This article was formerly posted on Snehta’s blog. The company has since been rebranded as DataClover and the post removed. However, I’ve included it here because it’s a piece I’m proud of with a message I believe in, being a reviewer myself.
When it comes to discovering a small business’ reputation, more research is being done online than ever before. Naturally, this is because it’s easier and more convenient than relying on word of mouth testimonials (which aren’t by any means obsolete). Online reviews from complete strangers, however, are carrying more weight in this ever-increasing digital world.
According to the Local Consumer Review Survey in 2012, as much as 72% of customers trust online reviews as much as word-of-mouth recommendations, and that number is expected to rise through 2014. The good thing about this is that most online reviews are highly reliable, and they help customers make smarter decisions concerning which products and services to purchase and which to avoid.
Why Consumers Should Leave Reviews – Good or Bad
I know the dance very well. You’ve ordered this item or received this service, and the results were spectacular. You couldn’t be more pleased with it than if you had gotten it for free all along. Despite these positive feelings, though, you neglect to leave a review. Maybe you just forgot, didn’t feel like it, didn’t know where to submit it, or were just unsure about what you would even say if you could. The important thing is that you know it all worked out for you, right? Not in all cases.
Some businesses—particularly small, local ones—rely on reviews to market themselves to the local communities and tourists of the area. Believe it or not, you have the power to help decide the fate of that business with a review and–in certain instances–the responsibility of doing so. Here are a few reasons why you should at least consider it.
- Other consumers will benefit from your actions. A posted review acts as the ultimate pay-it-forward, often long after a customer has submitted it. Most people who come across it in the future will take your words into account when weighing their own decisions on whether to buy or not. A positive review will help assure them; a negative review will encourage them to exercise caution and inspire greater thought.
- Reviews promote greater visibility for a business you love. The way the internet works is, the more content a site has, the greater its visibility on web searches becomes as well. Naturally, any site that seems to have interesting information, original content, and consumer engagement will generate more hits in searches. Reviews help in making those hits happen by contributing keywords, improving rankings, and encouraging engagement. Your review could be the one that puts a business on the digital map.
- Take it as a chance to lead. At times, you’ll find yourself in the position of being the first person to leave a review. Instead of looking at the blank screen in intimidation, see it as an opportunity to set the mood for future reviews. For whatever reason, the presence of even so much as one review seems to better encourage others to write their own. So take this chance to be a trendsetter and let others follow you.
- Remember how reviews helped you in the past. If someone else’s review encouraged you to purchase what is now one of your most beloved products, return the favor and leave a review for someone else to receive the same guidance that you once did. If the product turns out to be less than what you expected, then leaving a review may be your only chance to set the record straight (politely, of course).
- Abandon guilt that it’s bad to leave a bad review. Bad reviews are extremely useful, as long as they don’t attack anyone or are directly libelous. You should always remember that a bad review should be about what you thought about the business and not about the business itself. It’s much better to say, “I expected to receive better service, given what I paid for it,” rather than, “This business is here to scam you out of your money! DON’T USE THEM!” Always consider taking such precaution, since some businesses take advantage of their vague review policies in an attempt to eliminate bad reviews, such as what happened to this Utah couple. These negative occurrences are rare, however, and submitting an honest review to a local business does far more good than harm.
- Real reviews offset fake ones. Most sites have algorithms in place to detect and eliminate fake reviews, but they don’t always work. You have probably read a fake review at least once in your life. Maybe it was obvious, but maybe it sounded very real. In September 2013, Harvard Business School completed a study, which revealed that nearly 16% of Yelp restaurant reviews in the Boston area alone are fake. For the wary consumer, this should be a cause of concern.
Most fake reviews are the product of desperation, either by a business owner who isn’t getting the publicity he needs or by the competition that wants to put him out of business. While it’s by no means the consumer’s responsibility to ensure these businesses behave ethically, the presence of customer reviews can certainly help prevent these actions from being made and keep other customers from being fooled.
What Can You Do Moving Forward?
While it’s unrealistic to expect people to review every little company they do business with, I sincerely hope that these points inspire you to write more reviews in the future. Customer reviews are often sincere, and that kind of sincerity is also a hint at how the business being reviewed conducts itself and how they treat their clients.
It’s also important to remember that it is never too late to leave a review. Whether you’ve had service done on your home or ordered a product in the last week or over a year ago, your experience is still valid to share with others. In fact, if you’ve received satisfaction from a product after such a long period of time, that longevity is definitely something to brag about.
Home service professionals and contractors especially live on these reviews, so when you get the chance, please head over to snehta.com to leave a few words for your favorite local business.
Why the Small Business Owner Needs Reviews – Good and Bad
Reviews in 2014 will play an even bigger role online for small businesses because of greater visibility. Thanks to Google’s AdWord Review Extensions, search engine results pages (SERPs)—such as Google and Bing—will show short reviews in their featured ads. As much information about a certain company will be pooled together on a SERP as possible. This includes the business’ +1s, photographs, affordability, offered services, and reviews.
So how do you ask customers for reviews, or do you even ask? Some review sites such as Yelp discourage business owners from requesting reviews from customers, since it runs the risk of creating a review that is dishonest or fake. If done the right way, however, business owners shouldn’t feel the urge to avoid asking for reviews, and here are some tips on how to approach the subject.
- Don’t harass customers. There is a right way and a wrong way to get customers to review your business. Directing a customer over to a laptop as you stand over her shoulder to make sure she’s actually reviewing is the wrong way.
- Recognize who your audience is. Depending on the age group, gender, or ethnicity of your customers, you may need to adjust your behavior accordingly. For instance, savvy internet users, such as the Millennials, are more likely to leave reviews than their parents’ generation, who are less engaged with the internet. Older customers may need more reminding or encouragement.
- Simplify the review process as much as possible. Nothing turns off a potential reviewer more than if she doesn’t know where to leave a review—unless it’s negative, of course. Then the difficulty may just make them angrier and more determined. Therefore, make sure you have several places on your website that indicates where reviews can be published, such as a testimonial page, a contact page, or a review badge.
- Be sincere. Customers can tell when you’re being fake or dishonest with them. A good business owner, however, genuinely wants to know how well he’s serving his clients. Asking a customer’s opinion makes her feel involved in the process and that she matters. Taking the time to ask fosters good feelings and relationships between business owners and customers, enough so that customers will return or will refer your business to others, too.
- Abandon your fear. Approaching someone to ask about writing a review for you can get a little awkward, but it must be done. Aside from being a part of owning a business, reviews, especially the lack thereof, can make or break landing a deal. Refer to #4 when asking, and you should be fine.
- Have a large online presence. The more websites your business is featured on, the more likely customers will leave reviews. It’s simple math, really. Some customers already have their favorite sites—such as Yelp or Thumbtack—on which they leave reviews. Others will be unwilling to sign up or make an account to review if you only have your business on a website like Angie’s List, even if they really enjoyed your business. Having your business be present on a site like Snehta, which doesn’t require users to have an account for them to be able to review, eases the process even further.
- Offer incentives for good and bad reviews. If you do so for only good reviews, then your actions will instantly appear dishonest and your reviews fake. Instead, offer incentives such as special discounts, coupons, or gift cards to customers for their honest opinion.
- Address negative reviews. They are going to happen and are, in fact, good for your business. It’s impossible for a business owner to please every customer, sometimes no matter how hard he tries. But a negative review can actually make your business look more legitimate than if you only had nothing but five star ratings all down the board. Those instances look fishy, and customers detect that right away and are repelled by it. When negative reviews happen, you can still make them work for you. Attempt to politely and sincerely reach out to the customer, online, by phone, or in person, and see if any reconciliation can be made.
Ultimately, reviews help you get to know your customers and their expectations. They improve your website’s rankings and search results on Google and other sites of that nature due to improved keyword content found in what your clients have to say.
Consumers who leave reviews also tend to return to see if newer reviews have been added that either complement or negate their own. Strangely enough, reviews tend to encourage more reviews; everyone wants their voices heard, and that kind of cooperation is something that helps both the business owner and the customers themselves.