Whether or not you want to believe it, the fact of the matter is your potential customers are using the Internet to perform research on your business and your local competitors. Why are they using the Internet? For one, it’s readily available to most people 24/7 – you can review a company on your phone while driving to work (not recommended), on your tablet while waiting in line for a cup of coffee, or on your computer at the office. Not reason enough to start paying attention to the Internet? What if I told you that consumers trust online reviews more than everything except recommendations from their friends and family? What if 80% of shoppers change purchasing decisions based on negative reviews? If you still don’t think online reviews are important for businesses then you’re either 80+ years old, or a darn fool.
Online reviews are important to the success of your business, and you need to know how to properly manage your online business reputation and make sure that when it comes down to you and a competitor for a piece of business you look more credible than they do. Here are the top ways to maintain an excellent online reputation:
1. Understand your Online Review Environment
Perform a search on your company. For example, I would type in searches like “Local Search Masters” and “Local Search Masters Nashville TN” into Google to see what results come up. Look over the top 5 pages to see where reviews about your business are being posted. Some examples include Google+ (it was Google Local / Google Maps until recently), Yelp, Facebook, CitySearch, Superpages. This will give you an idea of where your customers are talking about your business. Look at the picture to your right – would you trust this dentist to work on your teeth?
2. Respond to Negative Reviews
People are more likely to give out negative reviews than positive reviews: it’s human nature to complain about the things that upset you. Negative reviews are not the end of the world. No business is perfect and no business can completely get away from dumb customers who complain for no reason at all (e.g. they put too much ice in my drink so I now hate their business!!). What can you do to mitigate their harmful effects? Simple: respond to their reviews. If you screwed up, apologize and work to make it right. If it’s a spam review, respond and say that this transaction never happened. Responding to these reviews shows that you care about your customers’ satisfaction, and people will see that each and every time they research your business. Heck, they may even delete their negative review and post a positive one!
3. Don’t just Delete Reviews
It’s understandable that you want to delete a few of those more scathing reviews before hundreds of people find it online. Be careful when deleting reviews. If the person responsible for the review finds out that you deleted their opinion from public view, they’ll be even more upset. If one angry customer is likely to complain to 5-10 people about their terrible experience, think about how many people a FURIOUS customer will complain to about their experience! The takeaway: delete reviews if they are spammy or untrue, but think twice before deleting a negative review that may have been deserved. Instead, respond to it and work to satisfy that customer.
4. Promote Positive Reviews
Positive reviews are excellent for your business: they illustrate your ability to satisfy customers. Don’t let these gems just sit there untouched – take advantage of them! You could first respond to the review and thank the customer for their business and their kinds words. Do you have social media channels like Facebook set up? Copy and paste that review onto your Facebook page to show it off to more people. Seeing these positive reviews and testimonials will make potential customers trust you more, and thus be more inclined to do business with you.
5. Get People to post Positive Reviews
The typical person is more likely to post a negative review than a positive review – maybe they want to warn people about their negative experience, get a little revenge on the person that wronged them, or it could be that people just like to complain. The point is your business satisfies a lot of customers (hopefully) and you need to get those people to spread the good word. Figure out different ways to incentivize people to share their experience. You could offer a onetime discount to anyone that writes a review or enter the names of everyone who posts a review into a drawing for a free month of membership. Could you take pictures of satisfied customers and post them on your Facebook wall? Could you take a quick video testimonial of your customer before they leave and post it on your YouTube Channel. Get your happy customers to share their experience online and you will almost certainly see improved sales.
6. Set up Google Alerts
Google Alerts are emails sent to you when Google finds new results – things like web pages, newspaper articles, blogs, etc. – that match your search term, which you’d want to be your company’s name (example: we have a Google Alerts setup for “Local Search Masters”). This can be a great way to keep up to date with what’s being said about your company online without having to scan every possible place people may talk about you.
The Internet is where people perform research about you and your competitors. You need to make sure that your business looks excellent at the places where your customers are most likely going to check you out. It doesn’t take a huge amount of work on your end and the potential return on investment – happy customers and a trusted brand name – are worth it.