Picture this: Local business owners go about their day-to-day business, focusing on maximizing revenue and blowing past their daily budget. Meanwhile, they’re completely oblivious to online reviews, or thereby lack of, that are actually harming their sales.
I have spoken with many managers about the negative customer reviews I read about them online. Some managers knew about the reviews but simply discounted them, while others didn’t even know the reviews existed. While shopping for a new car last year, I spoke with the manager of a dealership about their negative online reviews. Their response was something along the lines of: “you gotta be careful about online reviews—remember that people are always quick to leave negative reviews online.” Sure, miserable customers are satisfied by the sweet revenge they get by leaving nasty reviews in retaliation for horrendous customer service. However, ecstatic customers also love to be ambassadors that help others make good decisions! There’s never a good excuse for a bad review score.
Online reviews are an absolutely invaluable tool to make or break a business’s online reputation. But it’s not solely about soliciting more positive reviews than negative. Here are the four scenarios that local businesses need to avoid at all costs.
1. No online reviews
Customer reviews prove credibility. In terms of local search, without online reviews, a well-established local business is essentially on a level playing field with an early startup. And without online reviews, a local business is at a significant competitive disadvantage to a nearby rival that does have positive reviews.
In a previous post, we highlighted some of the reasons businesses need more reviews. Here’s a recap of the benefits:
- Increase sales
- High marketing value
- Boost SEO rank
- Establish relationships with customers
- Provide better products and services
The first and most important point is… You guessed it—increase sales. There are many local businesses in our city that have been around for years, but have only garnered two or three reviews on Google. Those businesses have a weak influence on buying decisions. Here are the stats to back it up:
- 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading one to three reviews
- 73% by reading up to six reviews
- 88% by reading up to ten reviews (Vendasta).
Therefore, as a general guideline, local businesses should strive to get at least 10 recent positive reviews.
It’s easy to solicit online reviews with a tool like Review Generation. Some articles may tell you not to ask for online reviews because it’ll surface a boatload of negativity. First of all, happy customers won’t always provide feedback unless you ask them to. Second of all, some negativity can actually help (if managed properly, which I’ll explain below). And finally, 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores (Vendasta). The key is to ask for the feedback, have negative conversations in private, and then only encourage the happy customers to share on sites like Yelp, Google and Facebook.
2. No recent online reviews
Alright, so you’ve generated more than 10 positive customer reviews. That’s awesome! Now what? Keep collecting reviews, because they’re gonna get stale over time. Consumers understand that businesses change over time, for worse or for better. Blaring issues from three years ago were hopefully solved, or maybe new management ruined the enjoyable atmosphere that once existed in the store. You may as well consider reviews from more than a year ago irrelevant. Even reviews older than a month get ignored. 44% of consumers say a review must be written within the past month to be relevant (Vendasta).
Again, it may actually take some effort from the business owner (or a digital agency) to solicit new reviews. Generating reviews needs to be a regular task, as frequent as once per day.
3. Negative online reviews
86% of people will hesitate to purchase from a business that has negative online reviews (Vendasta). But hey, even the greatest of businesses gets a negative customer review once in awhile. Most people aren’t going to be swayed by two bad reviews that are buried among 50 good reviews, unless it’s a really sensitive topic to them, or unless the reviewer doesn’t receive a respectable and timely response.
What matters most is the average review rating—that’s the number one factor consumers use to judge a business (Vendasta). When you see a two-star review rating for a brand new barber shop in town, stating “I could do a better job cutting my own hair. Sloppy and careless!”, you’re probably not going to get your hair cut there. In fact, only 13% of consumers consider using a business that has a one or two-star rating (Vendasta).
But negative reviews aren’t the end of the world. Everything is manageable, and should be treated as such. When local businesses receive a negative review, this is how they should treat it:
- Take some time to respond
- Be kind and genuine
- Be specific
- Remember that feedback and criticism can be helpful
- Offer to take the conversation private
We will be releasing “The Ultimate Guide to Online Reviews” ebook shortly, which is full of this and other imperative info—send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to be the first to get it when it comes out.
You have now found the good in the bad: If a business resolves an issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers will return (Vendasta). Remember that it’s entirely possible to turn an upset customer into a brand ambassador (and what a damn good feeling that is). People don’t need a business to be perfect—they want to see how they engage with people.
4. Healthy, unmanaged online reviews
This scenario is what separates good review management from the great. In this case, the business owner has been soliciting reviews over time, so they’ve racked up quite a strong review rating. They’ve been responding to negative reviews (an absolute must). However, the business owner has not responded to positive feedback (spoiler: also an absolute must!).
Imagine you’re in a physical store, giving very positive feedback to the manager face-to-face, and he just smiles and says nothing. Weirdo. Without responding to positive online feedback, you’re basically just a weirdo behind a keyboard.
Positive reviews need to be managed. When local businesses receive a positive review, this is how they should treat it:
- Share the review
- Determine what’s of value
- Get personal
- Commend staff if they are mentioned explicitly
Cars.com recently conducted a study of 10,000 randomly selected automotive dealership reviews on their site. It showed that dealers who responded to all reviews, not just the negative ones, received the highest ratings and were the most popular (Vendasta). So the extra effort is worth it.
Don’t ignore customer reviews, because they can either be a great marketing tool or a silent killer. It all depends on how local businesses or digital agents manage customer feedback.
Here are the key takeaways:
- Solicit reviews with a tool like Review Generation
- Continue soliciting reviews to keep feedback nice and fresh
- Manage and respond appropriately to negative feedback
- Respond to positive feedback
Tell us your thoughts, ask questions or simply send a pleasant greeting in the comments section below.