What used to be done through mouth-to-mouth promotion by friends and colleagues, nowadays is accomplished through online customer reviews. The visualization of rankings through stars or points allows for a simple quality assessment of a product or service. Rating portals are booming: they help to organize the clutter of online offers and depending on their trustworthiness come close to the credibility of a quality seal or test report. That’s why companies and retailers need to invest in great reputation management. Or in other words, great traditional customer service with a modern twist: visibility on every channel.
Some directories and rating portals specialize on a specific fields such as doctors (Jameda), restaurants/sightseeing (Tripadvisor) or employers (Kununu). For local businesses, inter-sectoral portals such as Google, Yelp or meinstadt.de are particularly important. The iOS App “Karten”, for example, displays results from Yelp and TripAdvisor.
Customers Come through Internet Searches
Nowadays, a local business can hardly ever say “internet reviews? I don’t care”. Currently, 80% of Germans search online for information on shops and services in their city, on a regular basis. This figure was published in a 2015 study from the web hosting provider 1&1. At the same time, potential customers are not longer just interested in a business’ address and opening hours. The company’s reputation is checked in advance by reviewing various websites and a visit to the location often depends on the result of this search. Nine out of ten respondents of the study “The Psychology of Evaluations” from the Study of Tomorrow Focus AG published in December 2014, indicated that online reviews gave them orientation. Further, 78% of the 3000 interviewed responded that these reviews also influenced their eventual purchasing decision.
Google reacted to the increasing importance of rankings in local search accordingly. Since July 2015, the search engine shows just three search results instead of seven - the so-called “3-Pack” or “Snack-Pack”. At the centre of this concentrated overview is (what else would it be) the customer reviews. When you mouseover a point in a city map, the name and the star rankings appear. With such a prominent placement of customer reviews in a Google search, it is all the more damaging if the search shows a bad star ranking or if no reviews are available. In this year’s study by agency BrightLocal with approx. 2,300 respondents from the USA and Canada, only 13% participants specified that they would visit a business with a rating of one or two stars.
Companies Must Keep Control
As a result, a thorough reputation management is unavoidable. Retailers and service providers can become aware of problems in their businesses and locations early on and can have a direct influence, for example, through customer service improvement and appropriate responses to bad reviews. A prerequisite for this it to have control over the existing profile pages for your business. Many stores and restaurants are already represented with customer posts on Google Maps or Yelp, without the real owner being involved. Such business listings can be later transferred and taken over by the owner. Only then can you have full control over the correct business details and appropriately react to reviews.
Don’t worry, many reviews are positive. 78% of respondents of the study “The Psychology of Reviews” said that they would mostly give positive reviews and wanted to help other customers and users with their reviews. But particularly the handling of negative reviews is a crucial aspect of reputation management. Here it is not only important to win back the unsatisfied customers, but also to win over other users with the appropriate reaction, thereby strengthening your reputation.
These Tips can Help the Handling of Negative Reviews
Acknowledge your mistakes:
Is the customer right with their criticism? Then, admit it frankly. Offer them a generous compensation as a response for their review and promise them an improvement (which must then be carried out quickly). This reassures not only those affected, but demonstrates your level of customer service to other potential customers. Giving a suggestion like “feel free to speak with us directly next time” can help to reduce the negative reviews in the future.
Create a solid foundation:
A bad review carries less weight if many others express their satisfaction with your business. However, it can be perceived as intrusive if happy customers are asked to leave a positive review on Google or Yelp at checkout. Besides, the Yelp algorithms are trained to filter good reviews from biased users (such as the owner himself). A more subtle option would be to have designed stickers or postcards from from the review platform which are often available free of charge.
Beware of black sheep:
Bought reviews are a logical evil of the increasing importance of customer reviews. Here people pay to praise their own product, or to slam the services of a competitor. The portals try to minimize abuse by verifying the registration of new members. A striking amount of positive or negative reviews can be reviewed by the platforms.
Keep an eye on social media:
Reviews and customer feedback are not limited to directories, review platforms or map services. Many customers show their frustrations spontaneously through Tweets or visually on Instagram. The more customers that like or agree with the criticism, the more negative consequences this can have for the company concerned. That’s why reputation management is crucial to keep track of all relevant opinions expressed on the internet.
Don’t put up with everything:
As a service provider, you are far from being a doormat. In response to an outrageous review, a carefully crafted reply can pay off. A gastronomer from Dusseldorf proved this a few weeks ago. A guest had complained on Tripadvisor in November over allegedly high prices, bad service and lukewarm coffee. The owner Andrej Uroševic dismissed the comment with an extensive reply, confidently written and a bit on the snappy side, but acknowledged some oversights on their part and invited the customer for an espresso. His unusual response was covered on the media nationwide. Suddenly, the conversation went from a “mob-customer” to regular customers showing solidarity with the host. This is also how customer loyalty can work with proper reputation management.
Uberall.com is well aware of the importance of customer feedback. Our Reputation Management Hub has always been an important part of our portfolio and was even further expanded with the acquisition of Online Marketing Platform, Spotistic.