Recommendations from real people are a powerful influence on consumers’ buying habits. Traditionally, these recommendations came from our friends, family members and work colleagues, but today, we can access so many more opinions from real people online. Research shows that these opinions still play an important part in purchases, despite them generally coming from strangers. A study carried out in 2014 found that 88% of people trust online reviews just as much as they trust personal recommendations.
Online customer reviews are particularly important for local businesses as they are a prominent feature in local search listings. You will probably have seen search listings where a business website appears next to information about it, including a map, opening hours, and contact details. Along with this, if the business has any reviews on Google, it will display a star rating out of five, and the number of reviews given. If you have no reviews or a poor rating, users are much less likely to click through to your website.
Local listings with more customer reviews are also more likely to appear higher up in the search listings because Google ranks them as more appropriate for their users. As well as this, reviews on any other sites are all mentions of your business, making it more likely to be discovered in search results. Google recognizes that people are talking about your business and, therefore, ranks it as more relevant.
At the same time as online reviews acting as free advertisement for your business, they can also damage your reputation if customers are leaving negative reviews. Hopefully, you are selling a good quality product delivered with friendly service, so this shouldn’t be a problem. If you are regularly getting bad reviews, then you should probably take a look at your business to see where the problems lie and how you can improve. If the majority of your reviews are positive, don’t panic if you get a negative one every now and again. Here are a few ways you can turn that negative review into something positive.
People will only trust online reviews if they feel like they are genuine. Most internet users are savvy to the fact that online reviews can be bought or faked. If you see a business with 10,000 5-star reviews and nothing else, you might question the authenticity of these results. Their service may be great, but it is unlikely that every single person will think that it is perfect. The occasional 2 or 3-star rating makes it seem more authentic, because you can’t please everyone. People are more likely to trust your positive reviews if there are some negative ones to counteract them.
You should pay attention to any negative reviews you get, because they might give you an idea of how to improve your business and satisfy more customers in the future. Reviews like “It was rubbish” obviously aren’t going to help, but other customers might pinpoint what they weren’t happy with, highlighting what you need to improve.
With every negative review or comment online, you have the chance to respond to it and turn the situation around. Some unhappy customers won’t post online; they’ll just never buy from you again. The ones that do air their opinions online present an opportunity for you. You could influence these customers by responding swiftly and reasonably to their negative reviews. Apologize for their negative experience with your brand and determine the best way to solve their problem. This will show that you care about them and make them more likely to return in the future. Research shows that 70% of customers who have a complaint resolved in their favour will return for repeat business.
So, both positive and negative reviews can be a powerful tool for marketing your business. But, try to avoid the overly negative ones by delivering the best service you can. Websites such as Yelp and TrustPilot are great platforms for collecting online customer reviews.