Whether you’re buying a new mattress or deciding which restaurant to try, odds are high that you’ve consulted an online review site for the occasion. In fact, recent reports reveal that 90% of customers have read online reviews before making a purchase. And with dozens of review sites out there—including Yelp, Angie’s List and Citysearch—there are plenty of forums for consumers to comment on your products and services, for better or worse.
It’s no secret that bad reviews can hurt your company. In spite of this truth, there are still measures that small businesses can take to avoid feeling like they’re at the mercy of reputation sites. Along with soliciting feedback from your best clients, you can take other actions to mitigate the effects of a bad review. You can even use the feedback to improve your business and your team moving forward.
In the long run, a company that cares about and cultivates its online reputation is more likely to be perceived as trustworthy, meaning that customers will feel more confident about doing business with you in the future. Here are a few facts to consider when managing your business’ online reputation.
Most Reviews Are Complimentary
When checking your Yelp rating, it’s easy to get hung up on one or two negative reviews. The fact is, however, that an overwhelming majority of the reviews posted online are positive.
Regardless of your industry, people are more likely to leave a review in response to stellar service than they are to complain about a negative one. By holding your business to a higher standard, you can improve both the quality and quantity of your online reviews and make sure they drown out the occasional naysayer.
Even Negative Reviews Increase Sales
Small business owners may assume they can avoid racking up bad reviews by staying off reputation sites altogether. And while it’s true that negative comments can hamper sales rates, today’s customers are increasingly likely to consult a review site before making buying decisions.
Furthermore, reports indicate that the number of reviews a company has can be more important than the rating. In fact, people are more likely to purchase a product with a few average or middling reviews than one with no reviews at all, as a lack of reviews can seem suspicious. The truth is that small business owners who don’t claim and optimize their company profile pages may be missing out on a valuable chance to grow their client bases.
Negative Reviews Keep You Honest
Is every review on your Yelp page five stars? The truth is that a page full of perfect but overgeneralized reviews can be as suspicious to consumers as a company with no reviews at all. Permit your customers to post the good, the bad and even the ugly feedback on review sites, because doing so shows that you value feedback and are committed to improving company performance.
While it’s silly to assume you can please everyone every time, a glut of negative comments could indicate that you need to work harder at customer satisfaction. Consider the feedback you receive, and look for common areas of complaint before making policy or operational changes.
Of course, it’s generally better to avoid receiving bad reviews in the first place. To minimize the odds of your customers airing their complaints in a public forum like Yahoo Local or Yelp, offer a mechanism by which they can more directly share their feedback with you. For example, you could include a comment form on your site to encourage visitors to contact you with questions and concerns. Just be sure to respond in a timely fashion so customers don’t go elsewhere with their grievances.
Responding to Negative Comments
Savvy business owners don’t just sit back when someone leaves a negative review. Instead, they take the time to reply to comments and attempt to correct the situation.
By responding to a bad review, you show the unhappy client—and all others who visit your profile—that you care about your customers’ feedback and are continuously striving to improve the experiences of your customers.
While you may be tempted to get defensive when a critique seems inaccurate, it’s important to remain calm and seek a remedy. Additionally, businesses should offer to correct the situation and invite the client to give your company another try in the future. In some cases, a customer may even be satisfied enough by your response to take down the bad review and leave a positive one in its place.
Let Your Employees Know About Feedback
In today’s increasingly wired world, a single customer’s bad experience can quickly translate into lost revenue for your business. Whether positive or negative, any feedback your business receives should be shared with the people on your team. After all, your workers tend to act as the public face of your business.
Inform team members that customer service is a priority at your company, and discuss possible improvements moving forward. Involving your employees will make them feel essential to the business, and that feeling will manifest in the seriousness they show for maintaining good customer service.