There’s a lot of talk about online reviews and how they can affect your business, and some of it’s pretty scary. But do online reviews really matter? Consider these statistics:
- 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.
- 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 72 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them trust businesses more.
- 72 percent of consumers will take action after reading a positive review.
When you look it at that way, online reviews don’t seem scary at all, but their importance should never be underestimated. Fall asleep at the wheel and a few negative online reviews can turn into a nightmare in a hurry!
But there’s no need to feel threatened. Let’s take a look at what can go wrong in the world of online reviews, how they affect your business, and what you can do to make them work for you.
Threat #1: You Don’t Take Online Reviews Seriously
There are still a lot of business owners who don’t believe in the power of online reviews. They figure word of mouth is where it’s at. After all, 85 percent of small businesses say word-of-mouth referrals are the No. 1 way new prospects discover their businesses. As long as their satisfied customers are sending them referral business, what do they have to worry about?
But that’s just it, online reviews are word-of-mouth referrals, only online reviews can have a more permanent, long-lasting effect. Plus even offline referrals are likely to research your business online before making contact.
- 85 percent report reading online reviews, and 67 percent form an opinion after reading six reviews or less.
Think about it. Consumers are online, reading about your business and forming opinions before ever reaching out to make direct contact with you, and that’s if they reach out at all. No reviews or a perceived lack of positive reviews can make your business seem like a gamble next to more well-endorsed brands. And if the negative outweighs the positive, potential customers are going to turn away in droves.
So what can you do? Step one is to find out where you’re being reviewed and claim ownership of your brand. But that brings us to our next problem…
Threat #2: You Don’t Know Where You’re Being Reviewed Online
Just because you haven’t claimed your brand on social media channels such as Facebook or Google+ doesn’t mean the listings don’t exist. Online reviews are happening whether you’re aware of them or not, and consumers are seeing them and taking them into consideration.
Depending on the search ranking of the review site, a negative review can quickly become the proverbial bad penny.
Do a local Google search for your company and you’ll likely see several reviews from third-party sites in the results. One example is Yelp. Founded in 2004, Yelp reported an average of 142 million monthly visitors in Q1 for 2015, and Yelpers have posted over 77 million local reviews in industries including food, entertainment and home services.
In 2011, a Harvard Business School study found that a one-star increase in Yelp ratings led to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue for restaurants. While the numbers would certainly vary from industry to industry, the result shows the definite impact online reviews can have on your bottom line.
In addition, negative online reviews can represent a missed opportunity if left unchecked. Customer complaints can educate you on the potential problems with your products and services and help you improve over time. Online reviews also give you an opportunity to respond and turn negative situations into positive results.
So the answer is to claim social media profiles and business listings and put them to work in your favor. Not only does this allow you to better monitor your online reputation, but it also expands your online presence and puts you in control of your business information so everything is accurate when consumers pull you up in their search results.
Threat #3: You Aren’t Aware of New Reviews
Today’s technology has made instant gratification the norm. When a customer posts a question or complaint, they expect an immediate reaction.
- 41 percent of consumers expect an email response within six hours.
- 42 percent of consumers expect a response on social media within one hour, and 32 percent expect a response within 30 minutes.
- 57 percent expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.
Patience may be a virtue, but it’s not a luxury that unhappy customers often afford business owners. It pays to have a program in place that provides push notifications and allows you to monitor online reviews in real time.
Knowing when new online reviews are posted provides an opportunity to do immediate damage control if necessary. This not only makes the customer feel better, but it also helps build your reputation as a caring, action-oriented business.
Threat #4: You Don’t Know How to Reply to Online Reviews
With the influence that online opinions hold over today’s consumer, it’s important to face negative reviews head on. According to PeopleClaim, 95 percent of unhappy customers will return to your business if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently.
This is one time you don’t want to avoid confrontation. In fact, ignoring negative reviews is the worst thing you can do. An angry reviewer can escalate a situation quickly and across multiple channels, especially if the review goes viral.
Instead of hoping the problem will go away, look at negative online reviews as an opportunity to showcase excellent customer service. Take immediate but thoughtful action. Apologize and let the customer know that you empathize and want to rectify the situation if possible.
By reaching out and making human connections with online reviewers, you can often turn unhappy customers into loyal brand advocates who are happy to provide testimonials and send you business referrals. Plus it lets potential customers know that you care about the concerns of your clientele, and you’re there for them when problems arise.
Threat #5: You Don’t Know How to Proactively Get Reviews
According to a customer service survey by Dimensional Research, 95 percent of respondents who have had a bad experience told someone about it, compared to just 87 percent who shared a good experience. Since consumers are more likely to share bad experiences on their own, it’s important to proactively pursue positive online reviews from satisfied customers. Consider this:
91 percent of consumers are willing to give referrals, yet only 11 percent of people ask for them.
Online reviews are just another form of the traditional business referral, only they have the added advantage of reaching untold potential customers over the long term. Wouldn’t you rather those future prospects read a glowing positive review of your products and services? If you’re not proactive, the negative comments can quickly outnumber the positive and give a false impression of your business.
So not only is it imperative to ask for positive online reviews, but it’s also necessary to guide the process. Ask for a specific action and have a process in place to accommodate eager clients. The easier you can make it for your customers, the more likely they are to follow through. Use CTAs on your website, social media profiles, business listings and email campaigns to point your clients in the right direction.
If you don’t get involved and take control of the conversation surrounding your brand, you not only leave potential leads circling the funnel, but you also let potential sales slip down the drain. Don’t live in fear of online reviews. Monitor the situation, take action as necessary, and make online reviews another referral source for your business.