Thursday 10 May 2018

Responding to reviews - what can you hard-nosed business people learn from a ballerina?

She left her home in Argentina at the age of fifteen, to train at Royal Ballet School. She is universally acknowledged at one of the greatest ballerinas of our time. But we can be pretty sure she has not had much training in marketing or social media - so what can Marianela Nunez teach us business folk?

Let us begin by telling you a story: last night a HelpHound staffer attended a performance of Marguerite and Armand by the Royal Ballet. Being a keen fan of ballet in general and Ms Nunez in particular our staffer follows her on Instagram. Let's be clear about this - she did not invite this person to follow her, they just 'did', as you do on Instagram. But they posted their congratulations on her performance, not at the end of the evening, but during the interval. What do you suppose happened next? 

This happened next...

...and for those of you who don't use Instagram, the 'heart' is a user's way of thanking someone for their comment. Much more importantly: the thanks were posted within ten minutes of the original comment being uploaded.

Compare that with businesses and their reviews. We would rather not, but since it is an important part of our job, we will.

We reckon the average business does not respond to reviews - ever - at all. Bearing in mind that these reviews are posted by happy customers who have gone to some lengths to express that happiness - and that responding is FREE for the business - we are dumbfounded.

How about "Thanks for your kind comment and helpful suggestions"? That took all of ten seconds to type. Even better: how about addressing the criticisms? But three weeks later and...nothing. It gets worse. 

The next reviewer is doing their best to say "Don't use this company". So what does the business, with all its marketing nous and resources, say?

Nothing. No apology, no explanation. How could this be? Seriously: HOW - COULD - THIS - BE?

Let's apply all of our experience and give you some options - and our answer to those options...

  • Option 1: the business is unaware that they have the review. We see this all the time with big corporates (seldom with SMEs - a review like this rightly keeps them awake at night). So many businesses think they have reviews covered - when we meet them they say things like "Our PR people handle that side of things" - our answer? Make sure an individual within the branch is nominated an understands their responsibility. And then make sure head office has KPIs to keep the branches on their toes.
  • Option 2: the business doesn't know how to respond. They may have lost their G+ log in details (often the person that set up their G+ account has left). Solution: ask us for our simple step-by-step memo and our help to recover the lost log-in.
  • Option 3: a negative attitude to reviews. All people who write reviews are either 'idiots with too much time on their hands' (positives) or 'keyboard warriors with impure motives' (negatives). This reason for ignoring reviews - and not responding - is more common than some might imagine - but it flatly goes against all the evidence that consumers now rely more heavily on reviews than ever before. Solution: a fundamental shift in the business's attitude and approach to reviews needs to happen.
  • Option 4: Failing to understand that the simple act of responding to reviews makes it less likely that someone will post a negative review in future. Action: try it - prove it for yourself, it's true.

...and, most important of all...

  • Option 5: Failing to understand that a good showing in reviews, which consists not only of getting great reviews but in responding to those reviews in a timely manner, drives business through the door.
And, by 'timely' what exactly do we mean? How about 'within an hour of receiving the email from Google alerting you to the review's appearance?

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