Marketers and reputation management leaders across the U.S. are facing an uptick of negative online reviews, questioning the ways they adjusted operations to manage the health crisis. And according to BrightLocal, 46% of consumers always read responses if they read reviews, up from 29% in 2018.
In service industries, therefore, brands must be visibly dedicated to great customer service during a crisis. That means using review responses to ensure future customers see your dedication to protecting their health.
In this post, we explore strategies and templates for responding to reviews during the COVID-19 pandemic and any potential PR crisis.
Responding to Reviews in a Crisis
Responding to negative reviews is difficult in the best of times. These are not the best of times.
But the essential instructions for negative review responses in a crisis remains the same:
- Address the customer’s problem.
- Offer a formal apology or explanation.
- Demonstrate commitment to solving the problem.
- Offer contact info or outline steps toward solution.
The COVID-19 pandemic is adding volatility to potential public relations crises. In 2020, your review responses require additional considerations:
- Empathize pathologically. As Jay Baer said in a recent Binary Fountain webinar, every aspect of a customer’s relationship with your business has changed. Understanding the reviewer’s point of view is key to closing the knowledge gap and gaining the trust of those reading your response.
- Be honest. COVID-19 changed things in a hurry, and your business is still figuring out the best ways to adjust. But remember that your review response should explain the problem, not excuse it.
- Build an FAQ page. Link to a coronavirus FAQ page in responses to reviews with common concerns to save time for your staff. But don’t forget to personalize it.
In all responses, reassure customers that your business is following guidelines from the CDC, state and local guidelines, and trusted sources. This way, you’re using negative reviews as an opportunity to reaffirm safety measures.
COVID-19 Crisis Review Response Examples
Today’s customers know authenticity when they see it. But especially during a crisis, you should use customizable review response templates for efficient review management.
Brands should prepare for their safety measures to be questioned in negative reviews. These could include wearing a mask, disagreeing with facility policies, not being able to see someone in person, or a different check-in/checkout process.
Use customer feedback and search trends to anticipate your customers’ top concerns and create response templates. Be prepared to answer these questions, among others:
- What precautionary measures have you taken to protect customers and employees?
- Are you revising business or store hours?
- Have any locations or service lines closed temporarily?
- Should I email, call, use your website or use a third-party app for scheduling and information?
- How do you handle cancellation and rescheduling of appointments?
Don’t forget to monitor employee reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, as well. Understanding their concerns about your COVID-19 adjustments can fuel employee satisfaction improvements.
You can also deploy employee surveys to find and solve problems before they impact your employer brand ratings.
Respond Across Review Platforms
It’s not enough to respond to reviews on one or two platforms. Your brand needs a voice in every place your customers talk about your business, including Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and industry-specific review sites. Using review management tools with assignment and approval features can keep your messaging consistent across your brand’s locations and listings.
New reviews returned to Google in May, along with the ability to respond to Google reviews, after being suspended during the initial COVID-19 outbreak. Your responses should always comply with Google’s local content policy.
On social media, your responses to comments and reviews – such as Facebook Recommendations – will send a message to other followers that you care about the customer experience. Most social media sites won’t remove a negative post unless it violates your rights or content policy, but the author might be willing to do so if you respond well.
Meanwhile, generating more positive reviews can help quell a crisis online. Run testimonial campaigns on the review sites that matter most to your brand to outweigh negative comments with positive ones.
Monitor, Respond, Generate
Not every negative review or PR crisis can be avoided – especially as COVID-19 throws wrenches into businesses’ daily operations. Paying attention to the online conversation around your brand and proactively addressing customer concerns can prevent things from boiling over.
Sort through potential crises with review monitoring and social media listening tools to determine the urgency and tone of responses. Engaging customers quickly and understanding the root cause of problems will add a protective layer to your online reputation.
How you respond to reviews in a crisis is up to you. How you respond quickly, across all your locations and listings, is up to Binary Fountain. Book a free demo to learn more about our review management platform.
For more on review management and crisis management, read these posts:
- Tracking Coronavirus Search Trends on Google – October 2020
- 2020 Healthcare Consumer Insight & Digital Engagement Survey
- Lessons from COVID-19: Using Local Business Listings for Crisis Management
- How Baptist Health Increased Review Volume by 320% in 6 Months
About the Author
Content Marketing Specialist