It’s 10 PM. Do You Know What Your Online Reviews Are Saying?
Online reviews have a tremendous impact on the way the public sees your brand. An overwhelming majority of consumers use local reviews to determine whether local businesses are fit for a visit. These reviews – according to Forrester Research – enjoy a trust level exceeded only by reviews from personal friends or highly trusted professional reviewers. This trend will only grow as more customers shift their evaluation processes from offline to online channels.
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. Doing so is important because:
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.
Unaddressed complaints convey the message that “you don’t care.”
Like it or not, today’s ultra-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.
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.
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 to 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 recovers). Continuously monitoring your reviews can give you an indication of whether changes in management or operations you’ve put in place are having the desired effect, or causing consumer consternation.
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.
It’s critical to be “personal” in this channel. While having a library of “canned” (pre-prepared) responses can be useful, it’s a mistake to think that these can substitute for authentic responses to each consumer complaint that appears. Take the time to personalize these responses, and don’t promise anything (e.g. a personal conversation with your CEO) that you can’t deliver.