Online Reviews – The Good, the Bad and the Fakes

When given choices about where to spend money, consumers want the best. Internet Yellow Pages sites, Google Places listings and social networks offer consumers convenient channels for unbiased ratings and reviews from other customers. Good reviews can do wonders for your business, but just one negative review could create enough doubt in a consumer’s mind that they pass right by your listing and choose another business. Don’t let bad reviews get the best of your business.

Don't let bad reviews get the best of your business

A common misconception advertisers may have is the notion that consumers don’t actually trust online reviews. In fact, Cone Communications found that 89% of consumers believe that online reviews are a trustworthy source of product and service reviews. Neilsen concurs, finding that online reviews were considered the second most trusted source of brand messaging right after word of mouth recommendations from offline sources like friends or family. According to DAC Group’s 2011 search landscape study with Kantar, 60% of Canadians and 54% of Americans have made a purchase based on a social media recommendation. At the same time, Cone Communications found that 80% of consumers have at some point changed their mind about a purchase because of negative online reviews. People regard online reviews nearly as equally as word-of-mouth recommendations so it is important to take the reviews of your business seriously, as these reviews can cost your business. A study by Convergys Corp once discovered that a negative review can cost businesses 30 customers on average.

negative-review-response-yelp What about fake reviews? Yelp in particular has been taking steps to control review fraud and will filter or remove suspicious reviews. If a business gets caught trying to bribe consumers to write positive reviews with incentives, their page could turn into a message telling consumers about the business’s attempt at unfair review practices. Consumers are smart, and online reviews have been around long enough that people can usually tell when a review seems suspect.

If your business does receive negative feedback, know that other potential customers will be reading. There are actions you can take to minimize or reverse the damage. The best thing a business owner can do is to respond to the criticism – carefully and politely. It’s easy to be angered by criticism, but what the original reviewer and future readers care about is not so much the business owner setting the record straight and defending themselves, but stating that they appreciate the feedback and will work to ensure that future customers do not experience the same problems. It’s often also helpful to offer to fix the problem for the original reviewer, if applicable. The good news is that these steps actually work, with RightNow Technologies reporting that after being contacted by a business, 34% of negative review writers actually deleted their original negative review and 33% turned around and wrote a positive review.

With the increasing prevalence of review sites and forums, online reputation management should be a key part of any business strategy. Online reviews can be one of the best sources of ways to not only gain new customers, but learn from your current customers what is working in your business and what needs improvement.

Rebecca Frantz, Marketing Research Assistant

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