Online Reviews Boost Rankings and Sales for Small Businesses
Back in 2007, The Kelsey Group along with ComScore compiled a study which studied the relationship between positive online reviews, off line buying and price paid for services by consumers. Now understanding this study was done in 2007, some percentages may have changed since then, but the data complied in this study should make generation of positive online reviews a priority for any small business.
The above study found that 41% of consumers read reviews before deciding (have to believe that percentage is higher 5 years later). And of those, as high as 87% of polled said reviews (or lack of) had a direct influence on their decision to purchase (or not). One of the greatest findings in my opinion was that 97% of everyone that took part in the study said reviews had some sort of impact on their decision to buy.
So the question I often ask my customers is: What is being said about your business online? Are you making it easy for people to leave reviews on you business? Do you engage your customers and prospects through social media, your website and in your store ask for their online recommendation? If you’re not doing these simple things, I can honestly say you are missing the boat with your biggest fan base…your current satisfied customers.
Online Reviews Generate Sales
Notice I didn’t say “positive” online reviews generate sales? Often I get push back about making it easy for people to leave reviews about a customers business. I think with many small business owners there is always that fear of generating the dreaded Negative Review. I wholeheartedly believe that the vast majority of small business owners want and strive to do what is best for each and every one of their customers. Are there times when you’re not going to be able to satisfy every single customer? Of course. Is it plausible that a disgruntled customer may post something online that’s less than stellar? Of course. But in response to the fear of the dreaded Negative Review, I ask my customers if they were searching online and found a business that only had 5 star reviews, and nothing else, what would they think of buying from that business? I get several responses to this question, but in general the sentiment is that they would proceed with caution before buying from that business…because as they are already well aware, pleasing everyone is impossible.
Dealing With The Dreaded Negative Review
Now that we have addressed and mostly agree that all reviews won’t be 100% positive, lets talk about how to address and take care of that negative review, if it ever comes your way. First as a small business you need to decide where to invest in trying to get customers reviewing your business. I typically start my customers on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Facebook. Each one of these have functionality to be able to publicly respond as the business owner, or a representative of the business. Responses to negative reviews should be done quickly as possible to show that you as the business owner follow up on every customer issue quickly. There are many different software programs and platforms available to monitor your online reputation.
How Not To Respond to a Negative Review
If that negative review comes in, as a business owner you want to respond to it. I really recommend taking emotion out of your response as it will most likely tarnish what should be a professional response from you. Lashing out, picking apart, belittling and other such responses have no place here. Below I have placed a screen shot of one such response I found online. Obviously the business owner was hurt and dismayed at the review, but placing threats, or questioning someones motive should not be done here. If I had run across this response while looking for what this business did…I would have run the other way…and interestingly enough, 5 out of 8 people that were asked if the negative review helped them said yes. In my eyes. complete failure on the business owners part.
The Correct Way To Respond
I’m not going to pretend that I know your business and how you should respond to a negative online review. You know your customers and you know how they talk, act and what they respond to. Obviously responses would vary depending on your business. A daycare center would respond differently than a tattoo shop, so understand that, you as the business owner should look at your response as everyone else will…a direct reflection on how you treat upset customers. Going into long drawn out rants on why this particular customer was impossible to service, or attacking their credibility will do little to improve any damage that may have been done. Instead I recommend asking details about what was wrong with the service, dates and times, who they dealt with, and personally asking them to call the business and asking for you by name will reap must greater results. That will go miles further than the example above. Below I have included a response from a business owner that I thought was very good.
The business owner concluded the review by leaving their full name as well as a phone number to contact them personally.