The Internet is a bit of a jungle, really. Anyone can write stuff about your business and post it on Facebook or Twitter, or on any of thousands of other free websites. They can leave online reviews – good or bad – on sites like HelloPeter.com or Yowzit.com, or on your Google My Business listing.
Nearly 70% of consumers check online reviews before they decide to buy a product or use a supplier. These days, it’s getting even easier. Just search for a business with your smartphone, and you have access to dozens of real people’s experiences. Sites like the ones I mentioned above get thousands of visitors every month.
Good reviews on these sites can do amazing things for your business. People trust them – at least the ones that seem authentic. If you’re getting great online reviews, you can relax. But if you’re not on the ball, one scathing review can put potential customers off for years to come.
The key is to be aware of what people are posting about you, and where. If you know what they’re saying, you can respond, and try to fix the damage. At the very least, you can build trust by showing potential customers that you are a real person. You can make it clear that you care about your customers and that you want to sort out problems. The alternative is to hide your head in the sand and lose customers without even knowing about it.
Let’s face it, people are talking about you, whether you know about it or not. If you know about it, you can respond.
The review below was posted on a salon’s Google My Business listing:
And the salon owner is probably unaware of the review. Or if they are aware, they haven’t taken the most basic steps towards counteracting its effects.
You can see that they haven’t claimed their Google My Business listing, because the listing says “Own this business?”.
Claiming your listing gives you the option of responding to online reviews, both good and bad.
Fortunately, not many people are likely to find their bad review. The business doesn’t appear within the first 10 pages of the Google results for the search term hair salon sandton.
If someone knows the name of the salon, their Google My Business listing shows up in all its glory:
(Notice that the first organic listings on the left hand side are for a cosmetics store in Cyprus. Having a website linked to your Google My Business listing is the first step to avoiding this kind of issue.)
What can you do to limit the effects of a poor online review?
There are a number of steps you can take.
First prize is to reach an agreement with the person who left the review, to get them to take it down or change it. This is not always possible – some sites don’t allow reviews to be edited once they’re posted. But most sites, including Google, will allow a response by the business owner. In order to do this on Google My Business, you’ll need to claim your listing.
It’s important to maintain a professional attitude when responding to negative criticism. You should not be writing to relieve your frustration with the reviewer. Write with the future in mind – the dozens, maybe hundreds of potential customers who may see the discussion over the next years. You need to make an earnest attempt to sort out the reviewer’s problem. If you do that, potential future customers can see that you are responsive and that you care. They’ll also see that you’re prepared to make an effort to protect the reputation of your business.
Another effective way to counteract poor reviews is to smother them with love. Make a concerted effort to get happy customers to leave positive reviews. This will dilute the effect of the negative reviews. If you have one poor review and 36 good ones, your star rating should be in the 4 to 5 star range, which is what you want.
Don’t post fake reviews
Whatever you do, DO NOT post fake reviews. Google is smart enough to know when a bunch of positive reviews are all coming from one computer. Also, fake reviews tend to sound fake. If you post 15 “5-star” reviews on the same day, it looks a bit obvious.
Rather, concentrate on giving your customers an awesome experience, and make it as easy as possible for them to post their reviews.
These days, most of your customers have smartphones. The easy solution to getting reviews posted is to get them to use their phones. Consider giving them a small incentive to post a review while they’re still on your premises. You might offer a free coffee or dessert in exchange for an honest review.
Online reviews are an important marketing element for small businesses today. They can help your business stand out from the crowd, or they can ruin your reputation. It’s best to be proactive – get good reviews now, to act as a cushion against any disgruntled customers who may come along.