How to avoid the lone star state
Speaking at the Marine17 conference, Aaron Weiche had some great tips on how to manage online reviews and what to do about that dreaded one star rating.
Online reviews of products and services are a fact of business life these days. Depending on how they are used and managed they can be either a huge boost to a business, helping to raise its profile and bring in new customers, or a dead weight dragging it down. So how do you make the most of this environment in which your customers feel empowered to say what they think about you?
Aaron Weiche from the aptly-named GetFiveStars online review platform gave a very informative presentation at the Marine17 conference with some key pointers on how to make online reviews work for your business.
The first point to realise is that businesses have always sought feedback from customers – it's a fundamental of good business practice to find out what customers think about your products and services. The difference now is that the customer has a big, powerful voice and the means to express their opinions via sites such as Amazon and Google or review platforms such as Yelp, TrueLocal and Yellow Pages.
Search data shows that more and more customers are typing in a brand name '+ reviews' when searching for information, effectively by-passing the brand's own content and going straight to what other people have posted. This makes reviews a very powerful marketing tool; users trust them and rely on them as a source information that may not be available elsewhere. Weiche presented some useful insights on how consumers use reviews:
- 9 out of 10 consumers read online reviews when they go to make a purchase.
- 73% of consumers find reviews through online research.
- 90% of consumers form an opinion by reading less than 10 reviews. It only takes a handful of reviews to influence a customer.
- 74% of consumers believe that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. This means that if you don’t have a constant stream of new reviews coming in, trust will be eroded.
- Not surprisingly only 13% of consumers would buy from a business with a 1 or 2 star rating.
- Conversely, having only 5 star ratings is viewed with suspicion; the most trusted rating is from 4.2 to 4.5 stars.
- 81% of consumers deliberately seek out negative reviews; having a lot of people consistently complaining about the same issue suggests that it could be a product flaw. On the other hand, the issue may not be something that worries every consumer.
The specific factors that consumers look at when assessing a review are (in order) the overall rating, the sentiment of the reviews (good or bad), the currency of the reviews, the number of reviews, their length and, lastly, how the business responded. How many reviews is the right number? According to Weiche, you should aim to have at least half as many as your competitors; any less and potential customers may simply disregard them.
The fear of none or one
So what do you do if you have no reviews or just one negative rating? Weiche used the example of a radiator repair business in the US which had been operating for 20 years with hundreds of happy customers but its online reviews comprised just one negative write-up from a hacked-off customer complaining about pricing (2 stars).
The key point in this situation, said Weiche, is not to ignore it. Don't pretend it isn't there. If the review is an old one, always respond no matter how far back it goes to show that you are now paying attention to reviews. If more recent, reach out to the customer and empathise with their frustrations, show that you care. Try to take the interaction offline as quickly as possible rather than going back and forth online. These days customer service is a spectator sport, said Weiche, and other customers will be watching to see how you respond.
If trying to gain positive reviews, look at how you can generate feedback from your customers. Make it easy for them to talk to you. If you make it easy for them to leave feedback with you, they are less likely to go online and leave it elsewhere. The majority of people who write negative reviews do so because it was easier than trying to talk to the business.
If you get positive feedback and testimonials, encourage those customers to leave reviews with the online sites. It is even possible to incorporate a simple star rating into a company feedback page which will then be picked up by Google and displayed on that company's search results page. Try to leverage everything that you can control for your own benefit.
This article was first published in the October-November 2017 issue of Marine Business magazine.