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When, Why, and How You Should Respond to Older Customer Reviews

New research continues to provide strong evidence that customers expect local businesses to respond to reviews. In turn, businesses that respond to reviews are perceived to care about their customers, and that responding to reviews even has the ability to improve the opinion of the business with prospective customers.

This still leaves a question of, “How and when should businesses invest their time and effort in answering older reviews?”

The first item to keep in mind is that review responses are generally not written for the benefit of the reviewing customer. It’s true that some systems send the response directly to the original customer (this is not yet the case with Google) to help the business explain/apologize for a negative review or express gratitude for a positive one.

The primary benefit of a review response is to communicate to all future customers that the company actively listens to its customers, cares about its customer’s experiences, and is making/has made strides to improve/resolve the issue that generated the original complaint.

Here is a short list of some of the considerations we are documenting in our new E-Book, The Complete Guide to Local Reputation Management.

1. Responding to Local Reviews from a New Source
You may have been responding to Facebook and Yelp ratings and reviews for years, but now you need to adjust your processes to embrace new customer sources and the increasing tendency to have reviews assigned to locations instead of the corporate entity. Google, in particular, is driving this trend with over 50 Million Local Guides setting the reputation of millions of business locations throughout the world.

Since customers may be seeing just the reviews of nearby locations, businesses need to be certain that they have at least a few visible responses for each of their locations, even if they need to respond to older ratings to demonstrate their commitment to service.

2. New Systems or Process that Fix Past Issues
Companies should be looking for opportunities to connect current business improvements to any past issues. If a new reservation system is launched, the company should mine any past reviews with complaints about reservation snafus. If a new onboarding or training class is established, companies should look for past service complaints that might have been the result of a lack of staff knowledge.

Providing responses such as “We are very sorry for your experience with {enter short detail recap}. We are committed to an exceptional customer experience and have recently initiated an extended training program to make certain that each and every customer receives {some specific detail about company.}

Scattering a few of these responses across locations will give new prospective customers a strong sense of progress on the part of the company to combat any past issues and the impression that their future experiences will be better than that of past customers. This also shows customers that their feedback is, in fact, leading to positive change within the business – even if customer feedback wasn’t the driver of the change.

3. New Advertising Campaigns
Before your company launches a new advertising campaign you should scrub past reviews to look for anything that might be in direct conflict with the focus of the message.

For example, if you are about to launch a campaign focused on timely shipping and delivery service during the holidays. You need to examen any past reviews that present issue regarding the timing of services. You may find a host of angry customers screaming about how you ruined the holidays with delayed deliveries. What the reviewers don’t share is a description of the horrendous weather that was the true root of the issue. By responding to the old ratings with an explanation of the unpreventable circumstance you have acknowledged the feedback and prevented future customers from thinking that the prior experience is a reflection of normal business practices, which could limit the effectiveness of the upcoming campaign.

More Insights On The Way…
We look forward to providing more insight in the full Ebook, releasing just in time for the start of the new year.

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