Why Online Reviews are Important

They show up on Google. The show up on your maps app. They might even show up above a business’s own website in search results. Or just below, following the business like a shadow. I’m talking, of course, about online reviews. If you run a business, interact with businesses, or basically live anywhere other than under a large rock in the middle of a remote field with no internet access, you’ve probably had some kind of experience with them. They are absolutely everywhere these days, and what they say about a business – and the impact they can have, is a bigger deal than ever.

The reason they are everywhere is because they are used by everybody. And I mean really used. 90% of customers will read online reviews before visiting a business. But they aren’t just reading reviews – people are putting their trust in them. In fact, 88% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation. That means the vast majority of people are willing to put the same value on the opinions of a few strangers who bothered to click some stars and jot down their thoughts, as they would put on the opinions of somebody they actually know.

A few more stats to drive the point home:

·      72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.

·      92% of users will use a local business if it has at least a 4-star rating.

·      72% of consumers will take action only after reading a positive review.

·      85% of consumers say they read up to 10 reviews.

·      86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews.

Through the history of human civilization, word-of-mouth has always been one of, if not the, most powerful form of advertising. If online reviews are acting as a tool with just as much influence as word-of-mouth, that is a very big deal, and something businesses need to strive to get a handle on, and take advantage of.

But how do you take advantage of these reviews? How do you get people to leave good reviews? How do you discourage or get rid of bad reviews? Here are a few strategies for handling reviews, both good and bad:

The Bad

If you are operating a review-based business (an ever-expanding category these days), chances are you are going to get a bad review at some point or another, and there is nothing you can do to stop that. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln (who was paraphrasing the 15th century poet, John Lydgate), “you can’t please all of the people all of the time.”

In other words, don’t freak out about it, don’t take it personally, it’s just going to happen. Instead, learn what to do about it.

First, know that you need to respond, and you need to do so quickly. Letting a negative review just sit there can only make the problem worse. That customer is going to continue feeling negatively about your company, will not come back for any repeat business, and will likely be propagating negative word-of-mouth, which is as bad as it sounds. Responding is also just the right thing to do from a customer service standpoint. People should know that their concerns are heard, taken seriously, and that you are committed to satisfying every single customer.

Also, be aware that responding to a bad review isn’t just about one person or one customer interaction. The catalog of your online reviews form something of a public record of your business, telling a story to potential new customers. When you respond to negative reviews, you signal to the new customers that you are doing your best to listen to concerns, and that there are two sides to every story.

Responding To The Bad

When responding to negative reviews, your inclination might be to tell your side of the story or set the record straight. You must resist this urge. It’s important to remember that this interaction is about customer service, not about proving that you were right and your reviewer is wrong (even if you were, and they are). Whatever the specifics were of the situation that lead to the negative review are somewhat irrelevant at this point, the results is that same, and that is that your reviewer had a bad experience. A bad enough experience that they felt compelled to go online and tell other people about it. So, your goal now is not to be right or to win an argument. Your goal is to make that bad experience just a little bit better.

Really try to listen to what is behind the negative review and what lead to it. Try to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and understand how they felt. In your response, let them know that you sympathize with how they feel, and that you are taking their concerns seriously. LISTEN. And keep it short. There’s no need to recap the whole situation from your perspective, just a short acknowledgment will do.

Keep in mind that your response is public, too. Try to speak to the specific concern of the reviewer so that new customers don’t have to be worried about the same issue.

Finally, move the conversation out of the public eye. See if you can continue to communicate over the phone, email, or a private message on social media. If they respond, see if they’ll give your business another chance. Maybe with some kind of freebie or discount to smooth things along.

Removing The Bad

For obvious reasons, most review sites don’t give businesses any control over removing bad reviews. So, it’s up to the reviewer to remove or change their bad review once the problem is resolved. Unfortunately many people either refuse or forget to do this, even if you’ve address their concerns.

The best you can do is ask politely (once), and if the reviewer is so inclined, they will remove or change the negative comment.

Otherwise, your best defense against negative reviews is drowning them out with way more positive reviews, thus lessening the overall impact of a single comment or score.

The Good

Hopefully, the vast majority of reviews you get will be positive. While you shouldn’t take the bad ones too seriously, it sure does feel good to bask in all of the nice things people say about you and your business.

However, just because you’ve gotten a positive review, doesn’t mean it’s a job well done and you can wipe your hands clean. If someone has taken the time to go online and write a positive review for your business, they’ve signaled to you that they are willing to spread the word. This is something you can, and should, capitalize on.

Responding To The Good

When you receive a nice compliment from someone on the street, you say, ‘thank you.’ That’s just polite. Same goes for online reviews. It’s good to acknowledge a nice thing that somebody said about your company and a positive experience they had, and thank them for leaving the review. Try to say something specific about them or their review so that the thank you doesn’t seem rote and robotic.

Responding to positive reviews is also a great marketing opportunity. Mentioning a current promotion or new product might be a good way to get that customer to come back for repeat business. A call-to-action can have this same effect, encouraging another visit or interaction with your company. Not only will this make your customer feel good, responding to positive reviews can also be a good boost to SEO.

Recently, a friend of mine left a positive review for a burger place that he likes. They responded to the review and thanked him with a discount off his next burger. He was thrilled about it, told every person he saw that day, and suddenly a “burger place he likes” became his “favorite burger place.” In that one example you’ve got a customer raising their opinion of a business they like even higher, becoming an ambassador by telling others about the business, and ensuring another visit in the near future. That’s the power of responding to reviews, either positive or negative, can have.

Need help with a strategy surrounding your online presence or other marketing strategy. Contact us today to discuss!