Anyone who owns a professional services company has seen the double-edged sword that is online reviews.
For many business owners, reviews are both coveted and feared, as feedback from customers on popular review sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook has the potential to significantly sway the buying and hiring decisions of potential new customers.
It can be easy for business leaders and owners to fall into the mentality of: “I can’t control my online reviews, so I shouldn’t waste my time and energy on them.” However, this is the worst approach a business could take.
Because online reviews are such a critical component of the modern-day consumer’s decision-making process, they should never be left to chance. If you want to set up your business for success, you have to work proactively to improve your online reputation over time, leveraging both clear-cut processes and technology to monitor and manage your online reviews more efficiently. When you take these steps, you can help shape how your business is being portrayed and perceived on the Internet, which in turn allows you to boost customer confidence, attract more business, and grow your revenue over the long run.
In this post, I cover both how customer reviews guide consumer decisions today, as well as best practices for improving and growing your online reputation.
How do online reviews impact customer decisions?
In the old days, word of mouth was considered the best way to keep a steady flow of new customers coming through the door. However, consumer habits have changed. While people are looking to the experiences and recommendations of others to decide where they’ll take their business, this has largely moved to the Internet — particularly through online reviews sites and social media.
Consider these facts…
Almost ALL consumers read reviews.
- 92% of all consumers check online reviews before making a buying or hiring decision. (Source: Scorpion “Consumer Online Search Preference” Survey, May 2020)
Reviews have a high level of impact on consumer decisions.
- 63% say reviews are either “extremely important” or “very important” to their process of evaluating a business. (Source: Scorpion “Consumer Online Search Preference” Survey, May 2020)
Reviews are considered to be just as trustworthy as word of mouth.
- 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and trust is highest among consumers between the ages of 35 and 54 at 89%. (Source)
Consumers check a variety of sources for reviews.
- 84.5% check at least two different review sites before making a decision. (Source: Scorpion “Consumer Online Search Preference” Survey, May 2020)
What does this mean for your business?
It means your company needs to have a presence on multiple review sites, and you should have a high volume of reviews and a high star rating so you can make the best impression on potential new customers and earn their trust.
If you have a poor rating, a lot of negative reviews, very few reviews, or no reviews at all, people may question the quality of your business — especially if they’re comparing you to other companies in your area that have better ratings.
Consider these three scenarios, which are all different ways that consumers use reviews to make purchasing and hiring decisions…
Client Journey 1: Starting with a review site
- Jane has a busted pipe in her kitchen and needs a plumber — but she’s not sure who to call, so she does a quick search in Yelp.
- The top two results for the plumbers closest to her location show one plumbing business with 12 reviews and a 2.5-star rating, and another business with 100 reviews and a 4.5-star rating.
- Which plumber will Jane choose? Most likely the second one.
Client Journey 2: Starting with a search engine
- Tom moves to a new neighborhood and needs to find a new dentist, so he jumps on Google and does a search for “dentist near me.”
- He sees three dental office listings show up in the map results — the first listing shows no reviews, the second shows 3.5 stars with a total of 9 reviews, and the third shows 4.5 stars with a total of 51 reviews.
- Which listing will Tom click on? Probably the one with 4.5 stars.
Client Journey 3: Using reviews as a final step
- Diane has been thinking about filing for divorce.
- She spends weeks searching the Internet for information about how the divorce process works in her state and what she has to do to fight for custody of her kids.
- In her research, Diane comes across multiple blog posts written by a family law firm in her area. She also keeps seeing ads for that same firm on Facebook.
- Diane becomes curious about the firm and decides to check out their website. She’s impressed by how professional the site looks and how much experience the attorneys have.
- However, because a lot is at stake, Diane decides to also check the practice’s reviews — just to be sure.
- She searches the firm’s name and “reviews,” and ratings pop up for the firm on Google, Avvo, and Yelp.
- Diane sees ratings in the 2-2.5 range and she immediately second-guesses the firm.
- She decides to keep looking and eventually chooses another firm that has 4.5 stars.
In all three scenarios, online reviews end up swaying the potential customer’s decision, whether those reviews are checked first, last, or just in passing. This is exactly how your prospective clients are interacting with your reviews, so their importance cannot be understated.
This begs the question: “How can I improve my online business’ online reputation.” To help you build a reputation that removes doubt from the minds of your potential customers and positions your company as a trusted brand in your community, we put together these…
8 Best Practices for Boosting Your Online Reputation
While you can’t control what customers write about your business online, there are a few things you can do to help shape your company’s online reputation:
- Set up profiles on popular review sites to make it easier for customers to find and rate your business. Our research shows that the top three most popular review sites are Google, Yelp, and Facebook. However, you should also consider additional sites that are especially relevant for your industry (e.g., Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor for home services businesses).
- Use technology to monitor all your reviews from a single platform, which will save you time and keep you up-to-date on the status of your online reputation.
- Respond to every review, whether it’s positive or negative. Positive reviews just need a quick thank you and acknowledgment of the customer, whereas for negative reviews, it’s best to show empathy and invite further conversation to address the issue.
- Use your best judgment when deciding whether to respond publicly or privately. Responding publicly to negative reviews can show both the reviewer and others that your company cares and is committed to maintaining customer satisfaction. However, responding privately (especially in more sensitive situations) can also give you the opportunity to resolve a problem with the customer directly and potentially save the relationship.
- Report negative reviews that you suspect to be inaccurate or fraudulent, such as a review that was meant for another business, a review that you suspect to be left by a competitor, etc. If you can show enough proof that the review is questionable, it may be removed by the review site.
- Showcase your best reviews on your website to give them greater exposure. You can also take things a step further by finding other ways to highlight excellent customer feedback, such as adding customer testimonial videos to your site, sharing client success stories on your blog and social media pages, and so on.
- When you get negative feedback, see if there are any legitimate shortcomings by your business that you can correct. By fixing the problem, you’ll show customers you’re listening to their concerns, and you’ll prevent others from having the same experience in the future.
- Train your staff on how to deliver the best customer service possible — whether that involves how your staff is answering the phones, how they’re engaging with customers in your store or office or at a job site, how they’re following up after service is completed, etc. Great reviews start with a superior customer experience!
The more hands-on you are with your online reputation, the better chances you have of attracting new reviews, bringing greater visibility to those reviews, leaving a positive impression on existing and new customers, and growing your business.
If you want to know more about how you can build a more impressive online reputation and grow your business, speak with a member of our team