Online Reviews Shouldn’t Be a Second Thought for Business Owners

Collecting and responding to customer reviews will help boost your company’s recognition and profits

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The fancy marketing jargon is “reputation management,” but most plumbers say it like a four-letter word: reviews. 

If this topic makes you stick your head in the sand and wish for the days of phone books — sorry. You are not in luck. Do not play the lottery. Up to 95% of consumers report they read reviews from local companies before they make a purchase. Those numbers skew higher in younger demographics, so the trend will only continue up.

Online reputation is more important and prominent than ever. Reviews are likely to increase in importance as millennials and Generation Z buy homes.

The time has come. You need a reputation management strategy. The reason you need three MBA-level words to name this thing is the sheer number of review sites. Wouldn’t it be nice if online reviews all lived in one place? 

Unfortunately, it turns out collecting customer reviews is a profitable business, hence the battle for dominance. That means our job, as the company being reviewed, is harder. We have to keep up with our rating and reputation on several websites. 

There is a silver lining. These sites also drive traffic to our business. Every major online review platform offers a free listing. Don’t think you have to pay to play. Although they may encourage you to advertise, it isn’t necessary.

What sounds more authentic? You telling your customer you are reliable and professional or a verified customer saying the same thing? These websites are a powerful marketing tool. They provide social proof — a fancy way of saying we are sheep who prefer to follow the herd.  

Reputation management is both a marketing strategy and a customer service tool. Consistent review marketing pays big. By building your online presence and influence, reviews help new customers find your business. That’s the power of social proof.

Imagine the legacy online reviews are building for your business. What if reviews are still there 20 years from now? How cool would it be to read five-star reviews going back a generation?

Secure a five-star legacy by tracking and responding to reviews. One recent survey showed that 90% of consumers take a business response into consideration. Take heart in knowing that you can address a critical review, should one get posted. Upset, irrational customers write one-star reviews. Don’t argue with these individuals. Instead, show concern and offer to settle the issue offline. 

Even if the customer doesn’t respond, it shows consumers you are trying. It’s how you handle mistakes that matter. Most consumers understand you can’t make everyone happy.

You also want to respond to positive reviews. Take a few moments to thank customers. Genuine engagement encourages reviewers and shows you care about customer service. Online reviews are useful as a customer service tool. Look for trends in customer feedback to pinpoint areas of strength and opportunities for improvement in your company. 

Many review sites frown upon offering incentives for leaving a rating. For this reason, it is best to avoid bribery tactics like discounts or thank-you gifts. Instead, create a habit of asking for reviews at the end of appointments. A reminder text or email with an easy-to-access link is a simple way to spur customers to action. 

A happy customer doesn’t mind leaving a review. The more you build your profiles and collect reviews, the more attention your listing will get. This, in turn, attracts customers more likely to leave a review. This new style of word-of-mouth pays it forward and helps the phone ring. 

If you are late to the review game, don’t worry; it isn’t too late. Start by asking all of your past customers to review your business. This way, you’ll gain traction. 

Volume and timeliness matter to readers. The online review game may feel like a high school popularity contest sometimes. But savvy customers realize you have at least a few friends and family willing to help you out. Recent activity and a higher volume brings authenticity to the reviews.

Developing and maintaining a reputation management strategy will help your business grow and profit. So, if you haven’t lately, go read your reviews.  

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Anja Smith is the managing partner at All Clear Plumbing and writer/speaker at Tradebiz Toolbox. Contact Anja at www.tradebiztoolbox.com. 



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