Should You Respond to that Negative Yelp Review?

October 29 — A new study from San Francisco-based Uberall Inc. suggests you should. According to the results of its Customer Review Report, over half of consumers surveyed (65 percent) believe brands should respond to customer reviews.

While consumers are the ones posting online customer reviews, brands are closely monitoring what’s being said. Those consumers who feel brands should respond to online reviews believe they should respond every time, whether the review is positive or negative. In addition, 18 percent believe they should respond only when the review is negative, while 10 percent feel they should never respond and 6 percent think they should only respond when the review is positive.

“It’s critical for brands to have a proactive voice in these conversations,” said Josha Benner, co-founder of Uberall.

When asked how personalized a brand’s response should be to a customer review, 78 percent said that there should be some personalization. Forty-nine percent said responses should be “somewhat personalized,” while 29 percent said “very personalized.” Just 13 percent said “not very personalized” and 9 percent said “not personalized.”

“People simply aren’t going to be satisfied with a generic response,” Benner said. “Some individualization is required to show that the brand cares about the customers. These results perfectly demonstrate why platforms like Google and Yelp spend so much energy on enforcing that businesses post personal responses versus generic, meaningless ones.”

The vast majority of consumers (86 percent) reported that they would be more likely to choose a business that responds to online reviews (47 percent: somewhat more likely, 39 percent more likely). Only 8 percent of consumers said they would be “somewhat less likely to frequent such a business, and the number reporting responses to online reviews would make it unlikely they would visit such an establishment was 6 percent.

“Consumers prefer businesses who care about them, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that personal responses to reviews show just that to consumers who research a business,” said Benner. “Responding to reviews is great for brand perception, which leads to more new customers and repeat business from existing ones.”

What makes all of this even more important is this fact: 57 percent of respondents stated they at least occasionally check customer reviews when deciding where to take their patronage, and 19 percent reported they do this “all the time.” Only 17 percent check and 7 percent check reviews “rarely” or “very rarely”, respectively.

“Most people are checking review to pick where to go,” said Benner. “Virtually 20 percent are checking them all the time, while almost 60 percent do so with some regularity. I anticipate that there will be a greater growth for those who always check as more brands invest in driving eyeballs to their reviews, given the ROI they can deliver.”

Asked about the importance of online customer reviews, 74 percent cited them as either “moderately important” (40 percent) or “very important” (34 percent). Just 20 percent believe them to be “slightly important”, and only 6 percent felt they were “not important.”

“Customer reviews are important, period,” said Benner. “Three-quarters of those surveyed said they were either very or fairly influential. With so many options out there, you live or die based on ratings.”

The idea of constitutes a positive review varies. The survey found that 39 percent of consumers consider “4.0 and up” a positive review. “A plurality of people think a positive review has to be a 4.0 or up,” said Benner. “This isn’t a surprise. Brands need to keep this in mind when evaluating their online presence. If you have a location with a rating under 4.0, that’s not good enough anymore.”

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