Based on recent data, 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase. More than 80 percent of these people trust customer testimonials as much as personal recommendations from relatives, friends and colleagues. This means that a person is more likely to purchase a product or service that has been recommended by someone else.
That being said, online reviews can dramatically impact the reputation and bottom line of a company, whether it operates locally or online. Since this can make or break your business, it’s critical that you find out exactly what positive or negative things people have to say about your company before it’s too late.
Now, let me tell you a short story. One of the things I did when I moved into my new home was to look for a reliable mover. After performing a local search in Google, a few moving companies showed up on the first page. Evidently, I started from the top, clicking on the first business with reviews. Two out of the three reviews posted by previous customers were negative, indicating several service-related complaints. Though it may sound surprising, the bad reviews weren’t necessarily the biggest problem; the fact that the company didn’t bother to respond worried me more. Obviously, I moved on to the next company, meaning that the first one lost the sale.
In the digital age, online reviews replace word-of-mouth referrals. But customer testimonials not only impact business reputation; they affect search engine rankings as well. In brief, consistently earning good reviews gives your business the opportunity to climb to the top of search results.
On a side note, if a business is what its customers say it is, then review management shouldn’t be overlooked. How can you monitor and manage online reviews to make the most of them? Let’s take a quick glance at a few important aspects that can make review management a breeze.
First things first, you need to find out where customers leave reviews about your business. Google Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Trust Pilot, Facebook and Insider Pages are just a few sites people use to share their opinions of different businesses. Depending on your industry niche, you can find relevant review sites by typing the name of your industry along with the words “review websites.” For instance, if you’re running a resort business, conduct a search for “travel review websites.” Sites like Trip Advisor and Oyster will show up among the first results.
Another thing you should do is monitor review websites with a reliable review management tool such as Google Alerts. Or you could just use a reputation management service like our free Review scan to get an instant report on you company’s reputation.
As a complementary measure, you can invite satisfied customers to post reviews about your company. Since many people are aware of how important reviews are to businesses, they won’t be annoyed if you ask for testimonials, particularly if you provide products and services that meet their expectations. On the other hand, you also need to make it easy for them to leave reviews. A great review management strategy for generating positive testimonials is to send your customers follow-up emails with direct links to your review profiles.
Last, but not least, you should always respond to negative reviews in a timely fashion. Under no circumstances should you ignore the customers who express their dissatisfaction with the services or products they received from you. Ignoring online complaints can easily become a red flag for future prospects. Also, don’t just invite people to contact your company directly in order to address their complaints. Acknowledging and resolving problems online to your customers’ satisfaction will demonstrate not only that you’re able to handle complaints effectively, as soon as they occur, but also that you really value your customers. All these will help you add more credibility to your business.
As the search engines continue to use customer testimonials as a ranking factor in their algorithms, it’s really important to implement the right review management strategy in order to discover reviews as soon as they’re posted and take appropriate, timely measures. As my story has shown, coming up on top in search results doesn’t help too much if a business has several negative reviews that scare potential customers away. Since most small businesses don’t get too many testimonials, it only takes several bad ones to hand potential customers and profits over to competitors on a silver platter.