People talk. Companies should listen. While technology has magnified their reach and increased the volume, reviews and testimonials have been a staple of building a strong reputation and peer-to-peer referrals long before the advent of social media. What once was an acclaimed critic, is now Joe from down the street and Dianne from high school.
A staggering 91 percent of customers read online reviews for products and services, and these reviews are as trusted as a personal recommendation from a friend. A surge of online reviews and user generated content comes with promise for consumers. For brands, reviews can be a shining gold star or an Achilles heel.
Done correctly, reviews can be a valuable tool to build trust. And while customers are the ones who ultimately leave reviews, organizations don’t have to sit back and hope for the best. Building trust through online reviews can begin with a few simple steps.
- Be Proactive:
Bad reviews have a direct, negative impact on the bottom line. The best way to ensure that a bad review doesn’t haunt you is to avoid it in the first place. Make decisions with customer satisfaction in mind and train every employee to know that their actions can have a real impact. Research market data and industry trends along with primary research with your customers to have a complete view on how your decisions could impact customer satisfaction.
On the flipside, organizations should encourage their customers to leave positive reviews. Prominently feature review sites in marketing materials and customer communications. Train sales teams to ask for a review when they feel the relationship is solid. Don’t go too far, however, into unethical territory. Incentivizing artificially positive reviews will have the opposite effect—and in some locations may even be illegal.
- Understand that Nobody is Perfect:
Aiming for the best online rating is a great goal. It’s also important to understand that not every organization will be five stars every moment the doors are open. Inevitably, there will be reviews that are less than stellar. Don’t fret. In fact, a few negative reviews can actually help your business. Nobody likes the person that seems artificially perfect all the time, and consumers relate to organizations that can successfully course correct. The critical feedback can provide you with valuable data points while you plan your next phases of product development or will help you better define who your target customer should be.
How you respond to negative reviews is also important. Companies that rage against critics can earn themselves a one-way ticket to bankruptcy and become something of a laughingstock along the way. It’s important to allow customers the ability to share critical feedback without backlash or censorship. The internet never forgets. Deleting negative reviews won’t do anything other than make consumers doubt the legitimacy of the reviews that remain.
- Take Action:
Unfortunately, not all reviews are legitimate. Fake reviews can come from a variety of sources, and they have the potential to undermine the positive work done to create a trustworthy brand. If you believe reviews are fake, you have some options.
First, try to make an honest, unbiased determination if the review is authentic. Consider whether the details in the review match with reality and gauge the overall likelihood of a given scenario. If a review is real, take a deep breath and see what can be done to recover. This shows initiative with the goal to resolve a conflict that will hopefully build a bridge to a more positive and trusting relationship.
If the review is fake, as a business you can report reviews to be evaluated to possibly be taken down. Most of the larger consumer review platforms (Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook, to name a few) have processes in place to adjudicate the authenticity of a review and, if necessary, remove illegitimate accounts.
Like other trust building activities, building a portfolio of good reviews will require a certain level of commitment that may not have an immediate return on investment. Over time, however, positive reviews can be a leading referral source for new business.