Online reviews aren’t just for consumer products and restaurants anymore. These days, reviews are impacting revenue for all kinds of businesses and professional services including real estate agents, loan officers, salons, boutiques, auto repair shops, doctors and everything in between.
So what’s the big deal? We’ve uncovered the data, and the data tells us one thing—the power of online reviews shouldn’t be underestimated. You need to know what people are saying about your business online because reviews can hurt or help your bottom line.
Historically, word of mouth has been a powerful source for business referrals, and it still is today, but the Internet has added a layer of information. For example, say you’re a real estate agent who worked with Jane Doe to buy her first house. The hunt was like finding a needle in a haystack, but you helped her find her dream house and you can consider her a satisfied customer. As a result, Jane goes out of her way to refer you to her friend Sam, which is great! However, you should know that Sam will probably do some online research before reaching out to you—he’ll check out your website, read a few reviews, probably check your facebook and twitter profiles, and compare you to other potential real estate agents.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, as of January 2014, 87% of U.S. adults use the Internet and 58% of adults own smartphones. Worldwide, the United Nations reports 40% of the population is online. The Internet is fast becoming our #1 source of information in our daily lives. Who are the best real estate agents in my area? Where is the nearest dry cleaner? Why is everyone talking about kale? The answers are at our fingertips.
With Jane’s recommendation and a few minutes spent online, Sam is able to form an opinion about you as a real estate agent before ever having met you. The majority of customers, like Sam, will read up to six reviews before forming an opinion of a business.
5 Reasons Online Reviews Matter for Your Business
1) 68% of consumers trust opinions posted online.
I read it on the Internet, so it must be true.
We laugh at that statement, but there is more truth to it than we realize. The Internet is full of opinions. One of the most popular review websites, Yelp, has 207 million visits each month. This includes people looking for and sharing opinions of businesses like yours. Now factor in that customers are reading up to six reviews, both positive and negative, before ever having met you or stepped foot in your place of business. What is being said about your business should matter to you because it matters to everyone else.
2) 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
That’s right; today, the vast majority of consumers trust the opinions of strangers on the Internet as much as their own friends. While an online review coming from an anonymous user, a review that lacks detailed information or one that doesn’t seem genuine won’t fall into this category, online reviews can be thoughtful, thorough and personal, much like an exchange between friends.
3) Customers are more likely to share bad experiences than good ones.
Sharing a bad customer experience online is an easy way to release frustration. It just feels good to tell other people when you’ve been wronged. Sometimes even more importantly, to a reviewer, is the idea that a bad review might save someone else from having a similar experience! Think of your last negative customer experience—did you tell anyone about it?
What we can take away from this fact is that it is important for you to proactively ask happy customers to leave online reviews too. Whether you helped Jane Doe buy her dream house or gave her the perfect haircut, let Jane know that you welcome and would appreciate if she could take the time to leave a review on your behalf. A bad review is bound to happen at some point, but wouldn’t it look nicer surrounded by a whole bunch of good ones?
4) You can turn a negative review into a positive review.
With the trust that your potential customers place in online sources, negative reviews have the potential to substantially impact your business. Reviews are influencing the opinions of potential customers, but they don’t have to be a permanent black mark on your digital record.
When a reviewer says something negative about your business, you have an opportunity to excel at customer service. Many review sites offer a reply feature. Make an effort to remedy the situation with them through an apology and a gesture of goodwill like a discounted fee. Because what’s better than letting off some steam about a bad experience? Knowing the business that caused your frustrations heard you. Often times after a business reaches out, reviewers will provide an update to their negative review and let people know what happened. With a little customer-service magic a negative experience turns into a positive one with online proof!
5) 72% of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more.
This is common sense. Reading a bunch of negative reviews isn’t likely to make someone want to take a chance on a business. Those disappointed reviewers shared their bad experiences to save others from the same fate. But reading a multitude of positive reviews provides a potential customer with a sense that the business can be trusted. The idea is that all those other people had a great experience, so I probably will too.
So have you taken a look? How do your online reviews tally up? Are people saying good or bad things about your business? Or, are people not saying anything at all?
As the world exists today, you have to care about online reviews. Positive reviews can help bring in customers, negative reviews can turn people away and not having any online review presence can cause someone to feel like doing business with you would be a gamble.
People are looking for reviews and putting trust in those reviews, so it’s time to take a proactive role in the process—provide customer comment cards, send out surveys and ask happy customers to share a review. You may even consider providing a way for people to leave reviews on your own website so people won’t have to look any further to find glowing testimonials.
In short, people are forming opinions about your business based on what other people are saying, long before you even get the chance to meet them, so it’s your job to take an active interest and convert your online audience into new customers.