In a previous blog post, we looked at what social proof is, and why it's important for your business. We talked about online reviews in that article, and as online reviews are so important for all businesses, we felt they needed a post of their own. So here it is - 6 things you need to know about online reviews. 

1. Why you need online reviews 

Online reviews play an increasingly important role for businesses, as the number of potential customers who read them before making a buying decision continues to rise. This is backed up by BrightLocal's Local Consumer Review Survey 2020. According to the survey, 87% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 93% of people aged 35-54). This is up from 81% in 2019. The 2020 survey also found that only 48% of consumers would consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars.  

2. Which is the best review site? 

The more sites you have reviews on the better. But when it comes to which is the best to focus on, the answer is - it depends!  
The best site for you to concentrate getting reviews on really depends on where your potential customers are most likely to look. 
If your business has a physical location that customers visit, such as a shop, hairdresser, optician, garage etc, then potential customers are more likely to look at the reviews on your Google My Business listing. Google My Business is also likely to be the most relevant for businesses that mainly deal with other businesses. These would include printers, accountants, and office suppliers. Google reviews can also help improve your Google ranking, particularly for local searches.  
Businesses that predominately sell to consumers, such as builders, plumbers, removal companies etc. could benefit from concentrating on social media. People searching for those types of business will often ask for recommendations on social media platforms such as Facebook, so it makes sense to prioritise social media as the place to collect reviews.  
If you sell via a third-party site such as Amazon then potential buyers are obviously going to be paying attention to the customer reviews on that site. 
There are many other review sites to consider, including Tripadvisor (particularly for the travel and catering industries), Trustpilot, and Yelp. 
If you're still not sure which site to start concentrating on for reviews, look at where your customers are currently leaving reviews for you, and focus on getting more reviews there. If you are a new business and don't have any reviews yet, take a look at where your competitors are being reviewed. That could be a good starting point for you too. 

3. How do you get reviews? 

The more you ask, the more you get! While some people will leave a review when they receive particularly good (or bad) service, most people will not do so without being prompted.  
If you deal with customers face-to-face you could ask them to put a review up for you, and maybe give them a card with the address of your preferred review site on it. (The URL for your Facebook page or Google My Business listing for instance.) Or if you tend to deal with your clients remotely, you could send them an email, text, or WhatsApp message with the link to the site you would like them to leave a review on.  
Whichever way you ask people to leave a review for you, make it as easy as possible for them to do so. If they have to search where to leave it they are less likely to do it. 
Don't expect everyone you ask to leave a review. Many will say they will, and mean it at the time, but then life gets in the way! So keep asking, and the number of reviews you have will steadily grow.  

4. Say thanks! 

Whenever someone takes the time to leave you a review, make sure you thank them. Ideally you should thank them on the platform they leave the review, and personally via phone, text, email etc. 
As well as being polite and showing them and other customers/potential customers that you value reviews, thanking them on the review platform also gives you a chance to include some keywords in your reply. Don't overdo it; the reply should be about thanking the reviewer. But something like the following is a good way of combining a genuine thank you with a reminder to readers of the service you offer. 
''Thank you for taking the time to leave a review, and I'm delighted that you enjoyed dining at (business name).  
It's great to hear that you found our service to be of a high quality and enjoyed having a wide variety of vegan dishes to choose from.  
Thanks again for visiting us, and we look forward to seeing you again soon.'' 

5. Dealing with negative reviews 

Negative reviews happen! And the more reviews you get, the more likely you are to get the odd bad one. 
A poor review means that you not only have a dissatisfied customer. You also have their dissatisfaction displayed online for everyone else to see. 
When you see a bad review about your business, your first reaction might be to take it personally. But seeing the review as a personal insult won't solve the problem. Nor will getting angry or upset with the reviewer.  
You must respond to the negative review. With the right response you may be able to turn your unhappy customer into someone who is happy to do business with you again. And they may even go back and change their bad review into a good one. You will show other readers that you don't hide from criticism and that you care about your customers’ feedback and experiences. You will also stand out from your competitors that don't reply to negative reviews. 
It's important to reply quickly to negative reviews, but don't do so while you are feeling angry or upset. It may help to have one or two 'standard' replies ready that you can adapt for each review. This will help you remove the emotion from your reply. 
Start by thanking them for taking the time to leave a review, just as you would with a positive review. Then apologise that they felt they received bad service, or whatever their complaint is about. They may have genuinely received bad service, or they may just have been having a bad day when they left the review. But whether you feel their comment is justified or not, apologising for them feeling that way will make them feel heard, and that may be enough.  
If there is a genuine problem that needs resolving, get the conversation offline so that you can fix the problem. In your reply, say that you will get in touch with them to discuss what actions need to take place. Or if you don't have their contact details, ask them to get in touch with you personally. Then make sure you take whatever action is required to resolve the issue. 
When you show you’re actively trying to fix the problem it shows the customer, and other readers, that you genuinely want to solve the issue.  
If you resolve the issue and your (previously) unhappy customer is happy with the result, consider politely asking them to update their review to reflect that the situation has been resolved. 

6. How many reviews should you aim for? 

The short answer to how many reviews you should aim for is, as many as possible! However, more important than the overall number of reviews you have, is how many recent ones you have. Further research on BrightLocal's Local Consumer Review Survey 2020 says that 73% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month, and 86% of consumers say they only look at reviews from the past three months. While 50% only take into account reviews from the past two weeks. 
So rather than concentrating on reaching a certain number of reviews, a better strategy would be to get into the habit of always asking for reviews and aiming to get a steady stream of reviews over time. And of course, the more positive reviews you have, the further it will push down any negative ones you get. 
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