Did you know that over half of consumers will only use a business if it has online reviews, and if those reviews average four stars or higher? This is the same as word-of-mouth when it comes to business leads. What used to be a neighbor telling another neighbor about a local business has become a community of online reviews and we all need to know how to adapt to this new, not always welcome, world. This can feel overwhelming and daunting to a business owner who doesn't have control over the online discussions about their business practices. But this is actually a great opportunity to influence and contribute to that discussion in a positive way.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Before you dive into the online aspect of reviews, you first want to put a policy in place with your employees regarding how you service customers in a positive way so that their experience with your company is the best it can be. Remember that every employee is a representation of your brand and they need ongoing support in carrying out your official customer service policy. If you do get a complaint, you should be doing everything in your power to mitigate it before it becomes a negative review. Add a suggestion box form on your website and in your office if customers visit there. Add a complaint hotline text number on your website and print materials used for customers. Ask customers to let you know right away if something was unsatisfactory.
ONLINE REVIEW SITES
The three major review platforms are Google, Yelp and Facebook, but there are others that are general or industry-specific. Most of these also allow for "owner responses". If you create an account and claim your business, you will be able to respond to your reviews. This is a tremendous opportunity to take control of your brand! Here's a list of some of them:
Yelp - simple step-by-step instructions for setting up your listing
Angie's List - mostly for home improvement and construction services
Houzz - another site for contractors
Trip Advisor - for restaurants, entertainment, travel businesses
Facebook - if you have a business page on Facebook, then people can already review you
HOW TO GET REVIEWS
Policies on soliciting for reviews vary depending on the platform, but most of them do not allow businesses to offer incentives for reviews. They do, however, want businesses to link to their platform if they'd like to write a review. Most of them provide you with a special link for your review page. You will then need to get the word out to your customers that you'd love for them to review you on one of those platforms. Consider creating a page on your website for soliciting reviews, with links to the platforms you have established accounts in. It's best to have more than one, because customers will need to have an account with the platform in order to place a review. Give them options. Provide a link to your review page in your email signature, on your invoices, in thank-you emails after a job is complete, etc.
RESPONDING TO REVIEWS
It is very important not only to respond to reviews (especially negative ones), but to do so in the right way. Many companies have badly damaged their reputation by responding unprofessionally to negative reviews. If you get a negative review, don't overeact. This is an opportunity to improve your customer service and better your business. Don't respond immediately. Take time to think about your response so that it's not fueled by emotion. Be transparent. No team is perfect. Everyone is human. Customers expect you to take responsibility for your mistakes and will appreciate your honesty. If the review is vague and you don't understand the complaint, ask questions to show that you care and want to make it right. Provide a solution, not just fluff. Don't just say you're so sorry they had a bad experience and leave it at that. Display emphathy and show that you're trying to come up with a solution. Sign with your name to show that you're a real person. This will show the world that this is important to you and that your business is human. Follow up on your response. If you can work it out with the customer, ask them if they would consider changing their review.
Respond to good reviews as well. Use their name and show your gratitude for their review. Ask them if there's anything you could do to make the experience even better! Encourage them to share their review with others.
Reviews are going to happen whether we want them to or not. If you handle them the right way and take advantage of the platforms that allow you to engage with your reviewers, your business has the potential for stronger leads and loyal customers.