When you’re looking for a new product, service or restaurant, do you trust online reviews? More than 90% of people do, according to a 2019 survey by the marketing firm BrightLocal. Even more—92%—are more likely to buy a certain product after reading an online review, according to a 2018 study from G2 Crowd and Heinz Marketing.
This holds true for both good and bad reviews: If you only have an average of one or two stars out of five for an online review of your business, product or service, just 13% of those surveyed would even consider supporting your business, according to Search Engine Land.
Simply put: Your online reviews are important. And there are ways to optimize them to attract customers and support your business.
Your Business on Google
More than 85% of online searches start on Google. If you’re looking for new customers beyond word of mouth and traditional advertising methods, you need to pay attention to your business’s presence on Google. The first priority is to maintain your reviews. Second you should be aware that Google My Business (GMB) has become an essential component of any small business’s online presence.
When someone searches “medical supplies near me” on Google, advertisements will be presented first, and then a map usually appears with the top three local results. If the potential customer clicks on the name of your business from this map, that won’t take them to your website. Rather, it will bring them to the information you’ve plugged into Google: your address, hours, phone, busy times, pictures, reviews and, at the bottom, “web results,” where they can click through to your page. Think of your GMB profile as an elevator pitch about your company to a potential customer.
Reviews Build Trust
No matter how beautiful an image you paint on your website, GMB profile or elsewhere on the web, a customer will most likely come across your company’s online reviews at some point in their investigative journey. You want to make sure that the customer looks forward to doing business with you after reading those reviews.
Will you only build trust and succeed if you have a perfect five-star rating? Not necessarily. In fact, a few blemishes amongst the glowing reviews may make your overall rating more trustworthy. A study by Power Reviews and Northwestern University discovered that a five-star rating was not the most trusted score. Participants in the study were more likely to trust brands that landed in the 4.2 to 4.5 stars range.
For the final step of getting the customer in your door, you want to make sure your website, GMB profile and any other place you appear on the web have organized and accurate information on hours, contact information, address, etc. Check to make sure that your information is correct with the four main data aggregators: Infogroup/Neustar Localeze, Factual and Foursquare. You can also use platforms like Yext to rapidly deploy and sync your listings. These aggregators share your business information with a network of directories that power search engines, navigation systems, voice search and mobile apps. Accuracy matters: 80% of people lose trust in a business with incorrect information listed online.
Getting the Review
Okay, you have the customer in your store—how do you get them to leave a review? Our favorite and most successful method is to work with our employees. If a customer tells a sales associate on their way out, “I had such a pleasant experience, thank you,” teach your staff to continue the conversation with the customer rather than just saying thank you in return. Happy customers will often leave an online review when asked politely. Oswald’s Pharmacy uses a business card with a short URL that takes customers directly to a landing page where they can click a Google, Facebook or Yelp icon to easily access the review pages. Make it simple for the customer to leave you a review on their own time.
To broaden the program, we also recommend that managers set weekly, monthly or quarterly goals for achieving reviews. They can achieve this by incentivizing staff for getting mentioned in positive reviews. Make sure to celebrate this success with the store or company. Knowing that each and every review makes a difference helps keep the goal top of mind for leadership and employees. This can also be a valuable tool to use in employee reviews. What kind of online reviews were achieved, and what was said?
Where else can you ask for a review without an in-person conversation? Valley Medical Supplies puts reminders everywhere: on retail receipts, tied into the customer retention software program and email lists, and on in-store signage, social media channels, window clings, business cards and company brochures. Before you get any new signage or marketing materials printed, ask yourself if it’s appropriate to put a gentle reminder to leave a review.
Responding to Reviews
What’s the best way to respond to reviews, both good and bad? For a good review, keep it simple, sweet and short. Thank them for sharing their in-store experience or recognizing certain employees. Do your best to respond within days of the initial review. That shows both the customer and the public you don’t take online reviews lightly.
When it comes to a bad review, try to respond in a timely fashion, but not without an initial investigation. First, make sure it is a legitimate review of your company. If the review is for the wrong company, is not from an actual customer, discloses personal health information, etc., do not respond. Responding validates the post as pertinent to your business. If it is not, flag the review and/or contact an account representative for the website the review is on to get it removed. It may take a few days, but it is worth the wait.
If you find out the review in question is legitimate, it’s time to gather additional information. Speak with your staff, gather paperwork or files related to the incident, and then call the customer. Ask to hear their side of the story in person, discuss a remedy to their concern and commit to putting that into action. A week later, call the customer back, provide information on how the issue was handled and ask them if they would consider updating or changing their review. Either way, let them know you will be responding to their review online.
In your online response, acknowledge the mistake your company made and apologize. Provide the specific steps your team has taken to avoid the issue in the future. Last of all, thank them once again for their business. Online review responses are not the place to get into defensive replies or petty fights. Taking the high ground sets the stage for your company’s level of customer service.
Now it’s time to go out and get your company some online reviews!