The court of public opinion has always been an extremely powerful place. Now, with the popularization of social media, we’ve watched the number of jurors grow at an exponential rate. The jury used to be made up of neighbors, friends, relatives and coworkers – people you talked to regularly whose opinion you trusted.
Frank down the street – you know, the guy on my bowling team with the wonky eye – says that the new restaurant near work is no good. He ordered the lobster tail and said the thing was smaller than his thumb.
Frank is a “someone” in this hypothetical speaker’s world. The speaker would say, probably with some gusto, that he knows the new restaurant stinks because Frank said so. Yes, that Frank.
But social media has made it so everyone is a “someone.” Literally, any stranger with a Facebook profile can review a business and people will give that stranger’s appraisal the same amount of credence they would afford their own mother.
Business owners are understandably reluctant to embrace this state of being. The prospect of a disgruntled ex-employee or internet troll delegitimizing your establishment with the swing of their little gavel, or more accurately, the click of a mouse, is kind of scary.
Why business owners should embrace reviews
Positive reviews can do great things for your company and negative reviews can really hurt you.
For instance, this study from Zendesk showed that 90% of participating consumers reported that online reviews regularly help them make purchasing decisions.
The fact is, there’s always going to be a customer who’s unhappy, no matter what you do. You can cart-out the dog and pony show for these types of people and they’ll find something wrong with the dog, the pony, and the brand of soap you have in the bathroom.
The natural instinct for many business owners is to simply ignore the reviews. In theory, it makes perfect sense. Why validate these anonymous critics, while other people are perfectly happy with your service and products?
Because unhappy customers will always leave reviews – satisfied customers won’t.
If you don’t solicit reviews from customers, the people who are satisfied are likely to show their gratitude by continually coming back to your business. At best, they’ll recommend your business to people they know. And you can count on dissatisfied customers to complain on the internet whether you ask for their opinion or not.
In short, ignoring reviews will amount to a whole bunch of negative ones, which is why it pays to ask your customers to leave a review.
It’s easy to get reviews – you just need to ask.
In order to empower yourself against negative reviews, you must take an active roll in soliciting reviews from your customers. People who are satisfied with your business will be more than happy to endorse you in most cases. The following tactics can help you effectively manage your reputation online:
This has proven to be the most effective tactic for yielding positive reviews because it’s a situation in which the customer has formed a bond with a real person at your business. If they are happy with their service, they’re likely to feel somewhat obligated to reciprocate in some way when asked.
While this is tougher to accomplish since it doesn’t require the customer to directly say no to the person asking for a review, it’s often the only way you can get feedback online. Make the email personal (i.e. from a person they’ve dealt with previously) and keep it short and sweet.
You may be able to encourage reviews by having customer-facing employees suggest that they receive extra money when a customer they’ve worked with leaves a positive review. This works well for industries such as home renovation because the workers are working in your customers’ homes, often for several days.
4. Incentivize customers to leave a review.
Promote a contest on social media in which customers will be entered to win a gift card or discount for leaving a review. This monetizes the customers’ opinions and will show them how important reviews are to your company.
5. Educate staff.
All customer-facing employees should be letting your customers know that you’re looking for reviews online. You should equip staff with the necessary channels to solicit reviews and you can even implement an incentive program to encourage employees to get as many reviews as possible.
6. PSA – be careful with Yelp reviews (see #2).
In summation, business owners have 2 options. You can bury your head in the sand, allowing the anonymous, online “somebodies” to spread the word that the food at this restaurant wasn’t bad but the atmosphere is unsavory and my waiter had a wonky eye, or you can fight back by asking people who love your company to speak-up.
People haven’t changed much – only the landscape in which they complain or comment on strangers’ physical shortcomings has. Equip yourself with the right tools to succeed online.