Tapping into Online Reviews’ Potential

Does your business take online reviews seriously? Most small and medium service businesses find it hard to deal with customer reviews , especially those that are less than praise. Typical knee-jerk reactions often include:

  1. Burry your head (the ostrich approach) and hope that the negative reviews’ fallout will just blow-over.
  2. Confront bad review (in social networks, etc.) or attempt to deal with all of them in the same way.
  3. Thank positive reviewers.

This last practice helps, but it is not enough. Reviews are actually a gold mine of customer information. But you need to know how to read between the lines to take advantage of the wealth of insight they offer. If managed correctly, reviews can be the lifeblood of your business . Here’s how to tap into their potential:

  • Understand who the reviewers are (see “How to make online reviews work for you”, IESE Insight Review). It turns out that for any local business most reviews are produced by a small set of people (80/20 Pareto rule at its best). For those seeking the megaphone effect, their motivation rarely has to do with contributing to a community. For the most part, they are looking for an audience and they will write back if the complaint is corrected. Most review sites (YelpTrip Advisor, etc.) recognize these mega-producers as elite, generals or some other distinction. As a good first measure, focus your attention on this group and listen closely to what they have to say.


Once you know your reviewers, you can apply some of these approaches:

  • Don’t turn your back on them. Take what they are saying as immediate feedback and consider whether it is appropriate to modify or improve your business, product or service.
  • Encourage customer reviews. Review site activity is a barometer of buzz. If they aren’t talking about you on Yelp or Trip Advisor, then, you almost don’t exist.
  • Co-opt vs. confront. While praise is welcome, negative reviews are inevitable. Some are legitimate complaints and others may be from trolls. A brief online response helps to acknowledge the reviewer’s concerns and demonstrate to other potential customers that you take feedback seriously. However, never engage in negative dialogue online. Consider inviting the reviewer to discuss the issue further offline to either appropriately address their complaint, or in the case of a troll, to mollify the unnecessary “noise.”
  • Give them something to talk about. If you give the writer of a negative review a positive experience, they can follow-up and shift the buzz in your favor . As more positive reviews emerge in response to an improvement in service, the negative reviews will eventually get buried.
  • Identify the noteworthy rants and raves. Prolific reviewers usually offer nuanced feedback and three or four star ratings on Yelp; they rarely rant or rave. But if they do, it is worth taking note. Once you know your reviewers, you will be able to identify who to pay special attention to .
So, how about your business? Do you have a strategy for dealing with online reviews?


About Mario Capizzani

Mario Capizzani holds a Ph.D. in business administration (marketing) from the Universtity of California at Berkeley, an MBA from IESE Business School, an M.Sc. in mechanical & aerospace engineering from Arizona State University, and a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering from Calvin College in the U.S. His primary area of research is focused on behavioral and experimental economics, decision sciences, marketing strategy and pricing policies. During his Ph.D. dissertation, he empirically investigated the role that auctioneers play in determining auction outcomes, and his work was presented at an academic conference and seminars in the U.S.

2 thoughts on “Tapping into Online Reviews’ Potential

  1. “Identify the noteworthy rants and raves.” This is very true. Our practice was to always post a reply and offer to have a phone conversation to discuss the issue. Most of the time people declined, but it did help remove the “negative” of the review. However those “noteworthy ranters” would have the conversation with us, and we did get valuable feedback – as well as solve the customers issue.

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