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The Influence of Online Reviews and What You Can Do to Improve Them

Image of Michelle Farnsworth
Michelle Farnsworth

Sure, online reviews are a nice way to sway consumers toward your product or business, but do you really know the power they carry for your company?

In 2020, an astounding 97% of customers reported reading online reviews before making a purchase. Customers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a company. Nearly half of those will only choose to use a business or product that has a rating 4-stars or higher. As if those numbers aren’t enough, a shocking 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. No need to ask around your social network when there are plenty of credible reviews to scour over online.

How This Affects You

According to a study conducted by Google, businesses that have online reviews of 3 or more stars will get roughly 87% of the clicks. 87%! It is important to note in recent years there have been significant shifts in the way consumers seek out and use customer reviews when selecting local businesses. Customers are becoming more review-savvy and favor those businesses that have a high volume of high-scoring online reviews on a regular basis. Which means as a business you can no longer just sit on the sidelines enjoying an occasional review. You have to be actively, and consistently, motivating your customers to share their impressions about your business online.

Conversion and optimization experts, Invesp, report that customers will actually spend more money if your business is well-reviewed, and upwards of 30% more if your business has “excellent” online reviews. On average, a one-star increase on Yelp causes a 5-9% jump in a business’ revenue, while one negative review can cost you approximately 30 potential customers. If you think it’s only prospects affected by these reviews, you are oh so wrong! Existing customers read online reviews too. Recent studies show a positive ranking drives 18% higher loyalty and 21% higher purchase satisfaction.

The take-home message? Your company’s online reputation triggers consumer conversion!

6 Reasons Why Online Reviews Help Your Business

1. Reviews improve internal business practices.

Online reviews allow you to keep your ear to the ground with regards to both user opinion and overall customer satisfaction. They give voice to both the happy and unhappy customers with no worry of repercussion, allowing them to be completely honest in their vantage point. When common themes emerge you are able to adjust your practice to accommodate your clients, which allows you to provide true value to your customers.

2. Reviews boost your search engine optimization (SEO).

Because satisfaction and reviews influence where you are ranked on Google and other search engines, having consistent positive online reviews will help prioritize your business listing and website. It also helps provide a popular and fairly reliable picture of your company’s quality.

3. Reviews can generate higher conversion rates.

The equation is simple: more reviews = higher conversion rates. But, what about those bad reviews? Believe it or not, even negative reviews can have a positive impact on your conversion rate. Less-than-perfect reviews show potential customers that you aren’t trying to hide anything, and they can even make the good online reviews appear more genuine. The caveat here is to make sure your good reviews greatly outnumber the bad ones!

4. Reviews engage your customers.

As mentioned before, online reviews are an outlet for your customers to give you, and an outside audience, honest feedback. Their critique will give you valuable information, some of which you may not have thought about or been aware of before. Keep in mind, EVERY review (both the positive and the not-so-positive) is an opportunity to respond, resolve, and learn.

5. Reviews aid customer retention and your reputation.

Studies show that unhappy customers are 3x more likely to tell their friends about their negative experience than happy customers are. This is why it is critical that you reach out to the negative reviewer and address the situation. One negative online review could quickly drop your sales anywhere from 5-8%! It then takes 12 positive experiences to make up for that one unresolved, negative experience. Sometimes all it takes is reaching out to help turn an unhappy customer into a loyal one.

6. Reviews expand your customer base.

Positive reviews mean a user is more likely to end up working with you. Remember, consumers trust online reviews from a stranger just as much as they would from a close friend.

4 Tips to Get Customers Reviewing

Since online reviews will undoubtedly continue to play a significant role in establishing a company’s reputation, here are 4 tips to get your customers to start reviewing:

Tip 1: Just ASK!

You may feel uncomfortable asking a customer to leave you an online review, but the truth is most won’t bat an eye at the question and are more than happy to oblige. Nearly 70% of consumers leave a local business a review when asked. They simply had to be invited to do so!

Any one-on-one format is an opportune time to come up with a way to ask for feedback. For example, send out a personalized email a day or two after a purchase has been made that asks for feedback and provides a direct link will make leaving an online review fast and easy. Just remember, convenience is key or it won’t get done.

Another great time to ask someone for feedback is when you are face-to-face. Customers are constantly approaching business owners to let them know how wonderful their product or service is. When it happens, take that chance to ask them if they’d be willing to leave digital feedback in addition to their vocal praise.

Tip 2: Provide incentives to your employees.

Although it may seem harmless enough, do NOT offer customers free items or discounts in exchange for a review. Not only is it against most terms of service agreements, such as Yelp’s, but you could be slapped with hefty punishments for buying or falsifying online reviews (in addition to losing that hard-earned review).

However, incentivizing your employees is a great way to obtain more positive online reviews! Offer prizes or special perks, such as movie passes or front row parking, to the employee who receives the most customers reviews. Teaching your employees to ask customers, particularly after a good experience, can give you valuable feedback.

Tip 3: Put positive social proof front and center.

Many businesses are putting customer testimonials at the heart of their homepage, sales page, and other landing pages where prospects and customers alike can read them. Research shows that such brief statements on a website from satisfied customers are PROVEN to help conversion rates. Why? Because someone’s approval and satisfaction eases the minds of new customers.

Studies also show that the closer you can hit it to home, the more effective a testimonial will be. This is the concept of implicit egotism, which basically states that most people subconsciously like things that resemble them in some way. When it comes to valuing the opinions of others, our brains place more weight on those people we deem to be most like us.

So what does this mean for social proof?

Avoid generic testimonials, such as “Great product!” with all of your might because customers do not gain any insights into your business, nor can they really relate to the person reviewing. Instead, use a variety of clients that give feedback in their own unique voice. Display those phrases where customers describe very specific ways that your product or service has solved their problems because it helps prospects know they are not the only one!

In the age of the social web, the best form of marketing is social proof.

Tip 4: Don’t let a bad review get you down, because they WILL happen.

95% of consumers suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see any bad scores. As mentioned earlier, unhappy customers are far more likely to unleash (I mean…“share”) their bad experience than happy customers are. So first and foremost, don’t let a bad online review get you down.

Next, NEVER attack a bad review. If you respond negatively, future customers and prospects will inevitably see your response and make a decision about your business based off of it. The same is true if you don’t respond to the comment at all. Future customers and prospects will think that you don’t care enough about your customers to respond to their concerns.

Make sure that in your response you create a positive spin for your business, whether that means better explaining a policy, rectifying the matter, or simply apologizing for their bad experience. Maybe this will change their attitude toward experience with your business. . . and maybe it won’t, but your professional and courteous response will at least have a beneficial influence on others.

How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews in a Positive Way

First of all, it happens to everyone. Sooner or later every product or business will get a less-than-wonderful review. Rather than letting it paralyze you, learn from it and make your business better than ever! It’s downright impossible to please everybody, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you get a bad review here and there.

Here are 10 ways to turn a negative review into a positive experience for your business:

1. Watch for similarities. When you are looking over online reviews, watch for repeated themes or complaints. Once you’ve identified a pattern, figure out exactly what it was about your product or business that was causing the issue with your customers. ‘Disappointed,’ is the most common word written in negative online reviews, meaning you did not meet their expectations in one way or another. Yelp reviews are extremely helpful in this way because they actually highlight any words that are mentioned by multiple customers.

Once you have a firm grasp on where customers feel your business needs to improve, you can then work on coming up with solutions. For example, if your customer service is the source of complaint start figuring out how to improve it. How will you improve your customer service personnel? Do you need to increase training? Make sure to weigh the outcomes and come up with a solution that will both work for you and benefit those who were disappointed.

2. Respond promptly and professionally. The next step is to respond to complaints promptly and professionally. When someone goes through the trouble of writing an online review, they want a response FAST! Over 40% of customers want an answer within the hour. People like to see that businesses care about their opinions.

3. Apologize for your mistakes. If need be, fess up and say you are sorry. People get it, life happens. If you messed up and someone is truly upset about it, it’s in your best interest to try to make things right. It’s been found that 33% of negative Yelp reviews are changed into positive ones when the time is taken to respond to the upset customer. A little empathy goes a long way!

4. Correct any inaccuracies while simultaneously highlighting your strengths. Responding to negative online reviews will not only work to soothe an unhappy customer, it can also present your business in a new light. Politely speak up if the customer has misunderstood one of your policies. If their experience is out of the norm, convey why their experience is rare without contradicting them. Their opinion matters, but so does yours.

5. Be personable in your communication. People gravitate toward those who are relatable, not robotic. Use your real name, explain what your role is for your business, and be sincere! People know when you care versus giving a pre-recorded message.

6. Move offline. Always leave a sincere public comment, but then move the remainder of the conversation offline. Discussing the issue offline will help you avoid any unwanted public exchanges.

7. Provide restitution. If warranted, consider offering a special deal or discount to compensate for their dissatisfaction.

8. Increase positive online reviews. Ask loyal customers to share their positive experiences to counteract the negative ones.

9. Be consistent. If you respond to only a few postings, what message does it send those whom you haven’t reached out to? How will it fuel their fire? Response consistency helps every customer feel validated.

10. Learn how rating and review sites work. Although there are many review sites out there, they are not all created equal. Winning five-star reviews won’t happen overnight, it takes time and effort. Understanding how Yelp, Google, and other review sites work will help you better focus your efforts on quality reviews.

Failing to prioritize online reviews is more costly than you may have realized. Online reviews are a crucial method of winning new business in every industry. Only 3% of consumers do not look at reviews before making a purchase. Take advantage of the other 97% by taking an active approach to appeasing negative reviews and actively, and frequently, generating positive.

Need a Boost?

Do you have a system for soliciting and publishing those reviews? If not, you're missing a valuable opportunity. Fortunately, quality tools exist to help make this process seamless for you.

Calldrip's review management software lets you leverage the power of your customers - and Google - to fuel your growth.

How? through a direct integration with Google My Business. We'll automatically request new reviews, directs them to top review sites, organizes and catalogs those reviews.  Learn more here.

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