Let’s be honest, we’re increasingly trusting the internet to show us where to go and what to buy. The days of yellow pages and window shopping are over. The internet IS the new window shopping.
Think about it. When we’re looking to try a new restaurant in the city or find the nearest mechanic, a search on Google is probably the first thing we think about when we’re by ourselves. We may get a recommendation from a friend or family, but even then do we open Instagram or Google to see how the food looks like.
According to Speigel Research Centre,
Products with reviews are 270% more likely to be bought.
We’re often fueled by the ‘good’ comments on Amazon or Google Maps, and one bad review can leave us to look for alternatives. This is the new internet age, and we’ve ought to adapt to every single bit of it.
Did you know 97% of us use the internet to find local businesses, and one in eight are for ‘nearby’ businesses every single day? According to Fan & Fuel, “94% of online customers read reviews before making any purchasing decisions”. Furthermore, Spiegel Research Centre claims that 95% of shoppers read reviews before making a purchase, and that’s not hard to believe because we’re who they’re talking about.
Our assumption of the importance of customer reviews reaches far more people on the internet, most of whom, because of a bad review, we may never see if we’re owning and/or running a business. Plenty of data suggests that proper plans to manage a reputation online, which includes reviews and constant online communication with consumers, increases leads and improves sales drastically.
90% of customers say they decide to buy a product based on positive online reviews, and 94% of them purchase from a business with at least 4 stars.
Businesses have a lot of control over their online star ratings, but that’s where small businesses can actually shine because here’s the truth: the bigger you are, the harder it gets to control reputation, whether it’s out in the real world or online.
The Impact of Reviews
Not only do reviews have the power to influence consumer buying decisions, but they can also strengthen a company’s credibility. Reviews have the power to gain trust and encourage people to interact with the company. Oftentimes, it can even be the first touchpoint in the sales funnel which introduces them to you. Marketing teams know this best – a customer interaction means a lead, which means more chances to sell products.
Reviews provide opportunities to build relationships with one another. Creating an emotional connection with customers is shown to provide a 23% increase in repeated sales than a non-engaged customer.
Gallup Research indicates that fully engaged customers bring 37% more annual revenue to the primary bank in the banking industry. Moreover, consumers who are very well engaged with their favorite electronics store spend 29% more in-store per trip! Consumers who have a long-term positive relationship with experiences in the hospitality industry spend 46% more as opposed to a customer without a close relationship with a hotel, for example. What’s more surprising is that customer satisfaction also happens to be directly related to employee productivity, seeing a 50% rise in work ethic.
A big chunk of a better customer-business relationship comes with after-sales customer services, which also increases the likelihood of receiving reviews by 73%, especially for a local business store. Reviews are undeniably a method of growth, and managing customer engagement, appointing staff for online business health, will clearly benefit in the long run.
Small businesses have more control
Firstly, small businesses can strongly encourage their strongest customers to post reviews of their experiences if they haven’t already. With a close interpersonal relationship, your customers are more inclined to leave a review. This act also activates a business’ happiest customers while making unfair negative reviews obsolete, keeping the online ‘health ratio’ healthy.
Second, small businesses have more control over negative reviews. They can easily be turned into second chances. An opportunity for small businesses lies in uncovering any legitimate blind spots and show acts of good faith for the public to see. Responding to dissatisfied customers in online reviews shows you, as a company, take measures to face the problem and do everything you can to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Sometimes even a sincere apology goes a long way. It shows the brand is listening and that the reviewers’ concerns are heard at the very least.
Everyone and anyone can have a bad day and the internet is, unfortunately, one of the places where people lash their anger out. However, not all problems can be solved, and it’s important to identify that. While 70% of complaining customers give a business a second chance if their problem is resolved, the remaining 30% can bring the whole positive trajectory crashing down.
On one hand, there can be some reviews with the honest agenda to make a problem known to you (the business) and to other people; and on the other hand, they simply just want to heat people up and get them talking negatively too. A word of caution: when the latter happens, make sure to respond immediately before others join the party, with a solution or an apology at the very least, but never argue with the customer and add fuel to the fire. This will show your professionalism and the sane minds will understand there’s nothing more you could or can do.
If you are a small business, embrace online reviews and use them to your advantage. Word of mouth also happens online, more so than in reality, and while people finally have the chance to give their voices to the conversation online, so do you.
As a matter of fact, reviews are so powerful that
online reviews can be the only marketing plan a small business may need these days.
Why and how to manage reviews?
- Improve customer service by understanding your customers
Reviews left by your customers contain a lot of information. As Jack Ma once said – wherever there are complaints, there are opportunities. Reviews are a great tool to understand problems from the perspective of outsiders. They can provide real feedback regarding what customers truly desire.
You can use reviews as insight to improve your own customer service or solve any other problems within the company quickly and efficiently, often without spending any more of the company’s internal budget. In the long term, you’re automatically keeping your focus on their needs.
- Social proof & credibility
Knowing what others say before taking a decision is a natural instinct when spending money is on the line. Just like how we ask our friends and family when we’re confused about deciding, online reviews serve the same purpose, especially on platforms like Amazon or Google Maps.
This is not only true for businesses, but also private contractors who solely survive on word of mouth to get more business. If you are someone who runs your own business without any help, consider getting your business on Google My Business. This will put your business on the map and introduce you to ratings and reviews on the platform. Not only feedback from customers, but it can also provide a lot of promotional opportunities too – for example, asking for reviews in order to give discounts to people. It is a strategy many businesses use.
- Reviews help small businesses stand tall against competition…
…and potentially improve people’s expectations. It is not always true that a longer-running establishment is better than smaller ones. It’s easy to lose control if you’re not paying enough attention. What would you rather choose – buying from a company with fifty 3-star reviews or one with 10 5-star reviews?
- Allow consumers to have a voice
By giving your customers the freedom to express their concerns and showing them that you listen, you’re increasing your customer loyalty. Consumers that take the time to leave an online review are likely to come back to you for another experience, giving you one more shot. Through the act of leaving a review, they’re establishing a connection with you and letting you know that they care, even if they weren’t happy with their purchase.
- Positive reviews mean a higher ranking
Reviews happen to be the most prominent ranking factor in local search. It helps businesses rank well against their competition and helps Google recommend you to people.
According to SEJ, “pages with reviews which mention a keyword and/or the name of a city, were found to have higher rankings in Google’s local pack”. At a high level, having a keyword you are trying to rank for, and a mention of a city you are working to rank in, in reviews has a high correlation with high-ranking Google My Business results”.
- It’s free marketing, let them talk, but keep a close eye.
Positive business reviews are worth a lot and can offer huge benefits that even marketing campaigns don’t come close to. It’s of course something you can’t control but, in a nutshell, it’s like micro-marketing with the ability to reap returns long after a review has been posted – they’re there forever (unless deleted of course – caution: they shouldn’t be). It’s important to keep things truthful. You’ll never know when someone may decide to bite back.
It’s continual brand awareness and the more positive your reviews are, the more positive will the morale be within the company.
- Reviews generate more reviews
If you haven’t noticed, people have the tendency to argue a lot online, which could be both a good thing and a bad, of course, but when a business reviews under a belt, it encourages other visitors to leave their own and provide their own experiences. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who leave honest, useful feedback who genuinely want others to know what they’re getting into, without influencing any decision. Trust their feelings and make changes if you feel like there’s something you could improve based on their feedback.
The lengthy reviews encourage new customers and incentivize them to submit their own opinion.
Get positive reviews and a higher star rating
According to a Harvard Business School study, every one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to anywhere between a 5% to 9% increase in revenue. It’s in your best interest to keep the happy customers sharing their satisfaction. While many leave positive reviews without any action on your part, many others still may require encouragement.
Here are some suggestions to generate positive reviews:
- Ask for reviews
It’s one of the most obvious and common ways to get feedback is simply by asking politely, letting them know they can write whatever they genuinely feel and that you’re listening.
- Have a ‘Review Us’ or a feedback page
A dedicated page on your website where users can leave reviews and comments encourages people to see that you’re really looking to see what people think. It’s easy to assume that people exaggerate quite a bit online to provoke others, but in reality, it’s only a few of them you’ll have to deal with, best by simply ignoring it.
- Make it easy
You should always try to simplify the process of leaving reviews as much as possible. You can also make a questionnaire for your most loyal customers so they don’t have to hunt for a review page to leave you their feedback. Linking your Google My Business review URL will also be beneficial!
- *Very important* – Appreciate the ones who leave reviews
Good deeds can often go unnoticed and unappreciated. Don’t forget to add a thank you note as a response, or even within your product packaging itself (this will incentivize them to give you a review too). Generally, an email reminder also goes a long way too. With an email, you can take the opportunity to also offer more of your products.
- Personalize those emails
The golden rule here is the more personal a message, the stronger a connection. If you happen to know them personally, let them know it’s you who is getting in touch. You’d be surprised that just adding their name in the subject line will increase the chances of them doing what you ask.
The ones who are unwilling to go the extra mile to review your product or services require more. A small token of appreciation like a coupon or discount on their next purchase with a review may help you get more feedback. At the end of the day, if they don’t take you up on your promotional offers, they’re losing out.
You should also be aware of the different sets of rules and regulations review platforms have. This is to ensure that you can solicit and manage them according to the instructions set by the platform. Make sure to read the Terms and Conditions before asking customers for their feedback.
How to handle negative reviews?
When faced with a negative review, one of the worse things you can do is to ignore them. Not only will that indicate that you don’t care but also put a huge blow on your brand’s image. Below are some suggestions on how to politely deal with them:
- Listen and empathize
Make sure to read their comments carefully as there may be feedback that could genuinely be an underlying problem within the company. See the concern from their perspective and let them know that their voice is heard and that their opinions matter.
- Be honest
Always accept responsibility when something goes wrong. Acknowledge the situation and apologize for the inconveniences they’ve suffered, even if it’s not your fault. Look to solve the problem together.
- Avoid excuses
Do not try to blame them, someone else, or your own team. This will often result in more backlash, showing unprofessionalism.
- Take nothing personally
Keep calm when addressing negative comments and do not exacerbate the situation further. If there’s nothing you can do, simply apologize for their inconvenience, assure that nothing like that will happen again, and move on.
- Be personal
Oftentimes, when someone’s angry or heated at the moment, showing respect and being professional can help calm them down. Explain to them the situation in an easy-to-understand way but do not blame them. Stay away from technical or business terms. The biggest challenge is to be softer than they are, but also know when to call it quits if they don’t listen and move on.
- Learn and adapt
A business can undoubtedly learn from reviews, but it can also do so by paying attention to how it handles reviews. Many businesses complain about their customers but forget to point the finger at themselves. Learn from your own mistakes, adapt, and apply so that the same situation doesn’t repeat itself in the future.
At the end of the day, reviews are basically communication tools to identify and solve problems or leave feedback. A general rule of thumb is to keep calm, act with professionalism, and never argue with customers. It’s only in the desires of the customers where a business improves. Sometimes it may even be the difference between having an edge over your competitors.
What’s a tip we can leave you with? Think about the company who has made you happy with their customer service. Notice what they do right and try to find what they do wrong. Implement what they do right and make changes for the things that do not really fit your agenda.