The Importance of Online Reviews
Love them or hate them online reviews are here and they are here to stay.
In this article, we’ll look at where your customers could be leaving reviews, how to obtain positive feedback and ultimately, how to handle a poor review on the occasion where something may go wrong.
In 2019 there is no denying that the internet is a powerful buying tool and it’s contents can and will be, influencing the buying decisions of your customers. With businesses exposed to the world, knowing how your business comes across to potential customers is essential and one particular area that offers the greatest exposure is online reviews.
In new research undertaken by market research company, Global Web Index, it found that 44% of internet users post reviews of a product or brand online each month. In addition, 37% of customers are also using these reviews to research brands and products by utilising other customers’ experiences and points of view.
Whilst we know that customers are driven by a broad range of factors, this research clearly shows that buyers online are actively using reviews as part of the buying process and this is where the importance of having positive reviews comes into play.
Consider your own buying habits. A great example of this is booking a holiday. Typically a large financial expenditure, you want to ensure that you are going to a hotel that is clean and the staff are friendly. Before committing to buying that package holiday we may well check out travel review sites such as TripAdvisor to read real-life customer experiences. More often than not, if we see a vast number of one and two-star reviews, we are not going to be proceeding any further with our booking.
The same can be said for sites like Amazon where great emphasis is placed on prominent customer reviews. In both situations, these reviews act as reassurance for customers before they commit to buying from their desired company.
Where are your customers leaving you reviews?
Keeping track of all the places where customers could be leaving reviews can be somewhat of a tricky task. With a number of platforms available, undoubtedly the most popular are either Google or Facebook.
Reviews on Google are tied to a businesses Google My Business listing and therefore are highly prominent on a set of Google search results. Google allows businesses to reply to these reviews and any responses are listed below the original review.
In addition, it’s widely accepted within the SEO industry that reviews on Google also have an implication on your position within search results. A factor in search engine optimisation or SEO, review ratings are taken into consideration by the search giants sophisticated algorithm which decides the order of a set of Google search results. This belief is further backed up by the Google's My Business support pages which encourage users to "interact with customers by responding to reviews that they leave about your business”.
In addition to Google, you have Facebook. Here a customer can post a review directly to your business’ Facebook page and these reviews are now referred to as ‘Recommendations’. As a business, you are again able to respond to these reviews as you would any other Facebook post.
Away from Google and Facebook, you have other leading review platforms such as TrustPilot and Feefo. These platforms allow a customer to leave a review against a business on either platform. Again like Facebook and Google, these two sites allow you to respond to the reviews you receive. Whilst these aren’t directly tied to your business they can still appear in search results when a search is made relating to your business, so it’s important to check these for any negative content and act accordingly if necessary.
In addition to the above, third party classified sites such as AutoTrader also allow customers to leave reviews. In a bid to improve authenticity, AutoTrader will mark the review as a ‘verified purchase’ if the sale and the reviewer can be linked.
Whilst the above sites provide a platform for reviews, customers could be posting elsewhere so it is essential to remain vigilant across the internet whilst considering the below points.
How to encourage happy customers to leave reviews?
Arguably the easiest way to grow the number of reviews for your business online is to ask your customers directly.
If dealing in person, prompt the customer at the time of purchase. You could even create a small business card or flyer thanking them for their custom which could then also explain the easiest way to leave a review. In addition, if a customer has transacted online or over the telephone, consider sending a follow-up email which contains a link to your desired reviews platform. This way you are not only making the process of leaving a review easy for your customers, but you are also only pinpointing select customers that you would like to hear from.
Review sites such as Feefo operate in this way. They allow you to reach out to specific customers, therefore giving you a greater degree of control over the rating you receive. By cherry-picking your happiest customers you are also increasing your chances of building a stronger overall rating.
How to handle a poor review when something goes wrong?
Whilst it’s always a great feeling to receive a positive review, knowing how to handle negative feedback is equally important.
How you respond to a negative review reflects on your business. A bad review may not always have to have a poor outcome and if you’re replying in a way that is ultimately timely, professional and considered, you run a greater likelihood of turning the situation into a positive. Be mindful though, when replying, it is essential that you refrain from letting any potential anger spill over. Responses to reviews need to be measured, restrained and courteous at all times.
No one is perfect and for the vast majority of your customers, they will understand this. Things can and will go wrong and customers will make their own assumptions about a situation. A story that is not all that it seems can soon become apparent and if you’ve taken the time to write a considered response to the review outlining what went wrong, the steps you took to rectify the situation and how you helped the customer ongoing, these points may help you to be looked upon more favourably.
Whilst getting consistent five-star reviews for your business is going to pay dividends, ultimately you are going to be presented with more challenging situations on occasion. By doing the right thing and responding in the correct manner, your customers will still continue to use and ultimately trust your business.