Consider, for a moment, that:
- 90% of consumers read fewer than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
- 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 82% of U.S. adults read online customer ratings or reviews before purchasing items for the first time
- Almost 40% of Americans almost always rely on online reviews when making purchasing decisions
So even though Americans are still split in regards to the trustworthiness of online reviews, it’s crystal clear that those reviews have an outsized impact on purchasing decisions.
What do online reviews say about your business? Are they more likely to persuade or dissuade potential customers from making a purchase from you? And are you even paying attention? Read on to learn how to steer your business’ online reputation in the right direction.
Get Your Bearings
All business owners should consistently audit their brand’s online reputation by simply searching it by name in the major search engines, particularly Google. Google’s search engine results page (SERP) devotes significant real estate to business profiles, and that includes a prominent highlighting of how Google users have reviewed that business. Take a look:
What else does your search reveal? Bookmark the links of all the various web pages where your business is mentioned and/or reviewed. Yelp, Travelocity, Google and Facebook are some of the biggest fish, but don’t discount the influence lesser-known digital platforms can have on your business reputation.
Take Control of Your Brands
If you haven’t previously monitored and responded to online reviews about your business, it’s time to create an action plan for consistently doing so going forward.
First, make sure you’ve “claimed your business” on Google (here’s the link for doing the same on Yelp). Claiming it gives you the ability to update important information about your business as it appears in Google’s business profile of your company as well as the ability to reply to online reviews. Significantly, using the free Google My Business tool also allows you to receive a notification whenever a customer posts a review of your business on Google. Being timely in your responses is as important to virtual customers as it is to the ones you encounter face to face.
Time for Old-Fashioned Customer Service
Now that you “own” your business listings on the major online review platforms, the real work begins. But don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to respond to all existing reviews of your business. Start by replying to the most recent ones, and particularly the negative reviews.
It’s easy to get yourself worked up when reading what you might consider misleading or downright inaccurate reviews of your business. But arguing with an online reviewer won’t get you anywhere; in fact, it’s likely to lead others to form a lesser opinion of your business.
Instead, address the reviewer’s concerns with professionalism and sincerity. Admit to any mistakes and let the reviewer — and every potential customer who comes across the review — know what you’ve done to ensure a better customer experience for all going forward. Even if you don’t think your business is in the wrong, let the reviewer know you’re sorry their experience didn’t live up to the expectation they, and you, have for your company.
Be personable in your responses, careful to avoid technical jargon and corporate speak. Offer to connect with the reviewer offline if a follow-up conversation is warranted. Remember, your response is what everyone will see and will shape their view of your business.
You don’t have to reply to only the negative reviews. Give yourself a confidence boost with quick replies to the positive reviews as well, letting customers know you appreciate them taking the time to share their happy experience with your brand and encouraging them to return again soon.
Be Proactive to Influence Your Reputation
A great way to highlight your business on online review sites is to ask your loyal customers to share their experiences. Use your email newsletters and other customer communication platforms to provide links to your business listing on those key review sites. There’s nothing wrong with having those who know your business best serve as brand ambassadors!
But know that you’ll likely always encounter negative reviews. Hopefully they’ll be few and far between. By setting up Google reviews notifications (and you should be doing the same on your social platforms), you’re now in the position to immediately respond to any unhappy customers. That doesn’t mean your reputation management responsibilities can switch to autopilot. You still should monitor your business profile at least monthly, and more often depending on the size of your business and the volume of reviews it receives.