What’s the very first thing you do when searching for a new restaurant, shop, or service? You head online! Our brains intuitively assess risk by seeking out social proof and balancing the experiences of others against personal convenience. We’re willing to drive an extra 45 minutes to a health specialist with 5-star reviews, but unlikely to visit a nearby doctor who’s online-famous for the worst bedside manner in the business. Shockingly, a whopping 94% of customers steer clear of businesses with negative reviews. They don’t want to waste time and money on a bad experience and consequently rely on the “research phase” (we’re looking at you, Google review stars!) to drive decisions and dollars. Businesses that capitalize on engagement opportunities provided by online reviews and user-generated content end up gaining customers passively and cost-effectively.
Why Are Online Reviews Important?
When you stumble across a business with zero reviews, it reads one of two ways: the company is either a newcomer to the field (less experience) or isn’t engaged in online communication and connection (less accessible and accountable). Display your aptitude for excellence regardless of longevity by establishing yourself as an expert in your field with reviews and feedback to prove it. Not only will a higher number of reviews provide your business with name and brand recognition, but a greater volume of reviews can help your business perform better during online searches and targeted marketing campaigns. Winning all around!
Think of reviews as a business pulse check. They provide an instant glance into the health of customer satisfaction and allow you to gather invaluable feedback about the products or services you offer. They’re your opportunity to grow as a business by listening to customers and adjusting business strategies. Reviews also provide passive growth by attracting new customers. Recent research shows 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020. Happy customers who feel heard and validated are much more likely to return, become regulars, and sing praises about their experiences to all their friends.
Billion-dollar businesses don’t stay on top by executing every task and customer experience flawlessly. Mistakes happen, and problems are an inevitable part of every operation. Businesses thrive and rise to elite levels in part by how they respond to unavoidable mistakes. Reviews provide the opportunity for public customer service points. They’re a window into the internal dynamics between a business and the communities they serve. Take advantage of the opportunity to develop a public online impact and build a reputation based on fantastic customer service over unmaintainable perfectionism.
Top Strategies for Obtaining Business Reviews
Always respond to feedback, whether it’s good or bad. Take a moment to work up a professional response and avoid knee-jerk responses (it can be tricky, we know!). Customers typically expect a response within one business day; take some time to think through possible outcomes and formulate a response that not only acknowledges the customer but reiterates the business’s desire to provide outstanding customer service.
Positive reviews and user-generated content deserve a thank you, reinforcement of the positive experience, and a quick “Hope to see you again soon!” Negative reviews deserve even more attention – but remember, no arguing! Potential customers are watching. Present the professional, customer-oriented demeanor you want to be known and appreciated for. Exemplify concern for their negative experience by apologizing, thanking the reviewer for their time and energy, and offering to contact them directly. Remember the jarring statistic that 94% of customers avoid businesses with negative reviews? 45% of those customers will reconsider when they see professional, polite responses to customer complaints.
Google remains the top online search resource in the world – and as we all know, Google reviews pop up automatically when our search returns a list of nearby businesses. Those little yellow stars are the “gold stars” of adulthood, with rewards amounting to dollars instead of stickers on your notebook. Capitalize on this free business resource by verifying your business with Google and completing your business profile. Respond to Google reviews, make updates to your Google Business Profile regularly, and maintain a close connection to your audience through updated photos, links to social media, and updated hours during holidays and closures.
Facebook, Yelp, and TripAdvisor run behind Google in popularity but continue to be viable and strong sources of information for the general public. Engage in these platforms and meet your customers where they’re at. Remember to stay consistent and unify your business’s professional online presence across all online platforms. Use the same profile photo, deliver the same brand messaging, and stay active across all channels. Engage regularly for the best results, especially when it comes to customer comments and experiences.
Every business has a different target audience and, consequently, a different approach to gaining customer feedback. The library might have great luck getting feedback with paper surveys, while a tech company might earn better participation with emailed follow-up surveys. Sharing reviews in social media posts and across online business platforms is an excellent tactic for all businesses; it creates a positive buzz while reinforcing the option for customers to leave reviews. Another idea is to establish referral bonuses. This tactic rewards loyal customers while growing the business’s customer base and allowing the opportunity to create 1:1 feedback loops with established, regular customers.
Start Collecting Online Reviews
Collecting reviews for your business is simple! Reach out to your most supportive customers, or those who recently had a positive experience and ask them to leave a comment on your preferred sites such as Google My Business or Yelp. As your business grows, know that feedback tools range from specialized software to manual processes and internal techniques. Take your pick from our favorite feedback tools or elect to create your own personalized feedback strategy using methods that speak specifically to your target audience. Not quite sure where to start? Reach out to us here to talk strategy, the best tools for your business, and how we can help you make the most of your online customer interactions.