“Word-of-mouth” has traditionally been the tried and true marketing strategy for small, or really, any size business. Having personal recommendations and experiences from people you trust is perhaps the easiest way to join a new gym, find a new dentist or even read the latest book.
Using these same principles, online reviews – as part of what the industry terms “online reputation management” – uses the same concept where people you trust describe their personal experiences with a business in order for you to make your own decisions.
By now it’s likely you’ve heard a lot about online customer reviews from sites like Yelp, Google, or Facebook and why they’re important. But we recognize that just because you’ve likely heard why you should start caring about your online reputation, doesn’t mean you’ve actually done anything about it yet. We’re here to change that.
Yes, online reviews may be from a broader audience of people that you might not know personally. BUT don’t take that to mean you still shouldn’t believe they’re trustworthy. In fact, according to a recent survey by BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Similar to word-of-mouth recommendations, it’s best to rely on more than one person’s opinion before making your own decision about a particular business. According to the same BrightLocal study, consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business.
THE REVENUE IMPACT OF POSITIVE REVIEWS
Obviously, the goal of generating online reviews is to get as many positive ones as possible to demonstrate you’re a trustworthy business that will leave your customers satisfied. But above that, there’s revenue impact as well. According to a Harvard Business School Working Paper focusing on restaurants, every additional one-star Yelp rating causes a 5-9% increase in a business’s revenue.
Let’s put some numbers to this to get perspective. For a business generating 1 million in annual revenue, an additional Yelp star would result in $50,000 - $90,000 in additional sales.
IDEAS FOR GENERATING ONLINE REVIEWS
It’s important not to sound too pushy or expect every one of your customers to leave a review. It’s often a slow process to generate enough customer reviews, but one worth the wait.
There are a few easy ways to encourage customer reviews:
- Add a link on your receipts – even better, offer something free once they submit
- Add a “Review us on Yelp or Google” sign at your register
- Encourage your cashiers to mention reviews to satisfied customers
- Promote on your social media pages
- Add review links to your website or social media pages
- You can also get signage to promote google reviews for free: https://marketingkit.withgoogle.com/
To further ensure results, you could implement an employee contest where each employee wins a small prize for every positive review the business receives. It will encourage employees to ensure their customer service is the best it can be.
RISKY BUSINESS: DEALING WITH NEGATIVE REVIEWS
Regardless of how well you run your business, you will likely receive a negative review at some point. Let’s face it: some people just have a negative attitude or are never satisfied, and sure – sometimes one of your employees has a bad day so every customer interaction is not what it should be.
But what better way to help improve your business and processes than hear directly from your customers? Yes, some comments may be unwanted, but use that as an opportunity to thank your customers for their honest feedback and provide documentation on how you’ll solve the problem. Let’s repeat: even after receiving a negative review, it’s a best practice to reply back and thank that customer for their feedback and inform them you’ll work on ways to solve the problem.
Regardless of the situation, your honesty and attention to their comments will help show other potential customers that you are always looking to improve. Plus, staying active in responding to online reviews – whether positive or negative – helps your status in the Google algorithm.
CONCLUSION: HOW TO ENSURE YOU’RE SET UP TO SUCCEED
If you’re running a business-within-a-business, it’s important to understand how your vendor will support you in implementing superior customer service. Do they have a “secret shopper” program where they can get your location rated by strangers on a random basis? Do they have any guidelines or training programs to ensure all employees understand what’s needed of them? Asking these questions before you sign on to a program will ensure you’re ready to deliver superior service to your customers and further generate positive reviews for your business.