97% of customers now read local business reviews before making a purchase. Aside from helping with SEO, your online ratings could decide whether or not people even consider buying from you. To bring in new customers, local businesses need to ensure they have a strong online reputation.
Managing your online reviews can be frustrating. No matter how hard you work, a few unreasonable customers tend to make the most noise and trash your reputation just for spite. And to make matters worse, some of your competitors may seem to be doing everything right.
All of this occasionally drives companies to dishonest tactics that inevitably backfire, such as paying people to write good reviews. Don’t do it! Cheaters eventually get caught and penalized.
Luckily, there are much better ways to improve your local business’s online reputation.
Review management should be about providing customers with a more holistic view of your local business and promoting good customer service, not deceiving prospects. Take the high road with these five honest ways to improve your local business reviews.
1. Encourage Your Customers to Leave Online Reviews
If it feels like your unhappy customers are overrepresented in your local business’s online reviews, you’re probably right.
Happy customers are often less motivated to leave local business reviews than unhappy customers, who may feel obligated to warn others off from a bad experience. It’s easy for positive perspectives to get buried under a few negative reviews from disillusioned customers.
To handle this problem, provide more encouragement for all customers to leave online reviews for your local business. A little extra push is often the tipping point that gets happy customers to share their experience.
This might be as simple as an automatic email asking for feedback. You can also modify your process to have customer-facing employees ask for online reviews at strategic times.
2. Use Negative Reviews as an Opportunity to Fix Problems
The customer’s experience doesn’t have to end with a bad review for your local business. View negative feedback as an opportunity to make the moment right, just like a barista who remakes a drink for a customer who got the wrong beverage.
Think like Apple, which made a policy of calling unhappy survey respondents within 24 hours. Store managers talked with these respondents to learn more about customer problems and what could have been done to resolve them.
Apple’s store managers then shared this feedback with their teams, teaching employees how to provide a better customer experience. As a result, some detractors became bigger purchasers than promoters, generating an additional $25 million in revenue per year.
Create a process that allows you to get in touch with customers who aren’t happy. If you can resolve their issue, they’ll leave the experience with a more positive impression of your local business — and they’re likely to give you a good review.
3. Be Responsive and Helpful in the Online Review Space
Customers are more likely to buy from you if you seem responsive. When you reply to negative local business reviews with thoughtful questions and helpful advice, prospects will be impressed by your company’s commitment to customer service.
It’s true that many customers won’t consider a local business with less than a 4 star average rating. However, customers expect to see a few 1 and 2 star reviews for even the best product or service. Many customers care more about how you respond to your few negative reviews than about the fact that they exist.
Show prospects that you truly care about your customers. Do your best to help unhappy customers with their problems in a timely manner.
4. Communicate that Customer Feedback Impacts Your Product Development
People want to feel like their opinions are valued. If you tell customers that you’ll use their feedback to develop a better product or service, they will feel important and cared for.
And when you make a new product or update that incorporates user feedback, let customers know! The customers who gave that feedback will feel recognized and motivated to leave extremely good reviews. Prospects will have a more positive impression of your brand.
5. Be Transparent About Any Incentives Offered for Online Reviews
In your quest to get more online reviews, you may choose to offer some reviewers incentives like free items or samples. Some customers may think this is shady if they find out this is happening and you aren’t fully transparent about it.
Add descriptors like “This reviewer received a free product in exchange for honest feedback.” Make it clear that your local business gave the incentive for an unbiased review. Customers can decide for themselves how much to trust the review, and many trust incentivized reviews just as much as non-incentivized reviews.
Rather than making the review seem biased, speaking openly about incentives helps customers see that your local business is transparent and trustworthy.
Make a Plan to Manage Your Local Business Reviews
The most important takeaway is that you need a plan to manage your local business’s online reputation. Customers trust word of mouth marketing, and your local business can encourage customers to speak up online.
If you’re not sure where to start or don’t have time to manage a review gathering campaign, consider a reputation management software like Kudo. This free and simple tool is designed to make it easier to request more reviews from satisfied customers, and intercept dissatisfied customers and resolve their issues before they leave negative reviews. GET IT FOR FREE >