Consumers rely on search results, social media and peer reviews to perform research and gather feedback on businesses they are considering visiting or products they’re thinking of purchasing. And while it can be easy to turn a blind eye on the reviews your business receives, simply ignoring those review sites can be damaging to your bottom line.
The impact of online reviews
While this probably comes as no surprise, 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. As they seek out peer reviews on brands or products that they’re considering doing business with, they’re looking for specific things. Consumers actually look for negative reviews to discover authentic feedback from real customers. In addition to negative reviews, they want to see how your business handled that situation and responded to a negative experience.
The question then becomes, how do I manage online reviews? What online review strategy can improve my digital presence and overall customer experience?
Managing online reviews
Once we understand the importance and impact of online reviews, it’s important to implement an online review strategy to respond to reviews, solicit reviews (with compliant strategies) and gain insights about your business from customers.
1. Develop a response strategy
More than half of customers expect a response within a week of publishing a review, but 63% say a business never responded to their negative review. This number is mind-boggling! Ignoring negative reviews can have a big impact on your business. Not only do you miss the opportunity to retain a customer, but you can cause potential customers to never even give you a chance!
The first step to your online response strategy should focus on internal response guidelines. This will provide your team with a framework of what they can and can’t say for any potential positive or negative review, and lend a sense of consistency to your responses.
Next, put together an escalation plan. Your escalation plan should clearly define when to escalate an issue, who to include, and how to respond. Having a clear escalation plan in place can reduce the time your team needs to respond to certain issues by taking the guesswork out of the situation.
When responding to reviews, consistency is also key. Don’t just respond to negative reviews, give your positive reviewers some love too! If time allows, a custom response is always going to go further with a customer. They’re not naive, they can tell the difference between a robotic, copy/paste template and a heartfelt, custom response. And don’t forget to thank ALL of your reviewers for their feedback, whether good or bad.
Additionally, try not to always think of negative reviews as a bad thing – look at them as opportunities. Take time to find a resolution and turn a negative experience into a positive one. By righting a wrong or showing that you care, not only can you retain a current customer but you show potential customers that are researching your business that you’re responsive and care about your customers’ experience.
2. How to legally solicit reviews
Unfortunately, some consumers only go to review sites to leave negative feedback and that can be disheartening as a business manager or owner. And to make matters worse, review sites have strict guidelines on how we can and can’t request customers to leave reviews. Word of advice: don’t offer an incentive to leave a review.
There are, however, a number of ways that you can tap into your current customers who can hopefully advocate for your business through a positive review. The key is thinking about your regular correspondence with customers and the digital channels where they’re active – this is where we want to provide opportunities to leave reviews. You can get started with:
- Social media channels – include links to your top review sites so that current followers and customers can help become your best advocates.
- Email newsletters – if a user has signed up for your email newsletter, they’re probably happy with your business. Link to a review site in your footer with a call-to-action to leave feedback for other shoppers.
- Email signatures – similar to newsletters, you can include links to Yelp, TripAdvisor or Google to garner more reviews through your regular email correspondence.
- Conversion points – catch users at conversion points on your website while they’re excited and drive positive reviews.
3. Gain business insights from feedback
So far, we’ve looked at how online reviews impact consumers’ decisions and how we should manage them. If this is all you do, you’re missing another big opportunity. Online reviews and customer feedback should also be looked at as a way to improve your business. By analyzing what your customers are saying about you, you can uncover insights to improve different facets of your business.
As you monitor review sites, create a matrix that focuses on common occurrences and trends that appear frequently. These are areas that you can improve on, thus impacting your customers’ overall experience with your business. By improving their experience, we should, in turn, start to see an improvement in future reviews. With as little as a one-star increase on Yelp, restaurants can typically expect a 5-9% increase in revenue.
As consumers continue to seek peer reviews more and more when deciding to purchase a product or use a business, the importance of a strong online presence only increases. Having a proper review management strategy in place and knowing what to do with that information will help your business stand out in a more positive light.