Reputation is everything to businesses, especially in the online world where word of mouth spreads like wildfire. This “Megaphone effect” – where anyone with a computer or mobile device can be read by thousands of people everywhere – has changed the rules of the game: while advertisers are not seen as objective, consumers frequently turn to online reviewers to assist in their decision-making process. So, how to make this new situation work for you? Based on their investigations of online review sites such as Yelp, IESE Prof. Mario Capizzani, together with Profs. Ravi Shanmugam, Edward McQuarrie and Shelby McIntyre of Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business, have gathered together a few tips on how businesses can best manage their online reviews:
Don’t turn your back. Always stay on top of who is saying what about you online. Take it as immediate feedback and consider whether it is appropriate to modify or improve your product/service.
Encourage customer reviews. Buzz begets more buzz. See below for tips.
Co-opt vs. Confront. Negative reviews are inevitable, so try to address them appropriately:
- Often the best way is to respond both on and off-line (brief online response so he/she doesn’t feel ignored, with an invitation to continue the conversation offline)
- Never request that a reviewer take down a complaint. You can encourage them to write new reviews based on the follow-up experience instead.
- Avoid engaging in heated public debates with trolls.
Give them something positive to talk about. Negative reviews will eventually get buried.
Identify the noteworthy rants and raves. In Yelps, the Pareto principle applies: 20% of the reviewers write 80% of the reviews. Most of them are generally not ranting. If the rant has been written by one of the most frequent contributors, it merits closer attention.
How to encourage customer reviews
The authors found that while some people do share their opinions online for purely altruistic purposes, the majority of reviewers decide to share an opinion in order to gain some form of status on the Internet. With this in mind, to help engage a review sites audience you should:
- Give feedback (e.g.: Yelp asks users “Was this review useful, funny or cool?”) Researchers found that this system is key to incentivizing novice reviewers to continue producing reviews.
- Strengthen loyalty assigning special status to top reviewers (e.g. Yelp’s Elite Squad or TripAdvisor’s Senior Reviewer status.) Honors systems provide reviewers with affirmation, praise and appreciation.
- Provide readership stats for reviewers – it feeds reviewers’ appetite for an audience if they know how many clicks their reviews are getting.
- Offer rewards for review production: for example Amazon Vine rewards its top most-trusted reviewers by giving them free merchandise for review.
- Encourage niches (e.g. TripAdvisor has Destination Experts.) Aligning expert reviewers with select categories may help consumers to filter their choices and get more accurate recommendations
This article was written by IESE Business School from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.