, we’ve seen how quickly things can change. Even outside of COVID-19, digital growth is accelerating the pace of change. To build a responsive and adaptive business, you have to put your finger on the pulse and move fast. Google reviews can help you do that.
However, as a small business, you may struggle with garnering the experience or adequate resources to manage your reviews. So, to help you out, we’re answering common FAQs on how to set up a simple internal structure to make your business more responsive.
The guide starts with the basics of managing your Google reviews and shares some ideas as to how you can use your reviews to give your customers what they really want.
It’s not enough to check your reviews once in a while and respond with a “thank you” message. You need to put in place a system to respond to Google Reviews. This doesn’t mean you need to hire a team. It only means that either you or someone else in your team should check it twice or thrice a week, at a scheduled time.
As the business head, you should standardise the procedure for responding to reviews. Even if it’s you who’ll be managing the reviews, you need to put in place a protocol. This will help you on days when you are busy, travelling, or are unwell to manage them.
The primary reason for putting a system in place is that businesses can’t afford to ignore Google Reviews. Those who leave a positive review will feel appreciated when you thank them. Importantly, you need to reply to the negative reviews too. You have to let them know what steps you’re taking to address the concern if it’s legitimate.
Finally, there’ll be another group of reviews that will be questions. These are individuals who’re using the platform to ask you about your product or service, working hours, discounts, new launches etc. If you don’t respond in time, they may patronise another business that’ll reach out to them.
As an independent business, you may not have the budget to conduct market research. But with Google Reviews, you’ll get invaluable customer feedback on your operation. That’ll help you guide your business strategy. Also, let’s not forget that it’s free.
You should begin by conducting a Google Review audit to know how customers view your business. You may be surprised to know what customers like about your business and what they have problems with. The audit, when done systematically, will give you important ideas on how to refine your product offerings and improve your business.
Like a financial audit reveals the performance and financial health of your business, a Google Review audit will reveal how customers perceive your business. It’s a process of systematically going through all your reviews to pick out patterns and trends.
For an audit to be effective, it’ll have to be formalised. So, you’ll have to make an Excel spreadsheet or a similar type of document. It should count the number of reviews you get, what products or services get favourable reviews, what’s disliked, and if there’s any constructive feedback.
Let’s say that you are a restaurant owner. Your Google Review audit will tell you how many times a particular dish was mentioned, how often the service was mentioned, customers’ reactions toward your prices, their views of your COVID-19 safety protocols, etc.
An analysis of this spreadsheet will show you what customers like about your restaurant, the dish they recommend, and any criticism they may have. These will give you ideas to improve your service and grow your revenue.
It depends on the number of reviews you get and the stage of your business.
Starting out: At this stage, it’s important to audit your reviews once a week. Any constructive feedback will tell you what to do more of and what to avoid. The earlier you can change, the better it’ll be for your business.
Established business: Do it once every three months to know what’s working and what needs to be corrected.
Expansion: Whether you’re launching a new menu or expanding your dry cleaning business to a new location, consider it as starting out. Audit your reviews once a week in the initial stages.
The first step is to consider how bad the review is and what the potential damage could be. Most bad reviews are simply not that bad; you can easily patch things over with the right response. However, once in a while — especially if your business is growing rapidly — you’ll get an absolute corker of a bad review. Or perhaps you’ve hit a rough patch in the road leading to a spate of negative feedback.
In this case, you can consider the following steps:
Hold a team meeting to analyse whether the complaint is credible
Consider PR management if the review is gaining traction (e.g. it was tweeted by a local watchdog or news publication)
Assess whether the staff needs more training
Examine if you need more protocols in place
See if you have to update your listing, your website, etc.
If you’re too busy to respond to them all. Outsourcing shouldn’t depend on the number of reviews. If you have other responsibilities and can’t devote the time, consider hiring a freelancer to respond to reviews.
You can establish a protocol for them whereby they’ll have to respond at least once a week. After that, you should convey the tone of response and share some examples through templates. Finally, you should ask them to forward important reviews (extremely favourable, negative, or reviews with significant suggestions) to you.
Google Reviews can help businesses build awareness and customer growth. It can also humanise your brand and make it relatable for customers. For that, small and independent businesses will have to treat responding to reviews as one of their core functions.