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How Review Sites Can Affect Your Business (And What You Can Do About It)

Sources say that up to 92 percent of all online shoppers investigate and consult with online review sites before making a buying decision.

Whether online shoppers want to book a stay at a hotel, find affordable airline tickets, buy bedding for their home, or whether they’d simply like to try out a new restaurant, most of them aren’t going to make blind purchases, and they don’t have to.

In fact, online reviews, once a helpful tool to help promote transparency and branding for companies, has now become an industry in of itself.

Think of mega-review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and ZocDoc (just to name a few), and you can picture just how important the rating system has become. In fact, those stars have become so ubiquitous, you can find them after performing a search engine query-many of the query results for products and service providers are now listed with revue rating averages, represented by stars.

There’s no doubt about it-those stars represent either a high-quality product and a brand that consumers should trust, or they represent poor customer service, poorly-produced products, and negative branding.

It’s easy to see why companies and small business operations have come to fear the ratings, to the point of doing everything (and sometimes, illegal things) in order to avoid generating anything less than three stars, although, four and five stars are best.

Perhaps you’ve kept your eye out on various review sites in the attempt to find out what others are saying about your company. More to the point, you want to find out how many stars those reviews average. After all, those stars can mean the difference between being financially in the black, or in the red!

But let’s say that after digging around, you’ve learned that some of the reviewers left bad remarks, and they’ve rated your company low. Let’s say that they left seemingly disparaging remarks about their shopping experience with your company, and they rewarded your company with one or two stars.

Not only will this bring your average score down, but those remarks will be available for prospective shoppers from around the world to read. Strangers around the world will be able to form opinions about your company, and you won’t be able to do anything about it, right?

Not so fast!

First, know that all is not lost when and if your company has generated low scores and poor reviews. There’s a variety of reasons why this might have taken place, and you might be surprised to learn that many of these reasons have nothing to do with you or your employees.

Here’s a handful of reasons as to why your company is generating bad press on the review sites, or even, on your company site if your site allows for product reviews:

Sneaky competitors gaining market share

One of the realities of operating in a free market is the fact that you’ll do battle with competitors. Another reality is that competitors don’t always play fair, and that definitely applies to the battle of online reviews.

It’s not uncommon for industry competitors to spy on your company’s reviews and overall progress. If your competitors want to bring your market share down a few notches, then they can send their minions to various sites (including yours) to leave bad reviews.

Disgruntled, hard-to-please customers

Some customers are genuinely hard to please, usually for reasons beyond what your customer service team is able to resolve. These are the customers who are all too happy to smear campaign your company’s brand on review sites.

Vengeful, angry former employees

Has your company recently let go of a large quantity of employees, particularly under less-than-ideal circumstances? Have any of your C-levels (or middle managers) been fired, lately? Might anyone formerly in your organization have an axe to grind?

If so, then they’ll feel motivated to trash your company’s brand and puncture holes into your market share.

Internet trolls

Finally, your brand name might be attacked by internet trolls. These are digital bullies who visit various websites, starting arguments, and leaving inflammatory statements in the hopes of starting trouble-plain and simple.

You might not be off the hook

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why your brand might generate poor ratings that have nothing to do with your team…but what if your team is to blame?

Customers have every right to ding your ratings for issues including:

  • Genuine disdain/dislike for your product/service
  • Poor customer service
  • Breakdown in the shipping process

Great customer experiences are priceless

There are myriad ways that positive customer experiences and ratings can benefit your business. Here are just a few.

  1. Increased sales. In a study done by Zendesk, 88 percent of customers read an online review that influenced their buying decision.

  2. Brand reputation. Good reviews amp up your brand’s reputation without any additional work on your end.

  3. Free marketing. Satisfied customers provide valuable word-of-mouth marketing and often prove to be your biggest advocates. According to a study by American Express, 42 percent of consumers said that a recommendation from a family member or friend would influence their purchase more than a sale or promotion.

  4. Product and company validation. If you’re raising money, investors and partners will unquestionably look at your ratings and reviews. A strong rating affirms that you have a great company that is worth investing in.

  5. Promotional material. Great reviews can be used as testimonials on your website, in your marketing creatives, and as a part of your social media marketing campaigns.

There’s only one solution

If a single bad review can undo the value of 40 good customer experiences, then the best solution is to focus on customer satisfaction. If it isn’t already, customer happiness should be just as important to your business as the product or service itself.

Here are three keys to customer happiness.

  1. Product quality. Your product, service, or app needs to provide the value you promise in a reliable way. It should work so well that 99 percent of your customers never call customer service.

  2. Customer service. Great customer service not only prevents bad reviews, it also helps define your brand. The keys to the customer service equation include competent and compassionate reps, a manager who can effectively handle escalations, multiple means of contact (email, phone, chat, etc.), and convenient hours of operation.

  3. Educating users. I’m an advocate of educating customers on how to use a product. For example, when some of our customers at SkyBell complained that the motion sensor on our video doorbell didn’t activate immediately, we responded by explaining why we added a five- to 10-second delay. Once educated, our customers were grateful for the feature instead of frustrated.

When you focus on boosting customer happiness, it helps prevent the negative experiences that lead to bad reviews. And, according to the math, avoiding bad reviews is even more important than getting good reviews.

Positive customer reviews are one of the most important factors for your success, and the surest way to get them is by providing an outstanding customer experience. Take the time to understand the customer review ratio, and then evaluate your product, customer service, and education efforts. Doing so will help you master customer satisfaction and avoid the bad reviews that are so challenging to overturn.

So what should you do when this occurs? The appropriate teams need to give deep thought to the areas of the sales, fulfillment, and shipping process that they can fix. And don’t worry about ratings that are beyond your company’s control.

Yes, they’ll bring down the overall star average, but today’s shoppers are very savvy. They know how to sift through nonsense, and they’re often fair. They understand how to cast aside baseless, over-the-top bad reviews, and they’ll often give your company the opportunity to redeem itself.

After all, they’re checking your company out because they’re looking for reasons to spend money on your brand!

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