Technology changes are continuous, but when it comes to online reviews, most small businesses are lagging behind. Most don't have a strategy for designing their online reviews.
It's understandable. There are many sites where customers can leave reviews - Facebook, Google, Yelp, Glassdoor, BBB, etc. On most of these sites, you can't control or remove comments that are unfavorable. And just like word of mouth, people seem to have more to say when they are unhappy than when they are ecstatic with your product or service.
These elements all lead to a perception that online reviews are outside of your control. Worrying about online reviews is another task on an already full to-do list for most business owners, but as times change they become more important. As people become more internet savvy, they put more importance on your online reviews. Negative reviews can cause leads not to contact your business. They can prevent candidates from applying for jobs. They can cause doubt in current clients. They impact your business and will continue to grow in importance, as the times continue to change.
So rather than ignore them or let them happen at will, small business owners must start to design their online reviews. Yes, there are barriers as you won't have control over the entire process, which is why it's so important that your business does have a strategy for what you can control.
- Ask - One of the first ways to design your online reviews is to start asking for reviews from clients that had a positive experience with your business. If you increase the number of positive reviews, any negative reviews won't be as noticeable. Most of our clients find that when asked, their clients are happy to provide a review, they just don't always think to initiate it. To increase the effectiveness of asking, have links or a template available to send clients. This makes it easier for them so they are more likely to give the review.
- Identify your Leverage points - If you want to design your online reviews, your business needs to know the best time to ask for online reviews. Thinking about your customer experience, when are your customers excited? When do they feel like your business has gone out of your way for them? Common leverage points include the time of purchase, when you've solved a problem, saved clients' money, or pleasantly surprised your clients. Your team should be trained to know when and how to ask for an online review during these leverage points. It's important to ask, but you also have to know the points in time when clients are having a great experience and emotions are high. Asking at this time will help increase the number of reviews and positive tone of those comments.
- Always respond - Designing your online reviews also requires responding to all reviews. The positive ones can be easier to respond to by keeping a list of standard responses that are rotated. This way responses are not rushed, but also don't come across as too canned since you have a list to rotate. The negative ones are trickier. You do NOT want to get into a war of words with someone leaving negative feedback. You might win the fight, but it looks bad to anyone who reads it. And online comments live forever. Show empathy for anyone who feels they had a bad experience and invite them to talk with you off line. This shows that your business listens to clients, is willing to work with your clients, and sincerely wants to improve.
Overall, the important take away from this should be that technology is always changing. Small business owners can't ignore online reviews. You can let them happen by chance, or you can start designing how your business asks for, and responds to, online reviews. We challenge you to start designing!