By Michelle Kershner
Last year, I faced a dilemma. I was going to Las Vegas and wanted to escape the bright lights of the Strip for a few hours. I dreamed of exploring crimson canyons in the desert and seeing my first Joshua tree. Scrolling through options online, I found just one tour that fit my schedule.
It sounded perfect…but the tour didn’t have any reviews. By comparison, some tours had hundreds - if not thousands - of verified reviews. As a solo traveler, doubts started creeping into my mind. Was it a scam? Is this safe? Why doesn’t this company have any reviews? Should I really book this?
I took pause. This was an investment of just four hours and less than $75. Not substantial. But I still closed my laptop to think it over instead of booking.
Now imagine you are saving for your dream home – a major investment. How would ratings and reviews impact a major life decision like buying a home? As it turns out, ratings and reviews matter a lot to new home buyers.
According to New Home Source Insights, three-quarters of shoppers sought out online reviews on specific homebuilders or communities. About 75% of these new home shoppers seek these reviews early in the process. It’s an important part of determining what communities they will visit.
When researching online, consumers want to know it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly. And they want to see a response to negative experiences. According to Bazaarvoice, 35% of consumers think the brand has great customer service if they see a response to a review. 41% think the brand is trustworthy if it responds to reviews. So even in the face of a not-so-stellar review, it pays to respond.
You might think, “Whew, I don’t have any reviews to deal with.” Don’t relax so fast. Think about my reaction to not seeing an ad for the tour in Vegas. No matter the industry, review volume shows a positive correlation with sales. Just one review has a lift of 10% increase in purchases, reports Bazaarvoice. Their findings show that across all industries, user generated content, like reviews, increases conversions and revenue. If you don’t have reviews, it’s time to start asking for them.
There seems to be a lot of fear around negative comments and how to respond. Here’s the thing: one bad review won’t destroy your reputation. But failing to handle negative online comments, reviews, or ratings can.
Remember, you’re not just responding to the person who is upset. Everyone who is a potential buyer sees your response. These tips can help you respond with authenticity and take control of your online reputation.
1. Get on the same page with your team. Managing your online reputation starts at the top. Set guidelines for monitoring frequency and agree how to respond. This is where a FAQ document can help ensure your team delivers a consistent message. Develop a process for escalating and resolving issues that could impact your brand’s reputation.
2. Hands off the delete button. Everything in your gut may scream, “Hide this! Get it down!” when a negative review or comment pops up. Don’t delete it. People are savvy and can spot when a company is hiding problems or being dishonest. Customers know when you delete their comments and it can cause a backlash. Instead, get a plan together (see tip #1). Use negative comments as an opportunity to engage, learn, and show your commitment to resolving problems. This can enhance your brand’s reputation and trustworthiness. And it will ultimately help sales.
3. Acknowledge publicly, resolve privately. When a negative review or comment rolls in, halt the potential for public back-and-forth debate. Instead, publicly acknowledge the person's feedback and genuinely let them know you take their concerns seriously. Then tell them how to get in touch to discuss their situation one-on-one. It could be by phone, email, or private message. This takes their concerns offline and so the correct people can handle it privately. It also demonstrates to others that your brand is transparent and not dodging accountability.
An online response strategy says a lot about how your business takes feedback or resolves problems. When done well, it can also give your company the opportunity to shine. If you’re not sure how to manage your online presence, let’s talk. Our team of strategists and writers can share best practices and provide the support you need to begin taking charge of your online reputation.
After a lot of deliberation, I decided to take a leap of faith and book the tour. I had low expectations since they didn’t have any reviews. But my guide, Paul, was interesting, prompt, and so accommodating. I told him I was in town to give a presentation about online reviews and gave him a few pointers. When I got home, I reviewed Paul’s company and uploaded my photos of desert flowers and stunning landscapes. Now, at least he had one, I thought.
From that day on, Paul asked tour groups for reviews and personally responded to nearly everyone. Currently, his company has 45 reviews and a glowing 5-star rating. His clients upload smiling photos and rave about their desert excursions. Over the last year, I watched his company advance in to the Top Ten for the area, and then into the top three. Yes, he had a great tour. But his success was amplified because he actively managed his online ratings and reviews.