As a business owner, if you’re not concerned about online reviews, it’s time to reassess your priorities. With more and more consumers using the web to find local businesses and service providers, reviews can make or break a company. Not only do reviews greatly influence consumers’ choices, businesses with better reviews tend to perform better in search, which gives the highest rated companies a major advantage in the local marketplace.
Unfortunately, many good businesses have a poor showing when it comes to online reviews. Some have none at all while others have only one or two, which, if negative, creates a bad impression. Given the prominent placement of reviews in search, a low rating may be all it takes to steer potential customers elsewhere. That’s why, if you aren’t paying attention to your business’ online reviews, it’s time you did.
At this point, you may have a few questions in mind:
- “Where do my online reviews come from?”
- “What can I do about my negative reviews?”
- “How do I get more positive reviews?
Good news: We have answers. Read on!
“Where do my online reviews come from?”
Online reviews come in many forms and via many platforms. Here are some of the primary review sources you should be aware of:
Google reviews are among the most important reviews to get for your business. Why? A few reasons:
- Google currently accounts for more than 60 percent of all search engine traffic. That means roughly 60 percent of people using a search engine to find a business or search provider are using Google. Translation: 60 percent of your potential business via search is coming through Google.
- When your business shows up for a Google search, its Google star rating (based on your cumulative reviews) shows up front and center below your business listing. That makes it the first (and possibly last) thing a potential customer will use to judge you.
- The more positive Google reviews your business has, the better it’ll perform in search. This includes an increased likelihood of showing up in the “local pack”—the top three spots of “featured” local businesses for a given search query.
Important note: If you haven’t already claimed your Google My Business listing, you should. While this isn’t necessary to receive Google reviews, claiming your listing allows you to customize details like your business name, address and phone number (NAP). This will ensure Google is displaying accurate information to search engine users. It also allows you to respond to Google reviews (more on this later).
Third-party review sites
When hiring a plumber, locksmith, carpet cleaner or other service provider, consumers want to make sure they’re getting a trustworthy, high-quality company. That’s why there are several third-party business review sites and agencies dedicated to helping consumers do just that. While some are purely review-based, others provide verified information about licensing and other details; however, customer reviews and feedback are core components of all. Some of the more prominent sites and agencies include Yelp, the Better Business Bureau (BBB), HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, Diamond Certified and Nearby Now.
Before registering your business with a third-party review site or agency, it’s important to look at the terms and requirements, as these vary from site to site. Some offer free basic listings (BBB, Yelp, Angie’s List) with the option for paid membership, some charge a minimum monthly or annual fee (Nearby Now, Diamond Certified) and others charge a fee for each lead procured through their site (HomeAdvisor).
While free listings are a no-brainer, it can be beneficial to invest in a paid affiliation with a third-party business review site or ratings agency. For example, becoming a BBB accredited company or earning Diamond Certified is a great way to showcase your business’ reputation. (Full disclosure: Diamond Certified is owned by American Ratings Corporation, the same company that owns Nu-Designs Digital. That’s why we can vouch for it!) Additionally, some third-party agencies will actually collect reviews for you, provide web marketing services and help mediate customer complaints. These can be valuable resources for the less-than-tech-savvy business owner trying to compete in the digital age.
Besides sharing pictures and posts with friends and family, people use social media to find and recommend local businesses and service providers. That’s why Facebook has become a major source of business reviews. To start getting reviews through Facebook and other social media platforms, all you need to do is start a free business account. Social media also provides a potentially lucrative avenue for doing targeted advertising.
Product review sites
If your company makes products (as opposed to providing a service), you should focus your attention on product review sites like Consumer Reports. Customer feedback on product review sites can provide valuable insights on the quality of your products and the level of satisfaction they deliver.
“What can I do about my negative reviews?”
As stated earlier, it only takes a couple of bad reviews to hurt your business, especially if you don’t have many good reviews to counterbalance them. However, even if you have a lot of good reviews, it’s still wise to actively address negative customer feedback.
The best way to address a negative customer review is simply to respond. By proactively engaging an unhappy customer, you can often minimize the impact of a bad review and maybe even reverse it altogether. According to Joy Lanzaro, Director of Mediation & Compliance at the Diamond Certified Resource, your response to a bad review should have two main goals:
- Addressing the customer’s concern
- Demonstrating your approach to conflict resolution
While the first is obviously a priority, don’t overlook the importance of the second. Your response to a bad review will show onlookers that there are two sides to the story. Additionally, it will give potential customers a feel for how you respond to difficult situations. “The first thing most consumers look for in a service provider is competence in their work, but a close second is how the service provider responds to unanticipated circumstances,” says Ms. Lanzaro. “Consumers want to feel some assurance that even if things don’t go as planned, they’ll still be taken care of.”
Ms. Lanzaro lays out some guidelines for responding to a negative customer review:
- Respond promptly. Your response should be timely but not impulsive. A good strategy is to write a response and sleep on it, then review it again in the morning before posting. A timely, thoughtful response will convey that you take customer feedback seriously.
- Don’t make assumptions. Before responding, get as much information as possible regarding the situation. Speak with staff who interacted with the client and review records. That way, you’ll be in a good position to make decisions and won’t be caught off guard by unknown information.
- Stick to the facts and lay them out in detail.
- Use neutral language and avoid making things personal.
- Express empathy for the customer’s situation. (“I’d also be frustrated if I experienced that.”)
- Attempt to resolve the situation. Offer to make it right.
- Don’t simply refer them to customer service. If possible, invite the customer to call and ask for you by name. Alternatively, you can suggest that they ask for an assistant who is already informed and prepared for next steps.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to resolve a situation or change a customer’s mind—as the saying goes, you can’t please everyone. However, an earnest effort can make all the difference in onlookers’ (read: potential customers’) perception of the situation.
In order to respond to a review on a given website or platform, you’ll need to have access to your listing or account. Only after you’ve claimed your listing or created your account will you be able to sign in and respond to customer reviews. As an example, here’s how to sign in and respond to a Google review:
- Go to business.google.com and sign in.
- Select your desired listing at the top left menu.
- Select “Manage reviews.”
- When you find the review you’d like to respond to, click “View and reply.”
Don’t forget about social media. Responding to negative comments and reviews on Facebook and other platforms is just as important as responding to Google or Yelp reviews.
Now that we've addressed the first two questions, it's time to address the final one: "How do I get more positive reviews?"
Click here to continue to the next segment of this article: How to Get More Positive Online Reviews for Your Business
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