Is your business review site savvy? How online reviews changed the face of retail

“The range of products was really good, the shop was well presented and things were easy to find. The staff were mostly friendly, but there was one staffer in the crankbait aisle picking his nose – three stars out of five.”

How many of you would read these words with horror and angst as you watch your overall rating on an online reviews site take a 0.002% tumble? Maybe not all of us, but there is one thing that is certain: the internet and review websites can put huge pressure on just about any business that deals with the public.

The ability we all now have to easily turn our frustrations with a service or businesses into a scathing online review is just one part of the brave new world that technology has created. It has pros and it has cons – but whatever you think about it, you had better damn well prepare your business for it.

Jorg Meijer is the Sales Manager for one of the Netherlands’ biggest fishing tackle chain stores, Raven Hengelsport. His company has its own specific strategy for tackling the review minefield.

“We have many meetings about this subject. Everyone in our company knows that we could have bad reviews. Also everyone knows that they cannot respond with their own private account. If one of the employees notices a bad review, then the customer services team will be informed to react.”

This process mainly revolves around Trustpilot for Raven, but Jorg admits they also carefully analyze Google and Facebook reviews. This completely new chapter added to the book of how to run a retail business is something to be taken seriously, with potentially great or grave consequences.

“More and more customers will read the reviews about a product or company before they buy anything,” he says.

“The opinions of other customers are becoming more important and I think that if there are a lot of positive reviews, that it gives a lot of trust in a product or company. So, it has changed the face of retail because the customers can help each other. Also, companies can use the reviews for their own good to promote the positive reviews and work on their customer service.”

This video is in Dutch, but it gives an insight into one of Raven Hengelsport’s newest tackle shops.

The old quote goes: “It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it,” and online review websites have made it far more likely that those five minutes could happen to your business. Or have they? The sheer volume of online review services out there and the amount of reviews mean that a bad review doesn’t necessarily have the same impact on your business as it might once have.

If you were a small independent tackle shop ten or 15 years ago, one bad customer experience could have meant a reputation-breaking anecdote spread like wildfire through the local community, leading folk to stay away or try an alternative store. In the modern world, we are so used to perusing reams and reams of online reviews for products, services and businesses, that their impact tends to be watered down. We also should consider that many people in life love to moan and that those who are checking online reviews before making a buying decision probably take negative reviews with a pinch of salt. Don’t believe me? Try searching for the one star reviews of the Grand Canyon on TripAdvisor. Reviews such as “Very disappointing 5 hour drive for a hole in the ground,” prove that even the most negative of one star reviews are often founded on expectations and values that don’t necessarily meet your own.

The dos and don’ts of managing online reviews

  • Do reply to ALL reviews

Of course, it goes without saying that you should address negative reviews, even if that is just to show publicly that you have and ask the complainant to contact you privately. An unanswered negative review can speak its own volumes.

  • Don’t reply straight away

No one likes getting bad reviews, they are emotive, so don’t let your emotions interfere with your response. Take an hour to cool off so you can respond in a more measured way that will not do more harm than good.

  • Don’t get into a shouting match

This can easily happen if you don’t obey the previous point. It’s terrible customer service to get into an argument with a disgruntled customer, even worse so to do it in a public domain.

  • Do promote a good overall score

Don’t see review sites as the enemy. If you have an overall good score (which is very likely if you run your business well) then shout about it. Put it on your website, include it in your email newsletters, shout it from the proverbial rooftops.

  • Do make your staff aware that online reviews are important

Get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet – online reviews are important to your business so make sure your staff are aware of that and that their customer service standards match accordingly.

  • Don’t overdo it

Make sure you’re not pushy with reviews. There’s nothing more irritating to a customer than you begging them to leave a good review – it irks them and makes them far less likely to do it. Let it happen naturally.