In a survey conducted by Dimensional Research, 90 percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews. Yet, many small businesses still don’t recognize the importance of review management.
While word of mouth is still great for referrals, it’s no surprise that more and more people are relying on online reviews to make snap judgments about a business. Many consumers will look at reviews to support a word of mouth recommendation.
When a potential customer Googles a service they need, they will often first see a list of local businesses, which includes a star-rating based off of reviews. For example, take a look at this search for “auto body repair Havertown PA”
The listings that have a star rating draw in the eye a bit more and give a business more credibility in the eyes of a Google searcher.
But Google isn’t the only important review site. Lots of people rely on Angie’s List, Yelp and even Facebook reviews. In addition, many industry-specific sites are helpful for targeting a specific group of customers. For example, contractors and landscapers appreciate getting reviews on sites like Houzz, which showcase their specific type of work.
If you aren’t focused on getting reviews, now is the time to start. While businesses still have to combat the dreaded pitfalls of reviews, like getting a bad review or having good reviews filtered from Yelp, we have a few tips to help you manage your reviews.
The only people who write reviews are people who complain.
We hear this from many people with poor online reputations. With the exception of the food service business, where positive reviews are common, many other businesses fall into “referee” status. In any sporting event the referee never gets credit for having a good game, but when they make a bad call they are heavily criticized. Because of this, businesses need a system to encourage positive reviews and combat bad ones.
One of the hardest parts about reviews is getting customers to follow through. They may thank you in a nice email or in person, but it’s the reviewers that take to the Web that really make a difference. For most websites, the reviewer must create an account and attach their name, and sometimes a photo, to their review which discourages many people from completing the process.
Building a positive relationship with customers is the best way to start. Letting customers know how much you appreciate them leaving you review is a big step in making it happen.
Reviews Web Page
Currently, we’ve been encouraging a lot of our clients to follow through with a simple reviews program. Essentially, we create a “Reviews” or “Testimonials” page on their website, which shows some positive reviews from past customers but also shows customers some of the third-party sites where they can leave reviews. It also is a good page to have, as it may appear in search results when someone does a search for “Business Name Reviews.”
We recommend showing several testimonials on the page itself to help with any potential reviewers who have writer’s block. Even if the customer is willing to sign up for an account, they may not know what to say and a few examples will help inspire them.
If you choose to have a reviews page made, you have to make sure customers can easily get to the page. We recommend handing out business cards or flyers that list the URL of your reviews page. In addition, we also like to include a short set of instructions, which serves as a walkthrough for customers who want to leave a review. It’s best to simplify the process as much as possible.
Issues to be aware of when encouraging customers to write reviews.
- Do note that some sites, especially Yelp, have a sensitive filter. Linking directly to a Yelp profile could increase the chances of having a review filtered. In some cases, it’s better just to link to the main Yelp home page and have a customer search for your business.
- Some businesses will try to set up a reviews station in their location where customers can write reviews on the spot. Many sites will catch on to reviews written from a single IP address and remove them.
- Yelp and other sites will also filter reviews if the user account is not used outside of writing a single review. If the customer signs up for an account and never uses it again, there is a chance their feedback will not be counted.
- If you ask your friends and family to write reviews, you risk appearing shallow or too good to be true. Most consumers are smart enough to spot overwhelmingly positive reviews from friends and family. We believe that 4.5 stars is actually better than 5 stars because it shows legitimacy.
- If all of your reviews come in bursts, for example, getting 20 reviews on one day and 5 for the rest of the year, you may also throw up a red flag and have the reviews filtered.
Handling Bad Reviews
Of course there’s the problem where a cranky customer is in an especially bad mood and leaves a dreadful review. It’s important not to get mad, but to take action.
1) Find out more about the customer (who worked with them, what went wrong, etc.).
2) Reach out. If you have their direct contact information, reach out to them by email or phone. It’s important to show you care about their negative experience.
3) Respond to the review. Some people skip step 2 and go straight to this, but make sure to find out the situation before writing a response.
4) Monitor. Did you hear anything back? Make sure to check in with this customer to ensure they feel like they got the customer service they needed. In addition, you may be able to kindly let them know that their review is hurting your business. They may be willing to remove it or update it to reflect your response.
If you feel you are being spammed, you may be able to report a review. We have seen success with this on Yelp in the past, but it has to clearly fit the guidelines. Reviews can often be removed if they:
- Use profanity
- Recommend another business within the review
- Come from someone who never used your product or service (written by competitors)
- Appear abusive or hateful
Taking it a step further
Sending follow-up emails
If you want to email your customers asking for reviews you have to be careful because making the links to your profiles available can also lead to additional negative reviews. An effective technique is to pose a simple question in the email about their experience. “Would you recommend our product or service to a friend?” If the person clicks YES they are taken to the reviews page, and if they click no they are taken to a complaint form that is not displayed publicly.
Filter your email list by email address
As we discussed above, many potential reviewers give up because they don’t want to sign up for an account, and also accounts that go unused can create problems. If you look through your email list, you can pick out anyone with a Gmail address and send them the link to your Google Plus page. You can do the same thing with various Yahoo and Microsoft email domains and ask for a review on Yahoo Local or Bing. Anyone who likes your Facebook page is a good candidate for a Facebook review.
Educating the staff
How often in your business do you do a favor for a customer? For example–meet them after hours, give them a break on a bill, or provide an additional service. The customer service staff can be trained to take advantage of this and ask for reviews at the exact right time.
We understand that not every business is bound to get great reviews. For example, a towing company is just never a business people especially like. Most of the time, these types of businesses receive emotionally charged reviews. In these cases, it’s best to monitor the situation as much as possible and respond openly to customers.
We would love to hear about any negative or positive experiences you have had with getting reviews, so please share in the comments.