Positive online reviews can be a key component to growing your business, while a negative review can be perceived as the end of the world. After all, positive comments and reviews are the ultimate stamp of approval by consumers. Learn how to increase your positive online reviews and turn negative ones into opportunities for growth. Yes, it’s possible!
For a smaller or independent business owner, few things cause more stress than a negative review about your service, product, or business. In an era in which social media has given us a public forum to voice our delight or disappointment for basically everything, a review can be more powerful than any “like” button. It’s the ultimate stamp of approval a customer can bestow upon a brand.
We delved into the topic of online customer reviews by speaking with our friends at Yelp, who presented tips and tricks for online review management at the Independent Retailer Conference at this past August’s ASD Market Week.
ASD is a merchandise trade show and retail education conference in one, with free strategy sessions every day at the Independent Retailer Conference.
Founded in July 2004, Yelp’s mission statement is “to connect people with great local businesses.” By September 2016, Yelpers — as Yelp users are so affectionately known — had written more than 115 million reviews. Yelp’s own reputation as the trusted online destination for reviews, as well as its strong community of Yelpers, have helped cement Yelp’s status in this space.
So, why do online reviews matter so much?
The 411 on Customer Reviews
For starters, customer reviews are an important part of the acquisition and decision-making process for consumers.
- A recent study by BrightLocal indicates 92% of consumers turn to online review sites to determine if a local business is a good business.
- 78% of consumers turn to review sites to find a local business, according to Yelp’s seminar at ASD Market Week’s Independent Retailer Conference.
- Virtually all Yelp users (98%) have made a purchase at a business they found on Yelp, with nearly 90% of them doing so within a week, according to a Nielsen survey.
- According to the same Nielsen survey, 4 out of 5 Yelpers visit Yelp because they intend to buy a product or service.
So positive reviews about your business are key, and it goes even further: positive online reviews will also help boost your search engine optimization in local listings.
From an SEO perspective, Google takes into account a business’s presence on Yelp, such as the number of reviews it has and how positive they are. Bottom line: having positive customer reviews helps your bottom line. But there’s a catch: while a positive review can greatly impact your online rep as a business, soliciting reviews is not “the Yelp way.”
Below you’ll find some tips to improve your chances of receiving Yelp reviews, as well as tips to deal with negative ones.
How to Get Online Reviews
We spoke with Emily Washcovick, Manager of Business Outreach at Yelp. She puts it succinctly: “Don’t ask for customer reviews, but do make it easy for (customers) to do so.”
There are subtle ways to entice customers; for starters, simply mention that you’re on Yelp.
Here are Yelp’s 3 main tips to encourage engagement & review writing:
- Post a Check-In Offer or Yelp Deal: Washcovick explains: “Anytime a consumer redeems a check-in offer, Yelp deal or Yelp gift certificate, they will be prompted to leave that business a review the next time they open the Yelp app or log in at yelp.com. This is a great way to naturally gain content on a listing.”
- Use Yelp Signage: Post a “Find us on Yelp” image on your website and/or request a decal for your storefront. Once people know you’re on Yelp, they’ll be better poised to leave a review.
- Add Your Yelp Link to Your Auto Signature: Add a link to your Yelp business listing in your email signature — this way you never have to think twice about it. Just use the line, “Find us on Yelp.”
Insider Tip: When a customer leaves you a positive review, take the time to respond!
Yelp published an interview with Julie Lim, owner of OC Wine Mart, about how responding to Yelp reviews — both positive and negative — has helped grow her business. Lim explains: “I never ask for reviews, but when my customers take time to write me great reviews on Yelp, I send them a direct message to tell them how much I appreciate it. Once in a while, I’ll respond to good reviews publicly so potential customers looking at my page know that I care.”
How to Deal with Negative Reviews
So you received a negative review — what now? For starters, take your emotions out of the equation — let your disappointment / frustration / stress roll off your shoulders and look at the issue objectively. Then respond with poise and class. Remember, there is hope — you might even manage to surprise and delight the naysayers, and even turn them into loyal, repeat customers.
Washcovick says: “At the end of the day, we know that a public response to a negative review is a great way to reflect yourself and your business practices in a positive light, and turn a situation around in the eyes of potential consumers. You’re not always responding to a review to win that patron over, but rather to represent yourself in a (public) place where consumers are finding you.”
- Be Prompt: Start with thanking the reviewer for taking the time to leave feedback on your business. Do not let a review go unanswered for more than 24 hours. Even if you don’t have an immediate solution, at least acknowledge the feedback right away, thank them for their comment, and let them know you’ll be following up with more information or a solution. Always say thank you!
- Be Professional, Polite, and Positive: State a policy, procedure, or acknowledgement of their concern that shows you care about customer satisfaction (whatever you do, avoid getting into an argument with the reviewer).
- Be Public, then Private: The key is to start with public acknowledgement, so that everyone knows you replied and are handling the issue, and then follow with a private solution by saying you’ll be in touch one-one-one shortly (either sliding into email or direct message, or scheduling a phone call). Then take the conversation offline. This part can go something like this: “I sent you a direct message so that we can connect about your experience. I look forward to hearing from you so we can make this right.”
Trolls are another matter altogether — and we’re not referring to the holiday animated feature starring Justin Timberlake! If a customer seems to be trolling your page, check out their user profile or Twitter account (if applicable). Usually they’re ranting to several brands and the majority of their reviews are negative. Try to ignore it.
Even though it may seem tempting, you should avoid deleting comments. The only exception to this rule is if a reviewer is being overtly inappropriate in his review or on your business’s Facebook page; in this case, don’t hesitate to moderate or delete comments that are offensive, threatening, or vulgar. (It’s a good idea to add guidelines or rules to your business’s Facebook page, outlining the behaviours and language that will not be tolerated.)
Here are some other important tactics to help boost your online reputation:
- Make sure your store hours are always correct.
- Recommend other complementary businesses on your Yelp page to increase your reach and nurture relationships. Cultivating relationships online is a key component to gaining “social capital” — showing goodwill toward others online.
- Photos are important. People tend to be visual online. And always add descriptive captions.
- Sign up for daily Google Alerts so that you can be notified as soon as a negative customer review is posted on any of the review sites. This is a great way to stay looped in, and you can take appropriate action in a timely manner.
- You can also do some “light” social listening by searching for your brand’s name as a keyword on Twitter, to see if someone mentioned your brand without “tweeting @” you. These can be used as intel to see what people are saying, but you might not want to chime in on these tweets.
Reviews are an important part of managing your online reputation. Knowing how to get positive online reviews is a key part of boosting your business, from both a word-of-mouth and an SEO perspective — and knowing how to deal with the negative ones will make your business even stronger!