Nothing will ever beat a personal recommendation. Having a close, trusted friend or family member personally recommend a business ensures you will be more willing to test them out yourself. You work hard for your money (or at least pretend to you work hard) and you want to spend it on something totally worth it. That’s where recommendations come in.
However, it is 2017 and the game has changed. If personal recommendations are #1, then online reviews are coming in hot at #2. If the game has changed, you need to know how to play it, and online reviews matter.
The statistics are mind-blowing. 90% of consumers read an online review before visiting. 72% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more. Studies have shown that for every star a business gets there, will be (approx.) 5-9% increase in business revenue. I could go on for weeks with a number of statistics proving the potential value of online reviews to your company, but instead, let’s focus on how to harness them.
Let's assume you run as near a perfect business as possible. You're polite and engage with your customers, your product is of the highest quality and you offer everyone both value for their money and for their time. Unfortunately, I can nearly guarantee that you will receive some negative reviews at some point. It's impossible to please everyone! However, it is possible to turn a negative review into a positive interaction.
Here are some easy ways to use reviews to benefit your company:
1) Don't ignore, interact
If handled the wrong way, bad reviews have the potential to cripple your company. We have all seen this happen, even if we don't immediately notice it. Nothing is more off-putting to a potential buyer than seeing these three words: Bad Customer Service. Customer service should be the cornerstone of every business, especially small businesses. However, sometimes things can be missed. Phone calls can go unanswered, tweets going without reply, or email's being left unread. However, these tiny facets add up to build an impression of a company that doesn't care about its customers.
Why not ensure that the first thing you do every morning and last thing you do every evening checking check all your social media profiles to ensure that any interactions have been responded to?
If someone posts a bad review of your company online, comment on it and find out firstly, how to rectify their problem, and secondly, how to avoid it happening in the future. Potential customers will see these interactions and it will go some way to undoing the damage done by the review itself.
2) Work for reviews
If negative reviews can cripple a company, positive reviews can grow it beyond belief. Satisfied customers are the lifeblood of a company, they keep the doors open and the lights on! Why not leverage your existing satisfied customers to get more?!
For some reason, it seems that people are far more likely to log into Yelp to complain about a bad product rather than compliment a good one (or maybe I am just a cynic...) Therefore you need to encourage your happy customers to make the same effort that the unhappy ones will make!
If you're an online company, why not send a follow-up email a few days after your products delivery? Ask for feedback on the quality of service and as an added incentive for participation, you could offer a discount code for future sales. Not only is this a way of encouraging reviews, but it also encourages return business, a win-win!
If you're a restaurant or in the service industry, a personal touch can be the best option. Have your cashiers or servers request that the customer goes online to review them personally, rather than request a business review as a whole. People are more likely to go above and beyond to help another individual, rather than to help a company.
A word of warning though, steer clear of the 'pay for reviews' option. The all-powerful Google does not view these kindly and if discovered, neither will your future customers.
3) Be creative, be original
Finally, just because you are responding to reviews doesn't mean you need to be a customer service robot. Some of the biggest and most successful companies in the world have the best customer service because they are personable in their responses on Twitter. You let your company's personality and brand shine through on all of your online profiles (or you should), keep that system when responding to your reviews or questions online.
For some inspiration, check out these hilarious but helpful responses.
Put simply, reviews can giveth, but reviews can taketh away! If you pride yourself on the service you offer, and you ensure you keep customer service at the top of your agenda, then let reviews help your company thrive!