I cannot stress enough the importance of online reviews. I recently read a study that stated 84% of Americans say online reviews influence their purchases. Another study stated that 79% of Americans say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. How can business owners afford to overlook the importance of online reviews? Below is a list of guidelines for acquiring and managing online reviews.
1. Examine Current Review & Online Reputation
Local businesses should first evaluate their visibility across major review sites and directories, e.g., Angie’s List, Google+, Yelp, YP.com, and any relevant vertical-specific review sites. If a business doesn’t have a presence on these sites, they should create or update their listing or business profile to improve SEO.
Once a profile is created, businesses receive notifications when new reviews are posted. Monitoring existing reviews and customer feedback is also a good way to see how staff is doing across many or a few business locations.
2. Address All Feedback
It might seem natural to address only negative reviews, but business owners should respond to all reviews and ratings whether positive or negative. This makes an excellent impact on all future prospects reading reviews.
Furthermore, negative reviews have the potential to stay online for years, so it is important to deal with any issues quickly and provide resolution for the customer. As long as the majority of reviews aren’t negative, people will value the business’ professional approach and responsiveness.
3. Build Review Generation Into Workflows
Asking for online reviews shouldn’t be overwhelming, and local businesses need to make it easy for their team to encourage loyal customers to provide reviews. Placing a Yelp sticker on the business’ door, offering customers a printed card with instructions on how to leave a review, or even just making a verbal request, are all perfectly legitimate ways to encourage customers to leave feedback. Customer reviews are some of the most compelling marketing content available to businesses and have the greatest potential to influence new customers.
If a simple process is set up for employees to request a quick review — it might even be valuable to offer employees incentives for gaining reviews — the collection and promotion of reviews can be easier. For certain service-based businesses, e.g., home improvement contractors, asking for a testimonial via a video or taking a photo with a customer and the completed job quickly shows the inherent stamp of approval and is easily shared across social media channels.
4. Amplify Good Reviews
When a local business generates good reviews, it should always use those testimonials to their advantage by posting them on their website and/or Facebook page, including them within a company newsletter and sharing them with employees, since good reviews serve as a good team morale booster. Businesses need to circulate these reviews as wide as possible since they demonstrate their quality or leadership role within their industry.
Review filters are a double-edged sword for local businesses. On one hand, they can be very helpful for weeding out negative reviews written by a competitor or an unjustified, unruly customer. They can also prevent good reviews written by real people from making it online.
To prevent this from happening, local businesses should “follow” Yelp reviewers who have posted positive, filtered reviews in order to boost their credibility. Yelp reviewers can often help push their reviews through the filter if they complete their profile information by adding a picture, connecting their profile to their Facebook page or providing reviews on a frequent basis.