The progress in our communications has shifted the power back to the consumers. A single bad online review (whether true or not) can destroy an established business, or just drive hundreds of potential customers the other way.
To see how this works, just look at the way people shop.
If I purchase a product or service it doesn’t matter if I buy it online or at a local joint, I always attempt to research it online, first. Why? Like anyone else, I don’t like wasting money. I want to get value for what I spend and I don’t want to make the wrong decision.
What is my established, super-official-and-definitely-scientific process for evaluating a business online?
The Matt Method
First, I look at the number of reviews and the overall rating they have. Second, I zip straight down to the 1-star reviews. Why? Because there is always some truth to a poor review. I also want to see how a business responds to it, if at all.
I needed to replace a bearing in the front axle of my vehicle, so I Googled “Auto repair shop Boise”. This string of text is very similar to how most people search for local services.
Then what happened?
Google gives me the top three listings in their local search results. Unfortunately, there is a multitude of other, great businesses that don’t even appear. Why? Because they don’t have enough reviews to make it into Google’s new 3-Pack rating system.
All three listings in the top local results are highly rated with a number of reviews, so that is promising. The top listing, 27th St. Automotive, has a 4.7-star rating with 107 reviews versus the second listing having a 4.7-star rating with just 28 reviews. I don’t go straight to 27th’s website, however; first I click on the reviews to get more information.
As a business owner, it is easy to be overly concerned in looking at the 5-star reviews. As a consumer, I don’t care too much about the 5-star review content; I just like to know they are there, and that they are authentic. After all, what is a perfect review going to say? The typical… “These guys are awesome!” “It was everything I ever wanted in an auto parts store!” “Service so good, I’m naming my firstborn child after them!”
Whatever language they use, these reviews convey basically the same message.
Straight to the Bottom
As a consumer, I go straight to the 1-star reviews. I almost expect to see them. In fact, customers won’t trust the reviews if there aren’t any critical posts; you can’t please everybody and even the best business occasionally mess up. I care about how often this happens, what particular issues I need to be watching out for (does every negative review have the same issue?), and how did the business responds to such an event.
The owner makes a very good point! Does the owner’s response make you reflect on the review differently?
In this particular case, reviews were very polarized, though not equally. There weren’t any middle of the road reviews, either; everybody either loved them (about 90%) or hated them (10%). The few critical posts that were there seemed to be all over the place. The kind of angry reviews you’d expect from the occasional automotive customer who receives news they don’t want to hear. It can also be seen that the owner of the shop regularly checks and responds to these reviews, positive and negative.
Responses Make a Connection
Business owner responses not only give me warm fuzzies, but they make me feel like I’m getting to know them. There are few things more helpful than getting to see how a business deals with an upset customer, regardless of who’s right. In this case, the shop owner seems to deal with each one fairly. In some cases, he reaches out and tries to help the person, attempting to contact them or get more information to correct any possible mistakes for unsatisfied customers.
The internet makes it easy for things to gain attention; even going viral, nowadays! Both the offensive Freudian slip of an employee or the heart-warming gesture from a thoughtful manager can become overnight sensations, and may even be the first thing people see about you online. So, it’s important for any mindful business to be in the driver’s seat of their online reputation.
It’s not only important that you engage with your customers (and potential customers) online. You also need to understand how their reviews affect people, and what exactly it is that they are looking for. Fortunately, that is as simple as switching roles. When you engage with a local business, do you scope them out online? If you don’t, you should. The key to understanding your customers is to walk in their shoes.
thx to FancyCrave for donating this post’s featured image