In our community the power of a referral is unprecedented. But one thing many local businesses are overlooking is the power of the online review. Almost 9 out of 10 consumers looked at reviews in 2014 to help them make a decision on a local business, according to Bright Local’s Consumer Review Survey.
Online reviews are like the proverbial red-headed stepchildren of referrals. You didn’t pick ‘em, but they come with the package. Good or bad, you can’t just ignore them. MarketingCharts.com reported 68% of Millennials, consumers age 19-35, trust consumer generated content, including reviews, almost as much as a referral from their friends and family.
Many local businesses may find generating reviews a worthwhile effort. I combed through the Google reviews of CBT advertisers and found the majority only had 0-3 reviews. While a handful seemed to have quite a few. I had to know, what made them embrace online reviews? And what are they doing that the rest of us are not?
One of the pack leaders for local reviews was Foundation Recovery Systems. Margrett Andrews, Marketing Director agreed with the need for online reviews. “Quite a few of our customers have left feedback specifically stating they went with us because of our good reviews and high recommendations. Customers want to do business with a company they feel they can trust and put a lot of weight on the experiences of others,” explained Margrett.
Family Focus Eyecare had quite a few recent reviews, so I contacted them to hear about their plan. Dr. Joseph Rich, Owner and Doctor of Optometry, said reviews have impacted his business positively as well. “Several patients have told me they chose to come to my office because of the number and ratings of reviews we’ve obtained. I can’t say it’s been my sole reason for success, but when patients are looking for a new optometrist, a few gold stars next to your name certainly doesn’t hurt,” said Dr. Rich.
When I asked Google how to get more Google reviews they said, “ASK.” Genius.
While Family Focus Eyecare hasn’t been consciously gathering reviews, their patient management software has been asking for them via email. “Asking for reviews is one of many things I strive to do better,” admitted Dr. Rich. “I would say most of our reviews have come from people I have asked to do so, especially if I have seen them multiple times and they seem relatively pleased with their experience.”
Foundation Recovery Systems has a more structured approach. “We have a program in place called: WOW Service Crew Review. We provide our Production teams with review postcards to hand to customers after completing a job. They encourage the customer to review us if they were happy with our service,” shared Margrett.
Directions are a must, though unfortunately, it seems like Google changes their interface daily. You want reviewers to feel in control and comfortable as they make the effort to make an online review. Whenever possible, link directly to the review form and give instructions on how to leave a review. (Read more on how to do this on our blog: URL TO COME.)
Handouts – Couple the link and instructions on a handout to deliver in person with a direct ask or as a follow up mailer. Consider using a QR Code. Handouts don’t have to be expensive, a business card with the proper information will do.
Email – While the path of least resistance, since just a click will direct recipients where they need to go, email can be less personal than an appointed ask. Automate emails so you don’t forget to send . Even add a review request to your email signature.
Web – Instead of a direct link to the ever changing review platform, consider linking to your website and providing directions online as well. Use social media to direct followers to your review instructions page.
Pair a positive review with a call to action such as, “Tell us how we did today on Google.” Print it on a table tent or frame it to a place next to your check out.
Give a perk to employees for gathering reviews. “We hold contests throughout the year for our Production teams based on 5 star reviews they receive from happy customers,” explained Margrett. “This encourages goodwill between the Production crew and customer.”
Before you can effectively mitigate a negative review, you have to know it exists. Monitoring review activity is one thing both Family Focus Eyecare and Foundation Recovery Systems do well.
Margrett indicated they investigate each negative review carefully. “We research what happened step by step from the first contact with the customer to the completed work, and resolve with the customer when needed,” said Margrett. “We respond to negative reviews online too, because we want viewers to understand that we take every customer concern seriously and do not ignore them.”
Dr. Rich has a great attitude as well, explaining he welcomes constructive criticism. Though they haven’t had negative reviews yet, if one surfaces he is prepared. “From the review I would respond in-depth with my side of the situation, contact the patient, discuss the situation, and if necessary, see if they would be willing to have the review removed,” planned Dr. Rich.
Whatever your plans, don’t plan to ignore online reviews. Ask for reviews from good clientele and share instructions. Monitor reviews, then create a plan for the not so good ones. After all, you don’t want one of those red-headed step children sneaking up on you when you least expect it.