How Small Businesses Should Manage Online Reviews
Social media and the internet have changed the way businesses and consumers communicate and engage with one another. Online reviews are one of the major factors that influence consumer behavior, which is why managing business online reviews is crucial.
The ability to rank and rate products and services has altered the way consumers make purchases. According to surveys from the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of U.S. adults say they almost always check online reviews before making a first-time purchase. Only 12 percent of those aged 18 to 49 said they don’t take reviews into consideration when debating a purchase. Pew also found that roughly the same proportion of U.S. adults (40 percent) had previously shared their opinions about a product or business via social media.
In most cases, customers take online reviews quite seriously. This could mean the difference between a business’s success and failure. Another survey conducted by BrightLocal estimated that 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Praise for a local business affords it greater trust with potential customers. However, subpar ratings could drive away almost half of the shoppers who rely on these reviews.
The Challenges of Online Reviews for Small Businesses
Small business owners are aware of the risks and challenges associated with managing business online reviews. For example, the above-mentioned Pew survey found that, among adults who frequently read reviews, half admitted they couldn’t tell the difference between an honest and a fake review. And BrightLocal reported that up to 79 percent of consumers believe they read a fake review in the last year. Even though 84 percent admitted they weren’t confident in their ability to distinguish an authentic review from a fraud.
These findings present several challenges for small businesses that are trying to establish a solid online reputation. Complicating matters further is the growing number of prevalent websites that publish reviews. This makes it hard for business owners, as they have to sort through them and provide restitution if warranted. After all, bad online reviews put a small business’s most valuable asset at stake: its reputation.
Tips for Managing Business Online Reviews
In a perfect world, small business owners boost online reviews and enhance their reputation by making better products. And offering better service. But the reviews won’t keep coming unless you put in work to obtain them. Here are a few best practices that small business owners can follow to manage online reviews and improve their business’s digital reputation:
Ask for Reviews
Surveys show that customers are more inclined to leave a positive review when they are simply asked to do so. You can request reviews from satisfied customers in person, via email, or through organizational initiatives. For example, an auto repair shop or a health care provider could include a review request along with the paperwork they ask customers to complete. The best time to ask is shortly after your interaction with customers. That way their experience with your business is fresh in their minds.
Respond to Reviews
Consumers who regularly rely on reviews tend to notice when and how businesses respond to them. Most online review platforms like Yelp, Facebook, and Google provide business owners with a way to identify themselves. And allow them to respond to comments left by customers. So it is important to respond to both positive and negative reviews in a timely matter.
Worried about how a negative review reflects on your business? Don’t! Instead, look at a negative review as an opportunity to establish your brand and level of service. By communicating with the disgruntled reviewer and making efforts to remedy a bad experience, you show that your business cares. Don’t be defensive. Apologize. Show empathy. And do your best to correct the problem. If the reviewer is unwilling to accept your good will, at least you have shown effort. Other reviewers will be able to see your response and judge for themselves. If the review mentions a specific employee in your company, have a discussion with that employee to get their side of the story. And work with them to ultimately correct the problem.
Of course, not every angry customer will be fully satisfied with your response. If you think someone may be abusing a review platform in a way that unfairly impacts your business, contact that website’s support team to report them.
As your business grows and gains online attention, so does the amount of reviews. The number of reviews that start appearing in various places could become overwhelming. But those reviews can serve as valuable data to detect feedback trends. And help to tweak services according to what customers are saying. So you should make a concerted effort to capture and track that data. Several consumer review monitoring tools, both free and paid, can be used to streamline these activities.
In addition, it may be beneficial to hire a marketing manager who can create and manage your business’s online presence. Which including managing business online reviews. Taking such steps could be an investment that many small businesses don’t have the available cash-on-hand for. A short-term loan from QuickBridge could provide the working capital needed to help you kick-start your digital marketing efforts and manage your online reputation with ease.