Customer reviews are no longer nice-to-haves. From Yelp reviews to neighborhood discussion boards, online opinions can have a direct impact on revenue.
Indeed, the power of customer comments is hard to overstate as consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust the opinions of family and friends.1 And whether the reviews are good or bad, studies have shown that merely having customer comments can boost business.
Of course, whether reviews have an overall positive or negative effect depends on what customers say. At restaurants, for example, a one-star increase in a Yelp rating translated to as much as 9 percent more revenue, according to a study at the Harvard Business School.2 Another report found that 94 percent of consumers said a negative review would cause them to avoid a particular business.3
Given the critical role that reviews play in the life of an enterprise, there are several specific actions that any business can take to improve their online reputation.
1. Ask for Reviews
The more reviews you have, the more competitive you will appear. In fact, one study showed that 92 percent of consumers are reluctant to buy something if there are no reviews.4 But hoping for comments and reviews from customers is not enough.
There are many ways to help engage customers and seek reviews: in person, over the phone, through email, on a receipt, using SMS, and providing a future discount for their response (though offering something of value for a review is frowned upon by many review sites).
No matter how the request is made, it’s important to ask. Two-thirds of customers surveyed said they have been asked to leave reviews, and 76 percent of those who are asked to leave reviews respond.5 A large number of reviews might also boost your search rankings.6
2. Understand Your Reviews
As a business, reading reviews and comments about your enterprise can sometimes be painful. But by working to understand the perspective of the customer, and by recognizing the value of an outside opinion, your business can benefit greatly.
Read reviews carefully, not as flattery or criticism, but as guidance for improvement. It’s no surprise that studies have shown people are more likely to leave a negative review after an unhappy experience. Indeed, the study found that 34 percent of the consumers surveyed said they would likely leave a negative review if they had a bad experience compared with 28 percent who would leave a positive review.7 But negative reviews not only add legitimacy to your positive comments, they can also provide important insights.
In particular, pay attention to any recurring complaints, and be sure to anticipate the factors that consumers care about. For example, customers often form negative opinions of merchants based solely on whether their preferred form of payment is available. One survey found that a full 54 percent of Discover® Cardholders traveling internationally blamed the merchant when their card was not accepted.8
Also, recognize that reviews, while important, can be as fickle as your customer, whose mood can stem from many other factors not directly related to the merchant experience.9
3. Respond to Reviews
Whether positive or negative, responding to reviews and comments demonstrates care and attentiveness.
After reviewing tens of thousands of comments and responses on TripAdvisor, a recent study found that simply responding had an important effect on the business’s rating.10 More than half of customers surveyed said they expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week, yet one study found that 63 percent said a business had never responded to their review.11
When you do respond, take time to be as substantive and thoughtful as the comment itself, and before responding, always consider possible cultural differences. What might be a straightforward response in one language could come across as offensive and abrupt in a different culture.12
4. Don’t Fake Reviews
Consumers are increasingly skeptical of glowing comments, with 68% of consumers questioning their authenticity.13 And they have reason to be doubtful, as some studies estimate the number of fake reviews on Amazon, for example, to be around 30 percent.14
Besides, generating false reviews for your product or service will eventually backfire. Not only do many sites ban anonymous reviews, but they are also using more sophisticated algorithms to identify fake reviews.
And keep in mind that customers will find reviews more believable if some criticism appears. One study concluded that the likelihood of purchase can peak at ratings in the 4.0 - 4.7 range, before actually decreasing as they approach 5.0.15
5. Act on Reviews
Finally, reviews not only tell others about the quality of your product or service—they tell about you and your business.
Consider reviews carefully and use them as you would use sound advice from a valuable, yet free, consultant. Leverage them to build customer and client relationships and to prompt ideas and conversations with your employees.
So, after thanking customers for their insights, let them see that they resulted in change. You can respond to them privately, or even publicly state that a new improvement came about because of a customer suggestion.
Building Trust with Your Customers
No matter how great your business is, or how much you worry that it’s not, reviews and customer comments are essential in today’s world. Again, nine out of ten consumers hesitate to make a purchase if there are no customer reviews.
It’s important to remember that everyone appreciates and trusts others more when they know they are being listened to. That’s true whether you’re with family and friends—or your customers.
8 DFS Services LLC, 2018, Discover Cardholders who have traveled internationally over the past 18 months. C+R Research study of 3,000 Discover Cardholders.
The information provided herein is sponsored by Discover® Global Network. It is intended for informational purposes, and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.