Why I’m Not Afraid of Online Reviews (And You Shouldn’t Be Either)

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Statistics continue to show that people look to online reviews before making buying decisions. Two common fears keep some businesses from yielding the rewards of comments and reviews.

If you do business online you can’t afford these fears. Take steps now to understand the power of online reviews. Let your customers help build your business. Positive and negative reviews can help your business. Here is what you need to know:

Why Reviews Matter

Do you read online ratings or reviews? If you do, you’re not alone. Recent Ask Your Target Market research shows that 74.2 percent of shoppers check online reviews.

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Less than 10 percent of those surveyed said they never check reviews.

These statistics are in line with findings of many earlier surveys. It’s pretty clear that shoppers look to their peers for ratings of your products or services.

Some survey respondents said they will look anywhere for reviews. But many look to the site where they plan to make buy for ratings or reviews.

Common Fears of Reviews

If you’re afraid of reviews, I’ll bet it’s for one of these reasons:

Fear #1 – People will say bad things about your products or company; or

Fear #2 – No one will make ratings and your empty review section will look silly.

These are common fears, but both can be overcome.

Overcoming Your Fear

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As with any other malady, you must get serious to overcome your fear of online reviews. One way to do this is to realize that even if you don’t allow online reviews on your site, there may be plenty out there.

Don’t believe me? Do a Google search of your company name in quotation marks, followed by the word ratings or review.

If you’re a retailer or restaurant, people may have posted comments on dozens of sites. These include Yelp or TripAdvisor or any number of smaller enterprises. Here’s an example of a Finnish fast food chain Hesburger:

hesburger-searchThis search shows that some of the content of the reviews is already seen in the meta description. This makes the review sites extremely powerful. So, if you add ratings and testimonials section to your own website, you will have greater control of the content. You can showcase the positives and still appear in the front page of the Google search.

Monitor Conversations on Social Media

There are many more comments within people’s social media accounts. Brandwatch did a study of gambling brands in the UK. It found that 96 percent of people discuss brands online — even if they do not follow the profiles owned by the brand.

More than 40 percent of the world’s population uses the internet. Of those people, more than 72 percent use social media. And don’t forget bloggers. They publish more than 50 million blog posts each month on WordPress alone. Their influence is enourmous.

Here’s a crazy example. One of the most popular YouTube stars is a little 4-year-old Ryan and his ToysReview channel. The kid plays with different toys and gives his honest opinion about them.

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Ryan has over 4 million subscribers and his review videos get millions of views. Thus, you should seek out relevant bloggers to your industry and encourage them to review your product. Did you know that users on twitter have trust influencers almost as much as their friends?

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Be Proactive to Get Reviews

Now that you’ve moved beyond fear of ratings, what can you do to get some?

More than half of people in the AYTM survey said they rarely or never leave reviews. People are far more likely to read reviews than to provide a rating.

But you’ll be glad to hear that when they do leave a rating, more often than not it’s positive, or at least neutral.

Providing good service or producing great products is the first step toward positive reviews. But there is something scary about an empty comment section – no one wants to go first. It takes some effort to get people to leave reviews. But don’t fall prey to companies that claim they will get good ratings for you.

In almost every country, there are laws regulating commerce. Among them are statutes that say that your advertising claims must be true. False advertising is against the law.

You must let the public know if you pay someone, or give them something, to make a comment.

Don’t bother with such gimmicks. They’ll waste your time and money and won’t do you any good.

Just Ask

So how can you get your customers to leave comments or ratings? Just ask them.

Here are some ways:

  • Include link to review form with your e-receipt and invite comment.
  • Send an email after a sale, inviting comment. Be sure to include a link to your rating form.
  • If you have a brick and mortar store, give customers a hand-out inviting comment with the web address.

Don’t be afraid to send emails to some customers you know and ask them if they will comment or write a review. This can be for your site or third-party sites such as Yelp.

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As long as don’t provide an incentive, it’s fine for you to ask people if they will share their opinion. It may please your customers that you want to know what they think. And if they like you and your business, they may be happy to help.

If You Get a Bad Review

It’s not the end of the world if you get a bad review. In fact, bad reviews may be helpful. Online reviews can help you see the consumer’s viewpoint. Perhaps you do need to make improvements.

A negative review provides an opportunity for further discussion with the unhappy customer. Is it possible the customer received a bad product? Can you offer to replace it or make repairs? It would be helpful if customers would contact customer service before making complaints. But some will vent in a comment space instead.

Sorry as a Service is a cool company that speficically handles negative feedback. They offer companies the chance to turn customer complaints into positive relationships through sincere apologies. Here’s how they did it for Transferwise: sorry-as-a-service-transferwise

Give some thought to how you will handle interaction with those who leave reviews. It’s never a good idea to get into a public fight with a customer. The customers who like your company are likely your best defense. If someone is being unfair, they may jump into the fray to defend you. What could be better than that?

There’s an unexpected byproduct of the occasional negative comment: consumers expect them. A mix of positive and negative comments may seem more honest. Customers may view them as more reliable than all positive comments.

Prepare to Respond

You need a plan to respond to comments on your website and elsewhere online.

The digital world has created many opportunities for business. But some of them come with new responsibilities. Among them is the need to respond to your customer’s desire for instant gratification.

Humans are self-serving and modern devices have amped up our expectations. One study showed that 72 percent of Twitter users expect a brand to respond to complaints within an hour. An hour!

Are you thinking you want to put your head back in the sand?

Don’t worry. It’s not that hard to set up a simple system for monitoring comments about your business. And preparing to respond to them is nothing more than basic public relations with a digital twist.

You plan other parts of your business. You’re in touch with your branding and marketing objectives. Digital communication is just another activity to further those objectives. Your comments and response to reviews should be friendly and casual. Try not to get defensive.  If your message shows respect, you’re on the right track.

Wrapping Up

Doing business in the digital world requires digital engagement. I’m not afraid of online comments because they mean I’ve made a connection. Each provides a new opportunity – a chance to pat myself on the back for a job well done or to refine my strategy.

Engaging with the public on your website or other forums is critical for the success of your business. Develop your strategy, take baby steps to get started and soon you’ll see the rewards.

Your customers are likely online every day. They are looking for solutions to their problems and reviews help them make decisions. Make it easy for them and they’ll reward you with their business and loyalty.

BIO: Wes McDowell is the head of strategy at The Deep End, a web consulting agency devoted to helping their customers be found and thrive online. He also loves travelling, blogging and exploring what’s new in the online marketing space.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

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