online business reviews

February 19, 2016: Online reviews have a huge impact on the way the public sees your brand. According to ReviewTrackers.com —  a reviews management service — “85 percent of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses to determine whether these businesses are good or not.”

Consumer-generated reviews of businesses enjoy an especially high level of trust among web surfers. According to Forrester Research, the trust ratings for such reviews are only exceeded by personal recommendations from friends and reviews published by professional reviewers. This trend will only grow as more customers shift their evaluation processes from offline to online channels.

Keeping a sharp eye on what consumers are writing about your brand is important because:

Sentiment about any business inevitably changes over time
Even if you’re completely dedicated to maintaining a high level of service, mistakes and misunderstandings inevitably happen in the operation of any business. It’s important to be aware of any negative sentiment changes in order to address them in a timely manner through an acknowledgement, apology, or other response. This means actively monitoring online reviews on a continuing basis.

It often only takes one bad review to destroy your overall rating.
Multiple studies have shown that even a small change in overall rating can have a large influence on business revenue. Many businesses listed on Yelp or other review sites don’t have hundreds of reviews; just a handful. In such cases the appearance of even one bad review can have a disproportionately large effect. Monitoring online reviews can warn the business owner of any shift in overall rating and give him/her advance warning that a response is necessary.

Competitors can strike at any time.
According to the Gartner Group, between 10 to 15 percent of social media reviews are fake. In 2013, Yelp admitted that 25 percent of its reviews “could be fake.” Biased competitors — posing as impartial reviewers — can strike at any time, despite the best efforts on the part of online review sites to weed them out through online sting operations. Obviously, business owners need to be made aware when any suspicious negative review appears, in order to challenge it. (Whether the review site is willing to filter it out or remove it is another matter).

Your service level may have changed without you knowing about it.
Not every negative Yelp or TripAdvisor review is fake. Sometimes authentic negative reviews can reveal important but hidden flaws in your service delivery that you need to address. Employee turnover can have a big impact on certain types of businesses (for example, restaurants). Furthermore, bona fide negative reviews can give you valuable ideas about how you can better serve customers and improve your operations generally.

Directional information is important.
Some businesses — for example, hospitals — will never have 100 percent approval ratings (because not every patient gets well).  Having the ability to monitor reviews can give you an indication of whether changes in management or operations you’ve put in place are having the desired effect.

Reviews are a communications channel.
Reviews, even negative ones, give you a chance to reach out and declare, in a quasi-public space, that you care about what others think, take customer service seriously, and are willing to take steps to remedy any inadequate service. They are, in other words, an opportunity for you to show — not just tell — how you actually run your business.

Unaddressed complaints are poison.
Like it or not, today’s super-empowered customers expect a response “at Internet speed.” A timely response signifies to prospects that you are engaged, involved, and ready to serve them. Conversely, bad reviews that aren’t addressed create the opposite impression: that you are either aloof, clueless, or simply don’t care. On the other hand, brands that show evidence that they’re actively addressing consumer unhappiness will gain sympathy, empathy, and confidence from consumers watching the exchange.

Steve Baldwin
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Steve Baldwin

Editor-in-Chief at Didit
Steve Baldwin writes and edits technology content. He lives in Brooklyn and, once a month, conducts free wild parrot safaris there. For more info, see: BrooklynParrots.com.
Steve Baldwin
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Keep a sharp eye on your online business reviews
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Consumer-generated reviews of businesses enjoy an especially high level of trust among web surfers. Are you monitoring your online business reviews?
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