Google announced on the Google My Business Forum today that when owners respond to reviews, the reviewers will now receive notification of that response. From the post:
We’re launching notifications to inform your customers when you respond to their reviews, with plans to release mobile push notifications at a later date.
When businesses respond to, or update responses to customer reviews, the customer now receives an email notification. The business’s response is published immediately and 5 minutes later, the notification is sent. This 5 minute delay allows time for the merchant to make any corrections to their response after submitting.
The notification email informs the customer of a reply to their review, and contains a link to a page with the full owner response.
This has been a long requested feature that has been missing since the days of Google Plus. Although even then the feature never really worked because users never read their Plus stream. This alert, coming in the form of an email, will be hard to miss and may actually allow for some measure of complaint resolution on the part of the business.
This first step is a good one, although better would be the ability for a business to respond privately to the reviewer as well. A private channel would allow resolution outside of the public eye and would be a huge benefit to both the business and the consumer and allow for a more frank, less fraught discussion. Given Google’s recent spate of developments, I presume that this feature might be on the drawing board.
Why is this important?
Google has been, over the past two years, moving the Knowledge Panel in the direction of a transactional and interactive tool for consumers and businesses, making it not just an information source but a tool where searchers can take action and businesses are allowed the privilege of adding Calls to Action.
When this update is viewed together with enabling the messaging feature via the API, it signals a move beyond interaction into the arena of communications and ultimately customer relations management.
Google, in providing these alerts & the messaging API, is moving towards using the Knowledge Panel (with the GMB Dashboard) to become a center for a more full fledged b to c communication flow both before and after the sale.
When viewed along side of recent features like Posts, Q & A, Messaging, Bookings and given Google’s huge advantage in both generating local leads and in the review space, Google is positioning itself vis a vis Yelp and Facebook to become THE local platform of choice for both businesses AND users.