There’s no escaping from online reviews anymore. Like it or not, reviews have established themselves as the top method of finding out more about a business. As harsh as it may be, every effort you put into your business can easily be undone by a few too many negative reviews lying around.
Why are they so important, anyway?
To understand the importance of online reviews, you’ll have to make use of the good old marketing adage: think like your customers think. It doesn’t matter how flashy or attractive your ads are – at the end of the day, the customer still feels a natural resistance to them.
Reviews, on the other hand, are (supposedly) made by people just like your potential customers – honest, hard-working individuals with no time for nonsense and a lack of willingness to give their money to the wrong people. Again, this is the perception of online reviews, and you can do very little to change it – your best bet is to work with them rather than against.
Of course, plenty of negative reviews are made by disgruntled customers who simply had a bad day or wouldn’t listen to reason, but potential clients will scarcely care about this – to them, your former customer is infinitely more trustworthy than you are.
As already mentioned, negative reviews can quickly wreak havoc on your business and bring you to a point where every new customer feels like a drop of water to someone stuck in the desert. To avoid getting yourself and your brand in this uncomfortable position, view sites like Yelp or Angie’s List as your tools as opposed to your enemies.
Working with the review sites
In most cases, bad reviews are there to stay: no matter how much you’ve changed your business since then, the bad review won’t be going anywhere and it might make people go “Hmm…” even years from now. The only thing you can do is make an even greater effort to not get any bad reviews – annoying, yet an unavoidable reality of present-day business.
The sites aren’t likely to have your back, either: while a few rare cases like Angie’s List make an effort to protect businesses from the blast, most review sites – including Yelp – have no issue with letting a wall of critique sit on your page indefinitely.
Another way to combat bad reviews is to get more positive ones. If you have some bad reviews on the internet, it won’t matter that most of your customers are satisfied unless they leave a mark online. It’s another way of manipulating perception: if you have three positive reviews and three negative ones, potential clients are sure to focus on the latter and care very little about your dozens of non-reviewing happy customers. But if you can get thirty positive reviews, those three will seem insignificant in comparison and are unlikely to deter anyone from doing business with you.
Therefore, make sure to have several positive reviews for every negative one (a 5-to-1 ratio is a good start). Getting them shouldn’t be hard: ask every visibly-satisfied customer to leave you a review and explain how much it would mean to you – if you did good work, they’re very likely to oblige.