Customer Reviews are Critical for US Businesses in 2020 and beyond

Anyone in sales will quickly know the advantage of word of mouth; when a customer has already heard about you from friends, qualified themselves as customers, and approaches you, the close is simple. In the modern business economy, word of mouth has moved primarily online. Rather than calling that one friend who is always in the know, people hop onto their phone to read reviews before making a phone call from within a review app. 

While you may, or may not, feel like this is a true observation, recent data trends show that this scenario happens with more frequency. A slick advertising and sales campaign is no longer enough to get customers to come into the doors of a business. 

Reviews: The Changing Face of Marketing

While marketing has always relied on amplifying word-of-mouth, modern changes mean that good marketing relies on reviews to grow momentum, rather than relying on momentum to build reviews. 

Younger generations trust online review systems because online reviews are how they connect with friends and ask them their opinion. 

Customers Distrust Advertisements

Deceptive marketing, high-pressure sales, and information overload have changed how consumers approach marketing. According to a recent article by TrustPilot, 70% of consumers do not trust what they read, see, or hear from advertisements. This distrust has driven consumers to read reviews of products and services they are considering hiring or buying to attempt to discover whether a business is trustworthy. 

Since so much of our daily commerce is now being handled virtually, consumers need the verity supplied from reviews to build trust. It is no longer enough to just see an open office on small-town main street. Between interstate highways connecting cities and towns across the country, Amazon’s industry-leading delivery system, and the ability to video conference with anyone, anywhere on the earth, consumers have many choices. 

The old adage location, location, location is at its lowest strength in modern times. In addition to location, you have to have connections, connections, connections.  While these connections can be made and managed online, it increases the need for a diversity of platforms. Depending on your industry, the following review sites may be where your customers look before choosing your service:

  • Yelp – Common for restaurants and local services.
  • Angie’s List – Local Services
  • Better Business Bureau – Business services
  • Google – Any Local Presence
  • Facebook – General Business
  • LinkedIn – Business to Business Reviews

These are just generic review sites. When you start looking at more specific review sites for specific industries, you will see both the importance of managing your reviews and how difficult it is to manage all the review sites. 

Reviews are Growing with Younger Generations

Convince and Convert recently reviewed a study that found Millennials are 50% more likely to use a review than the average American. As Millennials hit their stride in the workforce and Gen Z starts to enter the workforce, possible customers who prefer an online review over any other form of marketing is set to continue increasing. 

This is the information and data age; companies have the ability to track users behavior across multiple devices. The consumer fights back by putting their face and words on public reviews. But, consumers often do not know where the best place to review a positive or negative experience is. 

Customers Read Reviews Before Significant Purchase Decisions

If going out to a restaurant (a fairly normal decision process) requires reviews, how much more will consumers rely on reviews for larger, more significant purchasing decisions? 

Businesses, therefore, need to have many reviews coming into their business from multiple sources in order to build trust and convert leads into customers. But, getting those reviews needs to be thought through carefully. 

The Benefits of Negative Reviews

Any review management plan needs to include how you are going to respond to negative reviews. They are unavoidable and most review sites refuse to take down reviews at the request of the business owner. So, a comprehensive review plan for your business needs to include what you do when, not if, negative reviews are given on a platform. 

If you are looking for an in-depth writeup on just how to plan for negative reviews, Niel Patel has an excellent post, Your Business Needs Negative Reviews. A summary of his advice can help you plan how to deal with negative reviews you will get:

  • Respond to Both Positive and Negative Reviews – How you respond to negative reviews is key in helping potential customers decide whether they want to interact with you. Responding to positive reviews helps customers feel like they are listened to. 
  • Use A Consistent Brand Voice – The biggest turnoff when customers are looking at reviews is a business who responds as or more negatively than the original reviewer. Pick a tone (helpful, factual, service-oriented) and do not respond in kind to negative reviews.
  • Take Constructive Feedback – Truly constructive feedback is a goldmine for growing your business. If a negative review is rooted in truth, embrace it and show that you are interested in improving your business services. 
  • Listen to the Issues – Looking at what actually happened is necessary to respond. Whether your response is an apology, factual correction or request for more information, do your due diligence first.
  • Show Empathy – Treat others as you want to be treated, and they will eventually respond positively. 
  • Deal with the problem off the review site. 
  • Understand the rules for your platform. Some review sites will hide reviews that they think the business requested, other review platforms will penalize the business for offering discounts after negative reviews. 

The Benefits of Positive Reviews

Common sense says that positive reviews are good for your business, but the right positive reviews matter when potential customers are trying to discover whether to purchase from you. 

A mixture of reviews is necessary to help showcase that your business has a diverse customer base who have responded to you on the platform. A Northwestern University study identified 270% greater conversions for businesses with at least 5 reviews on a platform. 

When you respond to the substance of reviews, not just with a “thank you for your business”, you will demonstrate to potential customers that their reviews are heard, that your business cares about your customers, and that you are still open for business. 

How to Manage Reviews for Success

Your business will not be able to gain the trust of potential customers without reviews, but how do you get reviews in a manner that follows the rules of the review sites? 

To gain enough reviews to grow your business, you will need to have a strategy of communication with your customers and the technology to manage your review strategy. 

Build a Review Strategy

Plan out how you ask for reviews: whether you have links to review sites on your website, whether you pay for advertisements on those sites to get users from the site to review your business, or whether you include links to review sites in your business. Remember, you need to be seeking genuine reviews or any review strategy will end up backfiring on you. Do not trade reviews with other individuals or business owners who have not purchased from you. 

Plan how you will follow up with customers after they purchase. This is incredibly important not just for getting reviews but also for getting referrals. 

Use the Right Technology

Business reviews can be complicated to manage, there are so many review sites and methods for customers to leave reviews. Software, like ReviewRefer, can be useful for monitoring what customers are saying, reaching out to customers letting them know about a review site, and also offer digital coupons for customer loyalty and referrals. 

Using both SMS (text) and email communication, ReviewRefer provides businesses with a tool for requesting a steady stream of reviews from their customers. Since the communication is controlled by the business owner, ReviewRefer gives you the tools to send customers to any website you desire. Manual emailing and texting referral and review links is time-consuming and you often lose leads in the process. 

Using our software, business owners are able to email or text thank you’s to customers and request a review at the same time. This helps establish rapport with previous customers while increasing your business’s views on the platforms of your choice. 

ReviewRefer is designed to be managed by teams as small as one person or a multiple-location business throughout the US. Rather than piecing together a review strategy on multiple platforms, where people feel lost, ReviewRefer gives your team a single location to gather reviews and get customer referrals. 

ReviewRefer’s ease of use does not require a lot of time in training. And, the software has the ability to integrate appointment booking in it for referral clients or existing customers who are responding to an offer. 

In order to build a review program, you need to have the right strategy and the right software tools to manage the reviews, monitor social channels, and request referrals. To see how ReviewRefer can help your business get a stream of reviews on relevant platforms for your industry, please request a demo today. 

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