You are online researching service providers and you find one. What do you do next? Chances are you’re going to read reviews. In fact, marketing company Bright Local says that 84% of people do just that. And, if there are enough reviews, you’re likely to believe what other people say. If you’re like me, the company’s response to those reviews also matters.
“The most powerful reviews are the ones that started off negative,” says Steve Pearson, CEO at Friendemic, which specializes in online reputation tools for many of the world’s largest automotive brands. “Someone who says that they had a crummy experience, but the owner reached out and tried to make it right, as a customer that makes me feel a lot better than one more positive customer review.”
As a CX professional, these reviews on third-party websites could be having a significant impact on your business, yet member listening, in the form of reviews, are often not in the purview of the CX department. Perhaps they should be.
Reviews, and their place in CX, have been a topic of great discussion in the past months on the CXPA discussion board. Here are some tips from Pearson on B2C reviews.
Reviews are key differentiators, and those at the top need to dial in
In the information age, the number of ways businesses can compete is shrinking. The pricing of products and the location of businesses start to matter less and less. How do you differentiate anymore?
“Customer experience, for many businesses, is hands down the most important way you can differentiate yourself,” Pearson says. And, he says, this is extremely important work. So, whether you outsource review response or you keep it in-house, make sure this effort is clearly connected to your CX efforts and to senior leadership.
“Our client success teams are trained doggedly that you need to be speaking with the general manager about their reviews,” says Pearson.
Answering the review is key, and it does double duty
Critical reviews happen. How you respond to them, or don’t, matters. Most important, it shows your reviewer and future customers that you care about their experience. It’s also your opportunity to increase review activity and increase SEO by using particular keywords.
“It’s important that you reply to them (the customer) correctly – quickly, professionally and with SEO-rich responses,” says Pearson.
See this article from business.com for tips on boosting your SEO with review response.
It doesn’t cost anything
“Reviews are a tremendous and free source of user feedback,” says Pearson. “Companies pay tens of thousands of dollars for feedback that is”, as Pearson says, “already staring you in the face”. While Pearson acknowledges it’s not an unbiased sample, it’s actionable.
“I’m constantly dismayed at how many owners and business executives haven’t even read their own reviews. The content of the reviews can actually change processes and products to give people a better experience.”
Embrace the negative reviews as an opportunity to connect with your customer
You are going to get less-than-optimal reviews.
“Only ever getting five stars is an unrealistic objective,” says Pearson. “No business in the world does that and if I found one I’d think they were somehow cheating. If your expectation is getting all 5 stars, then why even ask.”
Critical reviews are your opportunity to make good on a negative experience. And, perhaps more important, those negative reviews live on, and so will your response to those negative reviews.
Pearson reminds us that when customers read reviews they frequently start searching for the more negative reviews. Admit it, you do it too!
“If you get a 5-star review with no comment, probably not many people ever see it again after you receive your next few reviews,” says Pearson. “But if you have three negative reviews from a year or two ago, people are likely still reading those. How you reply to them and what they say is really important. And can be tremendously valuable.”
Review fraud can be an issue in other areas, but for the automotive industry, the focus of Friendemic, Pearson doesn’t see it as a major issue.
“There are so many legitimate reviews, fraud would have to be committed at a massive level to have a significant effect,” says Pearson. “Of course, you should dispute fraudulent reviews that violate the review networks’ Terms of Service. But in the vast majority of cases, your time is going to be far better spent helping your happy customers leave positive reviews, reading, addressing, responding carefully to the reviews you do receive, and adjusting your business processes in response to the feedback from your reviews, versus worrying about fraudulent reviews.”
Look beyond the traditional review locations like Yelp and Google
“The industry has myopically focused on one-to-five-star reviews and neglected things that should be treated as reviews,” says Pearson. “Companies often have a well-managed process for addressing a one-star review on Google but have no plan to respond to a negative message on Facebook or Instagram or vice versa. Or if there is a process for both, sometimes they are buried within separate departments or vendors with different processes or little communication to aggregate the feedback.”
The artificial separation of these forms of reviews is a mistake, according to Pearson. “Ultimately that is a consumer expressing their experience to you that you need to handle in similar ways,” he says.