Once upon a time, the business world was much different than it is today. If you wanted to go out to eat, you had to rely on your friends' recommendation for the best Indian restaurant in town.
If you needed to get your car fixed, you took your Uncle's advice on a trustworthy shop. Or even worse, you just blindly chose an option and hoped for the best.
Luckily, these days are long over, and the average consumer has more access to more information than ever before. The ability to leave customer reviews gives power to the consumer, and it also creates both opportunities and challenges for businesses.
How do online customer reviews work?
After purchasing a product or service from a company, a user can leave an online review regarding their overall experience with that company. There are plenty of websites that offer company review capabilities. Some of the most commonly used are:
Customer reviews typically have two main features:
1) A number/star rating - usually from 1-5 or 1-10
2) A brief written summary where the customer justifies their number/star rating
Why are customer reviews so important?
An estimated 97% of customers read company reviews before making purchasing decisions in 2018. That's almost everyone! High company ratings provide quality validation in the eyes of the consumer, while low company ratings tell a consumer which brands to avoid.
The level of trust consumers feel towards branded messaging is dropping every day, and they are much more likely to see other customers' opinions as authentic.
Customer reviews have a significantly higher impact on brands that are still establishing themselves as relevant players in the market compared to brands with a proven track record.
I see why customer reviews are important, do you have any tips for a new business trying to establish a positive reputation?
We're happy you asked! Here are five tips regarding online company reviews for small businesses!
1) Make sure your business is online and reviewable by customers
It's hard to build up your ratings if customers aren't able to leave a review! Make sure your business is registered to be found locally on Google, create a Facebook page for your brand, register your company on Yelp, and make an account on any additional platform you think would benefit your customers/business.
2) Encourage customers to leave a review!
If you really want to build up your review count fast, you can encourage your customers to leave a review on a specific platform. Try to do this in an authentic way that isn't too pushy. A great strategy is to offer a discount on a future purchase or enter them in a sweepstakes/giveaway if they leave a review!
3) Remember that good reviews start with excellent customer service
If you take care of your customers to the best of your ability, the positive reviews will come on their own. Try not to let people leave unhappy, even if they weren't 100% satisfied with your products/services.
Not every customer is going to love the dish they ordered at their restaurant, but they still might leave you a 5-star review if you make it up to them by discounting a dessert at the end of their meal!
Customers also tend to be very polarized reviews so you'll see more 1-star or 5-star reviews than 3-stars. Any time you can turn a 1-star review into 5-stars through customer services is a huge win for your company's reputation!
4) Respond to your reviews, both positive AND negative
One of the best features of customer review platforms is the ability to comment/respond to individual reviews. If a customer left you a perfect review and talked about how much they enjoyed their experience, you can take this opportunity to thank them for their business and tell them you look forward to seeing them in the future.
In the case of a negative review, you have the opportunity to apologize for whatever caused their poor experience and offer a refund or solution to the problem if you find it appropriate.
Remember that people are people, and that means that some people will exaggerate negative parts of their experience and leave you a review that isn't quite justified. It's no fun when this happens, but try not to argue with them.
If you think they're lying or in the wrong, just be polite, offer a sincere apology, and briefly defend your business without lashing back out at them.
5) Don't fake reviews
It can be tempting to leave fake reviews for your company, especially when starting out. We don't recommend it though, because it's actually hurting you in the long run. Your customer reviews and company rating should be an accurate reflection of how well you're doing as a business.
If your ratings aren't where you want them to be, the problem might be more than the reviews themselves. Also, platforms like Google and Yelp are getting much adept at sniffing out faulty reviews. So just play fair!
Customer reviews can make or break a small business, but with the right amount of customer service and best practices, you can see your brand's ratings soar. Do you have any additional thoughts regarding customer reviews?