When a customer purchases a business’s product or service, that same customer might express their opinion about it online.
The result is an online review and it can make or break your business.
There are reviews sites like Yelp, where customers go to post reviews for local businesses. Some eCommerce platforms, like Amazon, will give their sellers the option to ask their customers to review products.
Why are Online Customer Reviews Important?
Nearly every internet user on the face of the earth (97%, to be exact) considers online reviews before making a purchase. That’s because online customer reviews are this century’s word-of-mouth. They carry as much weight as a recommendation from a trusted friend.
But having online business reviews isn’t enough. You need positive reviews. Reviews influence 93% of consumers’ decisions, and those consumers are taking the advice of total strangers. In fact, they all agree: any business with a rating of fewer than 3.3 stars is not getting their business.
Studies have consistently shown that online reviews influence purchasing decisions.
A recent BrightLocal survey showed that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation and 54% of people will visit a company website after reading positive reviews. In other words, online reviews are not just feedback about your business, but an advertisement for your business – or a warning to stay far, far away.
Consumers, more than ever, are turning to online reviews to make purchasing choices for restaurants, hotels, and even doctors and lawyers. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google My Business, BBB and other business listing sites offer a chance for consumers to rate their experiences.
In addition, just about every major retailer offers people the opportunity to comment on products and read unbiased reviews from other consumers — social marketing is a major factor in how purchasing choices are being made today.
The BrightLocal survey asked consumers how many times have they used online reviews to find a local business. 37% of consumers used the internet to find local businesses at least one time per month and only 5% said they do not search online for a local business.
In addition to locating the right business, consumers said they read online reviews to find a reputable business, product or service. As a matter of fact 85% of the survey participants say that they read online reviews for local businesses and only 15% of consumers say that they don’t read online reviews.
An interesting question posed by BrightLocal was how many online reviews do people in general read before they make a decision to make a purchase or select a service provider. The BrightLocal survey found that 67% of consumers read 6 reviews or less.*
These online reviews carry significant weight as 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. In addition, 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more and 65% of consumers are more likely to use a business which has positive online reviews.
For a newer business or a business marketing online for the first time, it is essential to make online reviews an immediate priority. Not only does this serve to support your branding and strengthen your overall messaging, but it makes it more difficult for the inevitable negative review to damage the brand, if there are already several positive reviews in place.
Not all online reviews are authentic. Some negative reviews are created by competitors or disgruntled customers—and positive ones can be fictitious as well. But here’s what really matters: real or fake, the people who read those reviews are likely to believe them.
Short reviews with generic superlatives or negatives are more likely fake or malicious (for example, “great company! Or “what a scam!”. Consider that fake reviews can be positive, but also negative, driven by unethical competitors and disgruntled former employees. Long form reviews with specific details regarding products/services, highlighting specific employees by name or position, sharing actual dates of service or posting images are more likely real.
Certain Websites are more susceptible for fake reviews than others. Anonymous review sites are more easily manipulated. Among popular review sites, Google requires only an active Gmail account to leave a review, which is easy to obtain and not tied to any identity verification. Yelp’s algorithm tends to favor long form, negative reviews, but allows anonymous reviews and has a weak process for contesting fake reviews.
Among review sites that are harder to “game”, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) does not allow anonymous reviews. TrustPilot has a “Verified Order” tag and Amazon has a “Verified Purchase” tag applied to certain reviews that can help distinguish paid or incentive-based fake reviews.
We recommend companies Monitor all relevant reviews on all of the most relevant business review and complaint sites every day. If you don’t know what are the most relevant review sites, Google your business name and location – if it shows up on Page 1 it matters.
Companies should be following all the following popular review and customer complaint sites: Facebook, Google My Business, Citysearch, TrustPilot, Yahoo! Local, Yelp, Foursquare, Yellow Pages (YP.com), as well as niche-specific sites relevant to a specific business (like Cars.com and DealerRater for car dealers or RateMDs.com and HealthGrades.com for doctors).
Business owners should know who is reviewing their company, when they are reviewing, what they are saying and where they are posting their reviews to identify and respond to trends and allocate advertising and marketing resources accordingly.
There are a wide variety of social listening tools and online review tracking tools available for monitoring reviews, from ReviewTrackers to Birdeye. This will allow a business to track new reviews online, in real-time.
Review Outreach is how you can target those individuals who have had a positive experience with you or your company and direct these customers to leave reviews on the most visible online review sites so they can have maximum impact.
We believe it is important to provide a Response to all relevant reviews. Customers and clients do not expect perfection, but it is important for a company to be engaged and involved in their customers’ experiences. A rapid response allows a business to acknowledge and recognize positive reviews and escalate and resolve problems posted online in an effort to convert negative customer reviews to positive reviews.
In general, it’s best to respond to every review that’s posted about you or your business. This demonstrates engagement and the desire to serve your customers.
More specifically, negative reviews should always be met with gratitude and a spirit of helpfulness. Thank the reviewer for their feedback, ask them how you can improve your product or service, and be sure to carry through. For positive reviews, again thank them for the feedback, express your gratitude and tell them you look forward to doing business with them in the future.
Do not underestimate the power of a phone call. When addressing a complaint, a phone call from a senior executive to the disgruntled customer can have a tremendous impact in turning around a customer service debacle into a triumph. We are all inundated with e-mails and a phone call or handwritten note can really stand out.
“Know when to respond immediately and when to remain silent. What you say online can and will be used against you.”
There are often two extremes when responding to negative online reviews. Some business owners respond very defensively to online complaints, either attacking the customer personally or making excuses. The other extreme is acting too deferentially, publicly accepting full responsibility when it is best shared or accepting the blame for something that is an aberration or a rare occurrence, like a hair that might fall into a bowl of soup or an order mix-up, with an over-the-top apology that is best suited for international diplomacy rather than a Google review forum.
Generally, the best approach for a business is to have a conversation offline to discuss the issue. The best response is when the owner or manager reaches out to the individual who posted the complaint in near real time, expresses an interest in resolving the issue and provides contact information so this resolution can actually take place.
Here are a few examples of review responses that work for one of our restaurant clients:
FOR A POSITIVE RESTAURANT REVIEW
Dear [CUSTOMER NAME],
Thank you for your wonderful review! We are thrilled to learn that you enjoyed your order from [NAME OF RESTAURANT]. I am really glad you like the [NAME OF DISH] which we are also very proud of. We‘ll be sure to pass along your compliments to our chef and culinary team. Thanks again for taking your time to write this review, we look forward to welcoming you back again soon!
FOR A NEGATIVE RESTAURANT REVIEW
Dear [CUSTOMER NAME],
We are sorry to hear you were disappointed by the food. Your feedback is valuable and we have already shared it with our chef and culinary team.
We will try anything to improve and make sure you will have a wonderful experience next time. Please contact me at: [EMAIL AND PHONE #] so we can find a convenient time to invite to invite you back as our guest.
Good Reviews vs. Bad Reviews
We understand that people are far more likely to share a negative experience than a positive experience. This is human nature and it applies in both the “real” world and the online world. However, when someone who has a positive experience is asked to share that experience with others online, they are more than willing to do so. Just ask!
Almost every business with an online presence will receive both good and bad online reviews. Good reviews often need to be solicited, since human nature dictates that people are far more likely to lodge complaints than compliments.
But are bad reviews always bad for business? No. In fact, a bad review that’s resolved (and that teaches the business something about its customers) can be more beneficial than a simple, positive review without further engagement.
Most businesses will receive negative reviews—that’s a fact. Rather than focusing on those bad reviews, most brands will choose to increase their positive reviews, to bury the negative ones.
The most effective way to get more positive reviews is to…
How to Deal with Negative Reviews Online
When you feel certain that a review has been posted by someone who has purchased or used your product or service, thank them for sharing their experience. Then work with them to come to a mutual resolution. Demonstrate your willingness to work with them publicly, but then take the conversation offline if it becomes more complicated.
How to Remove Bad Online Reviews
Reviews from dissatisfied customers can be difficult or impossible to remove. It’s best to open dialogue with those reviewers, seek resolution and pursue more positive reviews.
If, however, you determine that a review qualifies as libel, defamation, involves a false statement or was posted by someone who has not used your product or service, then you may have legal recourse. In cases such as these, an online review management professional can assist you.
Focus your efforts on customers and clients that have had a positive experience with you and your company. As an educated consumer, I always question any business with a 5-star rating or 100% satisfaction.
No company is perfect. When we are working with a small business, our goal is usually 4.5 stars or better. What distinguishes the good from the great companies, is how they deal with negative reviews and complaints. When we are managing the reputation of a business, we make sure all reviews are responded to, the good, the bad and the ugly and take actionable steps to resolve issues and convert negative reviews to positive, wherever possible.
Consumers who write negative reviews are motivated by a number of factors, but when it comes to positive reviews, your customers may need a little persuading. Most of them will be more than happy to sing your praises—if you make it easy and beneficial for them.
If you’ve gone out of your way to help a customer and they feel indebted to you, suggest they show their gratitude by posting an online review. Use an automated system that asks customers for reviews. You can even offer incentives (like discounts) to anyone who reviews your product or service.
Here is an example of a recent email outreach effort we did on behalf of a client in the healthcare space:
Dear [Name of Patient],
One of our New Year’s resolutions is to reach out to past and present patients, and listen to what we are doing right and what we can do better.
Please take a moment today to share your positive experience with [NAME OF COMPANY] on our Google My Business page (if you have Gmail) or any of the health sites listed below (if you don’t have Gmail).
Your positive feedback not only helps motivate and inspire our hardworking team, but it also helps potential patients discover [NAME OF COMPANY].
Today, more than ever before, people look to friends, family, and Google before choosing a doctor.
Simply click the link below to go directly to the review site and leave a review.
Thank you very much in advance!
P.S. If we have fallen short of your expectations in any way, please let us know by replying to this email first and we will follow up with you directly to learn how we can improve.
Online reviews—and in particular, the tone of those reviews—will shape your business’s online reputation. If you have too many negative reviews, you may never know just how many potential clients are walking away from your business.
If your online reviews are overwhelmingly positive, you can rest assured that those reviews are contributing to your growth and sustainability.
Reputation Rhino is the world’s leading online reputation management company. We have the reputation management tools, the experience, and the know-how to make online reviews work for you.
Learn more about our reputation management solutions today.