The time when word-of-mouth alone could sustain your company is long gone. As more people move online to manage their lives, from choosing restaurants and hotels to buying home improvement items to picking a doctor, reviews are considered by consumers more heavily than ever before. A whopping 94% of online consumers stated that a negative review has convinced them to avoid a business, according to ReviewTrackers.
Reviews on sites such as Google, Facebook and Yelp! dramatically impact perceptions of your service. According to Inc. Magazine, people have become so used to checking online reviews that 84% say they trust them as much as they trust recommendations from friends. Ninetytwo percent of consumers hesitate to do business with a company that doesn’t have reviews. A score below 4.0 on Google can seriously undermine you, as can having too few reviews. Pushing your scores above 4.5, however, can give you a real competitive advantage, and the more the merrier.
In the old days, someone looking for a new heating oil or propane company might ask their parents or new neighbors for a recommendation. Perhaps they’d see your truck in the neighborhood, pick up the phone and have a conversation. They might also see if you were a Better Business Bureau (BBB) member.
Nowadays, their first step is to Google something like “fuel company near me,” or your company name if they’ve heard of you. When that happens, the Google map listing shows up with your review score front and center. Maybe they’re more into Facebook and when they search for your business, your Facebook reviews show up on your page. BBB scores and complaints are also online.
For the typical homeowner looking at multiple companies that all seem similar, reviews provide one of the few ways to distinguish between them. Everyone says they give great service and, increasingly, your reviews are the arbiter of that statement, fairly or not.
If your review score and comments pass muster, the prospect might go further and visit your website. If they like what they see, they might call you up, or increasingly, try to handle it all online. Either way, reviews are the gateway to the successful attraction and closing of new business. In fact, according to the Spiegel Research Center, customer reviews can increase conversions of prospects to customers by 270%. Furthermore, Google’s latest core update now incorporates reviews to determine where your website ranks when searched. It is nonsensical that companies spend good money on advertising to attract new business only to have the first thing people see be a mediocre review score.
Given all this, it’s not surprising that fuel companies are starting to pay closer attention to reviews. If you are simply relying on delighted customers to post glowing reviews, you will lose this war. Unhappy customers are much more likely to comment online than happy ones—so bad reviews tend to show up in disproportionate numbers that drag down your public image.
Ultimately, there are two strategies to gain a competitive advantage. The first is to cultivate lots of positive reviews; the second is to deal effectively with the frustrating negative reviews that are unavoidable in your business.
By now, you’ve had a taste of companies that prioritize getting positive reviews. Their salesmen ask you to leave a good review as a personal favor. You get an email or a text with a link shortly after leaving the restaurant or hotel, etc. Seventy-two percent of customers will write a review if a business asks them to. The trick is making it easy and making it timely. If you wait too long, the likelihood of reviews drops.
There are good, inexpensive software solutions, like Review Buzz or Next Door, that make it easier to solicit reviews and push them out to multiple platforms. They can also consolidate on various platforms so you can showcase all of your great reviews prominently on your website. However, the key isn’t the software; it’s managing your people and process to get results.
Recently, we worked with dozens of companies to enable their techs and drivers to send requests right from their company phones or tablets. As with most things, you get about 80% of your reviews from 20% of your team, but that’s still significant (we’ve also come up with a phenomenal way to dramatically raise your score virtually overnight, but you’ll have to call us to get that one!). Finally, if your customer obliges and leaves a review, don’t end your communication there. According to ReviewTrackers, 53% of consumers expect a response to their reviews.
There is no “one size fits all” answer to dealing with negative reviews. They are often frustrating because the customer shares a very skewed part of the story, or they just plain lie. How many of you have received a one-star review from a customer who didn’t get service or a delivery, conveniently leaving out the fact that he/she was 60 days past due for his/her last delivery. Ugh!
Our social media team coordinates review responses for more than 100 companies. Here are a couple of recommendations that might be helpful:
Avoid discussing the problem other than to acknowledge the situation—and never blame the customer! Even if they are wrong, the last thing you want to do is win an argument in front of your other customers and prospects (there are exceptions to this, but fewer than you think).
If you have any questions about how to make reviews an ongoing strength for your company, or deal with problematic ones, please don’t hesitate to email me or contact me at 201-330-9276. Marketing keeps evolving, and this is one area that you need to keep front and center.