Online reviews: why ALL small businesses need to manage them better
There are a lot of things we now know about the online review business. For example, we know that around 88% of people read reviews and trust them as much as recommendations made by people they know, to decide on the quality of a business before they try them. 88% is a lot of people putting their trust in the aggregate opinions of complete strangers.
Not only that, 92% of users will use a local business if it has a 4 or 5 star rating. So that means, if your business is rating at 4-5 stars, that means a good number of your customers will actively seek you out.
Now, we also know that small businesses rely on reviews rather more than the big chains. This has a lot to do with branding, consistency, and the inevitable trust that consumers need to have in the businesses they use. Where the big brands and chains have an ongoing reputation management that might be 50+ years old in some cases, the small guys need the review stars to convince consumers that their product can be trusted as much or more.
In truth, many small businesses struggle with the review systems, especially since they have zero control over whether or not their business is listed on the big review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Most of the reviews they get on those sites tend to be either 4-5 stars, or 1-star. Most people tend to become reviewers based on an extreme experience, rather than a moderate one. They’re spurred to review if they had an amazing meal or a terrible one.
The responses of small businesses to these types of review tend to fall under three categories:
- They ignore the reviews.
- They leave fake reviews themselves.
- They try to respond to reviews in a positive way.
Obviously the last option is the only one that makes sense, but business owners who have felt under attack might react in one of the other two less acceptable ways – and to a point, you can’t blame them for that.
Expectations are more important than you think
Those small businesses considered more pricey and upscale than the majority, that you might describe as $$$ or $$$$ establishments, do often fall under the first category, but they are perhaps even more vulnerable than more averagely priced places.
Everyone is familiar with the phrase ‘you get what you pay for’, so restaurants with a more exclusive outlook, who charge that much more for premium meals and high class service give themselves a higher bar to reach as a standard.
Reviewers are therefore more likely to say they had a terrible meal if just a small part of it failed to reach their expectations.
This means that it’s even more important for upmarket small establishments to actively manage their online reviews than it is for everyone else, especially bearing in mind the huge numbers of consumers who use the reviews to decide where to visit next.
How to manage your online reviews more effectively
Luckily, even for busy managers and owners, there are quite a few ways in which you can manage your online reviews better.
1. Track down all your review listings on all the big sites and check to see what your average scores are.
2. Reply to all or most of your online reviews, both good and bad. This helps to establish a rapport between you and your guests.
3. Use a next-generation review system to rebalance the situation.
Next-generation review systems
One of the many great things about newer review systems is that they provide a rather more balanced view of your business. Take iTrueReview for an obvious example.
Guests are asked to leave a review while they’re still in the business, and most people don’t say no to this request. This means that rather than getting all the extremes only, you get to find out the experiences of nearly everyone around the table enabling you to quickly and effectively respond to your guests.
Reviews are then placed automatically across several websites on the Internet, especially the locally based yellow-pages-style sites. This has a dual effect. Firstly, the extreme reviews on the big sites are diluted somewhat by the sheer numbers of genuine reviews on other websites. Secondly, it makes your business easier to find.
So, when you’re thinking about online reviews and what to do with them, at least now you have a few options.