A new study shows that businesses that reply to customer reviews receive better ratings overall than those that do not respond.

I’ve written before about the rising popularity of B2B user review sites and how supply chain and logistics businesses can use them to increase organic traffic and lead-to-sale conversion rates. B2B buyers are increasingly considering user reviews when making purchasing decisions. That’s great for business — when the reviews are good.

But what if you get bad reviews?

Bad reviews don’t necessarily spell disaster — but they do mean that you should incorporate a response plan into your overall marketing strategy. Click To Tweet

A brand new study published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) shows that businesses that reply to customer reviews get better ratings overall. This means that bad reviews don’t necessarily spell disaster — but they do mean that you should incorporate a response plan into your overall marketing strategy.

Replying to reviews is an important part of online reputation management — which is especially crucial in the B2B space, where companies live and die by their reputation. So how does responding to reviews improve your online reputation?

A study in why to reply to customer reviews

To examine this question, Professors Davide Proserpio and Giorgos Zervas looked at tens of thousands of hotel reviews and responses from TripAdvisor. What they found was that “when hotels start responding, they receive 12% more reviews and their ratings increase, on average, by 0.12 stars.”

While 0.12 may not seem like a lot, in the scale of TripAdvisor’s 5 star system, where ratings are rounded to the nearest half star, it has a significant impact on customers’ perceptions.

Proserpio and Zervas found that “approximately one-third of the hotels we studied increased their rounded ratings by half a star or more within six months of their first management response.”

Improved ratings are related to management response

So why is it that the hotels started to get more and better reviews when management started responding?

The researchers examined every facet of the data to rule out other factors that would undermine causality, and found that in fact “improved ratings can be directly linked to management responses,” rather than improvements made to facilities or services.

To explain it, the researchers make the analogy of eating at your favorite restaurant and your meal arrives late. You complain to your dinner companions, but when the manager checks in seconds later and asks how everything is, “for a moment, you consider complaining, but instead choose to avoid confrontation and focus on enjoying the rest of your meal.”

Essentially, by humanizing your presence on review sites, you discourage potentially awkward online interactions.

The researchers conclude, “While negative reviews are unavoidable, our work shows that managers can actively participate in shaping their firms’ online reputations. By monitoring and responding to reviews, a manager can make sure that when negative reviews come in — as they inevitably will — they can respond constructively and maybe even raise their firm’s rating along the way.”

Do you always reply to customer reviews on user review sites?

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