Managing Online Reviews

I'm always learning. This time I got a great lesson from Bill Bergh. Bill has worked with our company for just over a year. His official role is business development but he adds so much more to our company. For me specifically, he is a mentor - I learn from him every time we sit down to chat. 

One of the challenges that all our clients call us about is how to manage online reviews. Depending on the industry a company may have to manage reviews on 3-6 websites. Examples of social media and review websites include:

  • Google+ - all companies
  • Foursquare - mostly restaurant and entertainment businesses
  • Yelp - many types of companies
  • Urbanspoon - mostly restaurant 
  • TripAdvisor - mostly hospitality and resorts
  • Facebook - all companies
  • LinkedIn - many companies
  • Homestars - mostly renovation businesses
  • Here is a longer list from Hubspot

Last week Bill drew a standard bell curve on a sheet of paper and explained how we can use this diagram to help companies manage online reviews. I was intrigued because I teach students at the School of Business at SAIT Polytechnic how to do this but I have never used a bell curve. What he drew looked something like this:

The sweet spot is on the right hand side. This side is easy to manage. People who love your business will write positive reviews without you even asking.

The area of quicksand is on the left hand side. People who have had a negative experience with your company will often pull out their Android, iPad, or iPhone and write a negative review. This can be devastating for some companies. Jay Baer describes the worst case scenario in this video called, The Power of Now (the best part is from 1:30 to 4:50).

The question then arises about what to do next. The answer is in the middle - encouraging and motivating the middle group (the majority) to write reviews. In other words, write positive reviews on top of the negative ones and push them down to the bottom of the list. It can be done!

One of our customers contacted us a couple of years ago worried that the negative reviews on multiple sites was affecting his business. Marco Abdi, the owner of La Brezza Ristorante, called me and asked me what we could do. He was sure that revenue was suffering because of the reviews on Urbanspoon (at the time his score was 67%). Reviews on Yelp weren't any better. The company had no reviews on Google+ and very few on TripAdvisor.

The group in the middle section of the bell curve will come to your rescue. This group of customers experiences your products and services but typically does not have enough of an emotional response to take the time and the effort to write a review. With this group you have to ask them to write a review and often you have to give them an incentive (a reason why).

For La Brezza Ristorante, we implemented a three step process to rectify the situation:

a) The staff in our company went for lunch and then each of us wrote a review on Urbanspoon and Yelp. We also used social media channels to give away gift certificates to friends who then went to the restaurant and wrote a review after a scrumptious meal.

b) Next we had two large parties. For the first party we invited friends who are all social media geeks. We gave them free appetizers (the chef at La Brezza cooks the best calamari in the city). Quite a few of those who attended wrote reviews at our request. We had a similar event celebrating the 10th year anniversary of our company (free wine and food). Both events were very successful from the point of view of increasing the number of reviews online. We were thrilled but we didn't want the momentum to fizzle out.

c) The last step in the process was to teach and encourage Marco and his staff to ask for reviews. To help with this process, Marco printed business sized card with instructions on how to write a review. He created different cards for different review sites and handed these out to selected customers.

The end result for La Brezza is: