Think that no one pays attention to online reviews?
While popular opinion might indicate that online reviewers are simply comprised of a small group of unhappy consumers, that is hardly the case. In fact, 75 percent of online reviews are positive, according to Reputation Advocate.Consumers are increasingly expressing both their pleasure and dissatisfaction about businesses within all industries. Even more importantly, consumer reviews have the potential to make or break your business.
At one time, businesses relied on the power of word of mouth. An amplifier in the form of online reviews has given word of mouth even more power. Individual social networks have virtually exploded within just the last few years. Those sites have now fundamentally changed the way in which we communicate and socialize as well as the way in which we arrive at buying decisions. Online reviews have become so powerful that they are even being referred to as a new form of advertising.
Whether positive or negative, online reviews can have a strong impact on your business. The fact is that you simply cannot afford to ignore online business reviews, as the following statistics prove:
- 90 percent of consumers surveyed claim that positive online reviews influenced their buying decisions.
- 86 percent said that their purchasing decisions were influenced by negative reviews.
- 70 percent of consumers indicate that positive customer reviews can increase their trust in a business.
- 80 percent of consumers state that a negative review is likely to change their mind about a business.
- 83 percent of consumers indicate it is important to read online reviews prior to arriving at a purchasing decision.
- 67 percent of consumers read online reviews of local businesses.
- 70 percent of consumers trust a business with at least six online reviews.
- 86 percent of consumers search for local businesses online.
- 84 percent of consumers expect a response when posting an online review.
10. Yelp has 78 million visitors per month.
The Effects of Negative Online Reviews
Although a negative review can certainly have an impact on your business, it can also provide the impetus for improving operations. Of those surveyed, 95 percent of displeased customers indicated they would return if a problem was resolved in a fast and efficient manner. Companies in all sectors, but particularly those that are reliant upon good customer service reviews, have struggled in the last few years with how to properly respond to online feedback.
While some companies –such as the restaurant owner in Arizona who blasted a reviewer with an irate social media rant that was read around the globe– have taken the wrong path,others have found a happy middle ground and learned how to bring unhappy customers back into the fold. There is no doubt that responding to negative social reviews can be difficult, particularly due to the fact that negative reviews on sites such as Yelp and even Facebook are often more vitriolic online than in-person feedback due to the anonymous shield provided by the Internet.
Regardless of how nasty a review might become, it is still imperative for businesses to be willing to respond in a positive mannerto customers posting negative reviews. While it is true that customers are sometimes unhappy for no apparent reason and there is likely nothing that will make them happy, businesses must still be willing to acknowledge their own mistakes and offer incentives to lure back customers.
Too much is on the line to do otherwise.
In the past, when customers were unhappy with their service, they sent the food back or simply stopped frequenting a business, perhaps voicing their discontent to a friend or two, and that was that. Today, the reach of unhappy consumers is far and can even span the globe within just a matter of hours.
So, how do you respond to negative reviews? The following steps can help to protect your business from online attacks:
- Begin by asking customers to review your business online.
Many business owners are afraid to do this because they have a fear of online reviews. The thing to keep in mind is that whether you encourage it or not, your customers are going to review you. Since that is the case, it is better to be proactive and go so far as to suggest sites to your customers.
- Do not make the mistake of purchasing fake reviews.
Not only is it in poor form, but the risks are simply too great. There is the significant chance that you will eventually be outed, thus ruining the trust that you have worked to build among your customers. If that is not enough incentive to steer you away from purchasing fake online reviews, consider the 19 companies in New York that were slapped with $350,000 in fines by the New York attorney general.
- Stay on top of your reviews and respond appropriately and quickly.
When customers leave a positive review, make a point of thanking them to let them know that you appreciate their business as well as their time. In the case of a negative review, acknowledge that customer’s displeasure and then take the conversation offline.
Customer feedback is certainly not a new element to owning a business, but the reality is that it has changed. While online reviews have become a game changer, they also present an opportunity for you to improve and strengthen your business. By recognizing the power that online review platforms hold and by engaging early and frequently, you can harness the benefits offered by online reviews while rectifying negative experiences, whether real or perceived, that could impact the reputation of your business.