Seeing Stars: Why Getting Online Reviews is Important for Your Business
And once you have reviews, monitoring them — and communicating with customers — is almost as important as what the reviews actually say, writes Sherry Bonelli.
This is a contributed post from Early Bird Digital Marketing‘s Sherry Bonelli.
Business owners typically hate the thought of online reviews. Most have at least one story of a disgruntled customer who left a horrible review online — one that they felt was unjustified and written by a “crazy, unreasonable” person. So many businesses just let their reviews go unchecked — which can actually do more damage than that nasty review. Here’s why…
According to BrightLocal, 92 percent of consumers read online reviews about the products and services they’re interested in. It makes sense. Today’s buyers are savvy and have access to technology to do research. You’ll find that much of their buying journey is complete by the time they even pick up the phone to call you or walk into your business. Increasing your visibility through online reviews is key to remaining top of mind to prospective customers.
Google Shows Your Reviews Front and Center
When you do an online search for a local business, chances are you will see stars — online review stars, that is. Google prominently displays the star rating as well as the number of reviews on their local three-pack AND online directory sites also typically appear high in the search engines and they show business reviews as well.
There’s even been speculation that the number of online reviews and the rating of those reviews can actually help with your search engine rankings (although no one can confirm or deny.) The bottom line is that your potential customers are seeing these reviews — or lack of reviews –—about your business. If they see that you have no reviews and your competitor has 15 5-star reviews, who do you think they’re going to call first? Chances are your competitor will get first dibs on that one.
Everyone knows that you can’t be perfect all the time, so most people expect to see at least one or two negative reviews about a business. (Heck, just go on Amazon and you’ll see books that have all kinds of ratings.) What counts is what you, as a business, do with those positive or negative reviews.
The best thing to do is first track your reviews. Make sure you know what’s being said about your business. In most cases you’ll need reputation tracking software because if a person is leaving a review about you on Yelp, they’re probably not going to actually include your business’ name (since they will already be your Yelp business page). That means setting up a Google Alert for your company name probably won’t help much.
There are plenty of reputation monitoring software services out there that can alert you — many in real-time — when a review is left about your business. As soon as you receive notification that there’s an online review, check it out. If they left a glowing 5-star review, log in to the review site/online directory and thank the person for their great feedback. Everyone wants to be appreciated! By doing this you’re not only humanizing your brand to that customer, but other potential customers will see that you care, too.
The same is true for a bad review. Even though nobody likes it when someone says something negative about you, your business, product or staff, we are all just human. There’s bound to be somebody who’s having a bad day that feels compelled to leave a bad review. It happens. Again, once you learn of that negative review, get on the review site and respond to the unhappy customer and ask that they give you a call so you can discuss the issue. That shows others that you’re concerned about feedback from unhappy customers, too. It also shows good will to the customer that wrote the negative review. If you work it right, they may even change their review from a bad review to a good one.
How to Get More Reviews
One of the best ways to get more reviews for your business is to simply ASK for them. After someone makes a purchase or visits your business, hand them a card that says something like “How did we do today? Please let us know…” and include a link directly to your business’ page on your preferred review site. For example, yelp.com/biz/YOUR-BUSINESS-NAME-HERE. That way your customers don’t have to search to find your business on the directory or review site. Make it simple and easy. You can even put this review URL in your email signature, your website, flyers, ads, postcards – you name it. Encourage feedback.
The other thing is to work with your staff so that they are always giving great customer service. It’s typically when a customer is interacting with an employee that tempers can flare and negative reviews can spew. Use reviews as a learning experience to coach your employees on how to handle tense situations with customers so that they can learn how to avoid getting a negative review written about them online.
No matter what YOU think about online reviews, your potential customers DO care and they read those reviews to evaluate whether or not they want to do business with your company. Take advantage of this opportunity to shine and proactively ask for, monitor and respond what’s being said about your business. You will be glad you did.
**Sherry Bonelli, Digital Marketer and Presenter/Speaker, has been a digital marketing professional since 1998. After launching her first ecommerce website in the late ’90s, Sherry has appeared on the TODAY Show, ABC News, CBS News and other newspapers and radio outlets. She is currently the owner of early bird digital marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency specializing in SEO, Reputation Marketing, Content Marketing, Social Media Management and more. Located in Cedar Rapids, IA, she can be reached by visiting http://earlybirddigitalmarketing.com or by calling 319.409.3287.