When I begin working with a business on their digital presence and want to get an understanding of how the company is thought of within their community, I always ask them about their online reviews. What they say (or don’t say) about the reviews people leave is often illuminating.
Here are some of the WORST answers I’ve heard from any President, Owner, Head of Marketing, or any other Higher Up:
- “Nobody reviews our business.”
- “Our industry doesn’t get reviews… hiipa and all that.”
- “We used to track and comment on our reviews, but now we can’t find our log-in and we just don’t follow up anymore.”
- “Well, reviews don’t really matter. I need customers I don’t have!”
Whenever I hear any of these answers (especially that last one) I know I have a lot of work cut out for me in getting the business back on track. These types of comments are giant red flags that your company needs to wake up and realize that, whether you like it or not, reviews are integral to success, especially in this day and age.
Here’s why I ask the question: First, I want to understand how you are thought of by your customer–and if you are even thought of at all! Just as importantly, I want to know how and if potential clients are using this information to decide whether or not they are going to do business with you, and just what the skinny is out there.
Here’s the thing–reviews make sense from a consumer standpoint. As a consumer, I read reviews because I want to have an unbiased perspective on a business and what it provides. Before I shell out my hard earned money for your products or services, I want some sort of proof that your company is deserving of my investment. Reviews offer the promise of an honest and impartial assessment of the “worth” of your business .
Nearly three years ago one of my dogs (I have 4 incase we were counting) had to have spinal surgery due to a sudden onset of degenerative disc disease that left him paralyzed from the waist down. If you know me, you know that I take anything to do with my dogs VERY seriously.
Also, getting him help, was going to involve a high risk (and high cost) procedure. Due to the emergency of the situation, I didn’t have time to research as deeply as I’d have liked, so I went with word of mouth marketing – who knew someone who was good. Then, after I got a name, I went to validate other people’s opinions with looking at reviews. I didn’t have time for more. My fur kid was in pain and waiting meant potentially paralyzing him for the rest of his life.
Long story short, I was able to simply Google the surgeon and practice that my vet recommended, check out their reviews, and assess the reputation of the practice. This particular office had over 300 reviews in the last year alone, and my potential surgeon had numerous happy reviewers. Suddenly the gamble of putting Teddy though neurosurgery to fuse 3 discs didn’t seem so crazy. I might be able to get a walking dog again! Faith restored! Thanks, Google reviewers!
(Spoiler alert: we are now 2 years out and Teddy has full control over his back legs and can play and romp with his brother and 2 sisters. He’s ecstatic and so am I.)
In this particular case, it was absolutely imperative that I see a clear and positive customer experience with this surgical practice, and, thanks to the power of online reviews, I was able to make not only a quick decision, but one that I was very confident in.
Because my experience was so positive, here’s what I left in my Google review:
Consider how different this situation would have been even 20 years ago.
That said, I’ve found that a lot of business owners don’t seem to understand how reviews work, or have some funny ideas about what they should and shouldn’t be doing in regards to their business’ reviews.
The Biggest Misconceptions Business Owners Have About Reviews:
1. You should just leave bad reviews alone.
Business owners are often overwhelmed about bad reviews, because they have no clue about what to “do” with them. They don’t want to comment on a bad review for fear of drawing attention to it, but too often, leaving it alone gives the impression that the company doesn’t care about problems or complaints–not exactly the branding most successful businesses want to develop.
2. If you get a bad review, you should ask friends and family to write good reviews to offset it.
NO, NO, NO please don’t!!! Here’s what happens when you do this: business owners see a bad Yelp review, or maybe a disgruntled customer has posted several negative reviews, taking the business’ ranking down. They decide to fight back and tackle the problem by asking their wife, brothers, friends, and parents to write great reviews because “it will all just balance it out, right?”
Google the All-Powerful can see through this ploy. Maybe that mom/sister/brother/wife/friend who suddenly posted a glowing review isn’t actually in the location of the business, or isn’t the person who they say they are. Google figures this out through their crazy good data mining, and now, because they smell a rat, any and all positive reviews of your company can get flagged for review as “fake”. This is especially true for Yelp. That’s majorly bad news for you because now, even legitimate good reviews are suppressed, or delayed. Just don’t do it.
3. Reviews don’t matter if your customers aren’t the demographic to look at or leave them.
Don’t assume that because your clients aren’t web-savvy that people in their world aren’t web-savvy either. I’ve had clients assume that since their business caters to a particular unique demographic, they didn’t need to worry about their reviews. That’s just “under a rock thinking”.
So now that you understand some of the biggest misconceptions, how do you harness the power of reviews to work in your favor?
Here’s how to take back the power of your reviews:
1. Set up a Google Alert for your business.
Setting up a google alert is free and it shows you how/when people are talking about your business online. This allows you to be hyper responsive to any complaints and just as importantly gives you some positive reinforcement when a customer compliments your service or product. Pro tip: say something nice to the people who respond positively – rewarding good behavior will often encourage it to happen again.
2. Download Chrome and use incognito browsers to determine your online presence.
Put quotes around keywords pertaining to your business and google them. For example, if you own an Italian restaurant in Normal, IL called The Olive Pit, search “Italian restaurant,” “Mediterranean cuisine” and “Family dining” on Google, Yahoo, and Bing. What are the top three search returns? Does the name of your business even pop up? This is incredible knowledge to have. Use it to identify any problems with your online presence. You may need to have a conversation about search engine optimization.
3. Get a reputation management specialist.
If your business isn’t showing up online no matter how much you try, if you have very little or negative brand sentiment, or if you truly have no time to work on it yourself, you may need some help. Reputation management specialists not only know how to get your company in front of online eyeballs, but also how to turn customer frowns upside down and into the smiles that drive business growth. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an expert. Your business’s reputation may just depend on it.
Gratuitous family photo – from left to right: Cece, Hunter, Dottie and Teddy.