Have you stood in line anywhere lately? Coffee shop, airport, theme park ride? What’s everyone doing? You may not notice right away because you’re doing the same thing: staring at a phone. Maybe they are reading emails, cruising social media feeds, looking at pictures, facetiming with someone…or maybe they are reading (or writing) reviews about something.

Simply put, online reviews are crucial to your product or business. According to research by BrightLocal97% of people read online reviews for local businesses in 2017! Here are a few more eye-opening statistics from the same research report:

  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a friend
  • 73% of consumers trust/favor a business more based on positive reviews
  • 30% of consumers view responding to reviews as important
  • Consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business (up from 6 in 2016)
  • Yelp and Facebook are the most popular review sites for consumers, followed by Google and BBB.org

As you can see, it is important to acquire reviews, respond to reviews, and share reviews. Here are a few tips:

Acquire Online Reviews

For new businesses or businesses that do not have a lot of reviews, the first step is to acquire as many positive reviews as you can. Put messaging on your website and/or in your store with easy links or QR codes to review sites. Add messaging on your receipts or confirmation emails that point customers to the review sites you are after. Yelp, Facebook, and Google are big ones, as well as other industry-specific sites, like TripAdvisor if you are in the travel industry. You might also have an area on your own site for people to post reviews, or you can insert a widget that pulls in reviews from third party sites. All of these options have advantages and disadvantages.

Google reviews have an impact on SEO. A business that has hundreds of positive reviews on Google will likely rank better in Google search results than a business with few reviews or just a handful of bad reviews. Consistent positive reviews tell Google that your business and products are trustworthy. If you have reviews on your own site, all of that user generated content is bound to hit some of your target keywords, giving your site an SEO boost. Also, popular third party site users are more prone to choose a business that has been verified and approved by other real customers.

Solicit customers, but do not offer incentives, such as a discount, as that is major turn off for customers and is morally (and possibly, legally) off limits. If you have repeat customers, or customers you know well enough to ask, reach out and ask them to take a few minutes to write a review of their experience with your business. Think of this as an “always-on” strategy. The more positive reviews you get, the better your reputation becomes.

Respond to Online Reviews

When you respond to an online review, you are publicly saying that you care what customers think, and that you take the time to acknowledge or take action if required. When someone takes the time to write a review about your business, do the right thing by responding. Do so in a way that is professional and courteous, as well as on-brand with your business or product. Sometimes, a simple “thank you, see you next time” is enough. Don’t be stale and cookie cutter, but don’t lose your cool as well when you’re responding to a negative review.

Bad or negative reviews are an opportunity. If (when) you get one, read it a few times, and make the effort to correct the situation if you can. Offer to make it right in your response, and give the consumer a way to contact you privately to discuss further. If you fix the problem, chances are, that person will edit or update his or her initial review. Later, when consumers read it, they will be impressed by your customer service, and will trust your business despite the initial negative review.

Share reviews, good and bad, with your team. Use reviews as a training opportunity to improve an area of your business. Also, look for themes as your review library grows. If you repeatedly see people write “I like the business but wish they did XYZ,” or “I was unexpectedly delighted by XYZ,” then you should think about incorporating XYZ into your future strategies and/or marketing efforts.

Reviews can be very telling. Take the time to read and engage with them.

Share Online Reviews

Your online reviews can be powerful (and free!) marketing tools. When you get a good review on Facebook, share it with your followers with a shout out and thank you message to the writer. It’s always good form to ask for permission first, but chances are, if the person has already publicly written an online review, he or she will allow you to share it. Put some money behind it on a boosted post so you reach more people. When you get an absolutely glowing review, use the quote in other materials, like your website, social media descriptions, and printed collateral. Don’t be shy!

To save time, set up alerts so you get notified anytime a new review comes in. Respond and take action quickly. If you find yourself spending way too much time reading and responding to reviews, consider a third party tool to aggregate everything into one dashboard. Many exist that allow you to easily read and respond to reviews from one place without having to go site by site. Birdeye is one, Medallia is another, and there are plenty more to choose from.

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