How To Manage And Respond To Online Reviews

The days when only plumbers and restauranteurs had to worry about online reviews are long gone. From Glassdoor to Indeed to Vault, online review sites allow employees to rate employers anonymously. But do job seekers use online reviews to determine if they will apply? Or are they simply a way for former employees to shout their grievances into a binary wind?

online reviews

The answer: Online reviews do matter. A Pew Research Center survey discovered that roughly half of those surveyed believe online reviews give an accurate picture—a number that jumps to nearly two-thirds for people who use them regularly. A survey published by CareerArc found that one in three laid-off employees leave at least one negative review about their former employer. And the Society for Human Resource Management cites research showing that people who read positive reviews form better opinions of potential employers than those who read negative or neutral ones.

Today, it’s no longer a question of whether you should manage online reviews—it’s how you will manage and respond to them. Let’s see if we can help these rating stars align.

Managing Negative Reviews

First thing’s first: Don’t panic or get angry. Remember the negativity bias primes people to be more sensitive to unpleasant news and experiences than pleasant ones. Since no company can prevent every bad experience or layoff, and announcing one’s dissatisfaction online is today’s norm, negative reviews will happen, and there’s no avoiding them.

Second, don’t let just anybody at the company reply to online reviews—especially negative ones. Have specific people follow up, preferably those with excellent communication skills, a sense of empathy, and a deep knowledge of the company and its culture. Don’t send them into the fray defenseless, either. Have a policy in place with brand-specific guidelines, and be sure to review this policy periodically.

Once the people and policy are in place, here are some pointers to help you follow up:

  • Don’t reply in the heat of the moment, even if the reviewer obviously did so. Take time to step back, and find some emotional balance.
  • Be sympathetic. You don’t have to admit wrongdoing, but you shouldn’t be defensive, either.
  • Keep the response short and align with policy, but be sure to address the reviewer’s specific concerns.
  • Don’t make excuses but show such issues are atypical for your company and that it’s dedicated to improving.
  • Accentuate the positive aspects of your company and brand in your response.

Remember you aren’t just replying to a disgruntled former employee. You’re having a conversation in a public forum. Compose yourself, represent the company well, and don’t use a template. People can tell if the response is boilerplate, and it will only make the company look impersonal and detached. Instead, treat your reply like a conversation. Even if someone reads the negative review, your response should show the reader you’re an engaged and personable company that supports a culture of care and growth.

Managing Positive Reviews

You may think you don’t need to concern yourself with positive reviews. After all, the employee sang your praises for all to see. What else do you need to do? Shouldn’t you be spending your time performing damage control on those disgruntled employees?

Don’t fall for this line of thinking. Damage control is important, but you should also make an effort to let your employees—former and current—know you appreciate their positive feedback and hard work.

While there’s no right or wrong way to manage this, a couple pointers you may want to hit include:

  • Don’t incentivize or request employees leave positive reviews online. This feels calculating. Instead, let them know you respect their right to express themselves.
  • Show appreciation. Thank the reviewer for their kind words and thoughtful review.
  • Keep it short but address their specific points.
  • Have a personable sign-off. Online reviewing sites may be anonymous, but you should let whoever it was know you appreciate them.
  • Remember the conversation is online. Reinstate and promote the positive about your brand and company.

The key to managing and responding to reviews—both good and bad—is to remember you’re having a conversation with your employees, potential employees, and the community at large. The online review isn’t like being graded at school—that’s either pass or fail. Think of them as another way for you to reach out, improve your company’s brand, and build a community that will last.

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