Whether you love them or hate them, online reviews matter to you and your special events business. As an event producer, you should always pay attention to reviews about your event because they could impact your business if you ignore them. They could also give you a view of your event that you can’t see because you are too wrapped up in the details and planning of the event. Sometimes the closer we are to things, the harder it is to see what is really happening, especially with special events.
Keep in mind when you are responding to reviews, you need to respond with care. Even responding with good intentions can make a bad review situation worse. One of the challenges with online reviews is that once it is out there, you can’t take it back, so always respond with respect and be polite.
Why Respond to Online Reviews?
There are two main reasons to respond to online reviews. The first reason, they are your customers and you want to keep them as a customer so you need to acknowledge the issues and let them know you care. The second reason, other potential customers read online reviews and then decide to choose your business or keep shopping around. Online reviews can impact your business because people tend to blindly believe everything they read in reviews.
Tips for Responding to Bad Reviews
Don’t ignore! Read the review and digest the information. Don’t rush to respond before you do your research. Check out the validity of the complaint and the credibility of the person writing the review. You want to respond appropriately by acknowledging the problem they had, but it is important to know as much as possible about the situation before responding.
Respond in a prompt and polite manner. When I respond to reviews I always think about how I would feel if I was the customer in this situation. I also try to figure out if there is something I can do to change the reviewer’s mind. One of my favorite things about responding to reviews is that you have the chance to make an angry customer come back and like you. You have a second opportunity to make a good impression. It is fun and challenging to turn these situations around, so it feels really good when you can take an angry customer and somehow make the situation better and they become one of your fans.
Some people just want to be heard. I’ve had people call me to vent about a ton of different things throughout my event planning career. One of the biggest complaints I’ve had from some of the larger events I’ve produced is the lack of parking. There is never enough parking, that is the way it goes when you have tens of thousands of people going to an event at one time. My favorite way to handle these complaints is to first listen and make sure I completely understand their complaint and pay attention to the details. I sympathize with them because I understand where they are coming from. Then I try to tell them what we’ve done to make parking less of a problem and what we want to do to solve the problem. I also give them advice on adapting to the problem. I’ve had people call me to rip my head-off about parking problems and then at the end of the phone call they thank me for listening and for the insider tips. The most important thing is to listen. We also received these types of reviews online, so I would do my best to respond the same way as I would over the phone.
No canned responses! There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to write a review and then have someone respond like a robot saying “Please email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can learn more” and then you see that same copy and paste response on all of their reviews. Nobody wants to talk to a robot, so they probably won’t bother emailing you, but they will tell everyone how bad your company sucks in their eyes, and at that point you won’t have the opportunity to respond publicly to their complaint.
Not all reviews deserve a response. It is hard to believe, but there are a lot of crappy people out there that completely make up stories and write bad fake reviews. If you see a review that is fake you should report it or flag it on the review site. Then the site moderators will have the opportunity to analyze the review and work with you to delete it if it is a fake review.
Hide your crazy, or don’t. There is also the case of the crazy reviewer that makes no sense or is completely belligerent. If they violate the terms of the review site with threats, personal attacks, or filthy language, definitely report them so the site administrator can analyze and remove the review. If the review is so crazy it doesn’t deserve a response and other potential customers reading the review will see that it has crazy written all over it, do not validate the review with a response. My favorite example of this was when we had a guest at the hotel I worked at that wrote a scathing review about our housekeeping employees because they only left one bottle of shampoo and conditioner on the counter for the guest. The guest went on to share they were staying for two nights and complained that there should be at least five bottles of each available to her per night. Now any normal person would see that this negative review has crazy all over it and would take it with a grain of salt, or skip past that review altogether. And if the customer isn’t smart enough to read that review and see the crazy, you probably don’t want them as a customer.
What About Good Reviews?
Don’t ignore! Respond to the customer and thank them for their kind words, show your appreciation for their business, and don’t forget to tell them you look forward to serving them again in the future. It is always easier and more cost effective to keep a happy customer than to attract a new customer. People like to be acknowledged even when their review is not a complaint, so don’t be shy and make sure to say thank you.
Share the review with your employees. Show employees some appreciation for earning a great review. Offer extra kudos to any employee that is mentioned by name in the review because it is quite an honor for a customer to appreciate your service so much that they remember your name. Employees really take negative reviews to heart, so sharing the positive reviews is just as important, if not more important. I firmly believe that positive reinforcement and good reviews being shared with employees leads to more positive reviews from customers.
Find Your Own Best Practices
Develop a strategy for responding to online reviews. Consider what you want to get out of responding to reviews and what your goals are before you get started. Also, determine some guidelines to make sure responses are polite and show respect for the customers. When I was looking for inspiration in handling a particularly bad review a few years ago I found a testimonial online by a restaurant owner. He said that he responded with all of his emotions and complete honesty to the negative reviewer, some very unkind words were exchanged between the parties. The reviewer ended up suing the owner of the restaurant and won. It nearly bankrupted the business owner. If that doesn’t put into perspective how important it is to have a strategy and guidelines for responding to reviews, I don’t know what could make it clearer.
Embrace Online Reviews
Reviews can impact your business, like it or not, so I suggest you take the online reviews coming your way and embrace them. Look at it as an opportunity. If they offer good constructive criticism, use it to your benefit to make some changes. Take the time to respond. You have the chance to let your customers know that they have been heard and that you care about them. Respond in a polite and respectful way to help protect your reputation and increase customer satisfaction. Most of all, take advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given to engage with your customers by embracing online reviews good and bad!
What are you doing to manage your special event reviews? Let us know in the comments below.