If you run a business that absolutely requires a favourable online presence (which, in post-pandemic times, is perhaps more important than capital) you certainly know just how important customer reviews are. As we advance further into this age of “constant connectedness,” the word of strangers on the internet has proven to be more valuable than that of brands themselves. This is because these reviews come from third-party sources speaking objectively and honestly about their experience with a business.
With so much to lose and everything to gain, the concept of online customer reviews has redefined the standards of customer service and how brands prioritize components like customer experience, thought leadership, audience engagement and sentiment, and customer lifetime value.
Given how influential customer reviews are, leveraging them to the fullest extent is not exactly a simple task. Here are a few tips to help brands understand the importance of reviews for their products and services, and formulate a strategy to build transparency and authority using their customers’ opinions of their products.
1. Prod Your Customers to Write Reviews
One of the toughest parts of leveraging customer reviews is simply getting people to write them. More importantly, getting them to write good ones when your product simply does what it says on the label. (Pat yourself on the back if it does!)
Fortunately, inviting people to leave them is not rocket science. According to a study by BrightLocal, 70% of consumers will leave a review when asked. If sending out invites that encourages organic reviews isn’t a part of your marketing strategy, it needs to be right away. The more reviews you can get, the more reliable and established your brand will appear in the eyes of potential customers.
Image credit: Charlie Hustle
Now, collecting real and honest reviews can be a little tricky. Google, Yelp, as well as all major industry-specific review sites have guidelines against “incentivizing” reviews and have strong algorithms (and penalties) working against fake or clearly falsified gloating reviews.
There are customer feedback tools as well as email automation tools that let you send out customized review requests following a purchase; many also let you choose how long after purchase the invite will be sent as well as set the number of reminders. These can then be verified, sorted, categorized, and posted to a platform of your choice.
2. Gauge Audience Sentiment Towards Your Brand
The goal of encouraging reviews is to gain raw, genuine sentiment. A report by Pew Research found that more Americans are influenced by highly negative reviews than positive ones. 54% of US consumers claimed they pay more attention to the extreme negative reviews when evaluating a purchase. Further, it takes about 12 positive reviews to make up for one negative review. With this in mind, if you aren’t actively encouraging people to leave reviews, you are essentially fighting an uphill battle.
However, it’s important to note that negative reviews are not completely bad. It’s the way you respond and deal with them that’s really important.
But how do you deal with a review if you don’t know what really your customer is feeling about your brand?
Enter sentiment analysis (also called opinion mining). Sentiment analysis does away with the need to chase your customers with long survey forms and puts to work predictive analytics and AI-based tools to mine existing reviews and responses to detect whether they’re happy or dissatisfied with your product or customer support.
Image credit: MonkeyLearn
Essentially, today’s algorithms are powerful enough to detect the emotions your audience and your customers feel towards your product as they’re using it, as well as the brand opinions that you voice. Every conversation about your brand can be classified as positive, negative or neutral, turned into a measure of customer satisfaction, and used as feedback for your support and sales teams to work on. You can then incorporate these insights into future versions of your products.
3. Display Reviews on Your Website and Social Media
Since customer reviews are one of the most powerful factors when it comes to consumer decision making, displaying them on your website should be a must. If people are leaving good reviews about your products or services, displaying them on the appropriate product or location pages can do wonders to build trust before you’ve even had a single interaction with a potential customer.
In turn, you can significantly increase sales. In fact, a study by Bazaarvoice found that page visitors who interact with review content convert at a 58% higher rate than those who don’t. Thus, each customer review you get is an asset. The best ones need to be showcased loud and proud on your website!
Image credit: Ahrefs
However, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about displaying reviews. The most important thing to remember is that consumers generally value authenticity more than perfection. If people are looking at your site and only see overly gushing testimonials or 5-star reviews, this could easily throw up a red flag that you are either a) filtering out the bad reviews, or b) paying people to write good reviews; both of which are no-nos.
That said, if you have a documented, process-driven customer service policy, amassing great reviews simply becomes part of your routine marketing ops. Many organizations use their customer service or helpdesk management tools feed insights directly into their CRM software. If you do this, you can make sure all favorable interactions are packaged into a testimonial or review that you can display on your website, use as part of your product knowledge base or as solutions for your audience’s pain points.
Finally, sharing customer reviews is not a task that should be limited to your website or Google Business page. Your goal should be to spread positive brand sentiment around as much as you can – and one of the best places to do this is on social media. The term “social selling” has become increasingly powerful. In fact, companies with a reliable social selling strategy are 40% more likely to hit revenue goals than companies without one, as per data from Forrester.
The beauty of social media is the majority of users don’t go on to be explicitly sold to. As many would attest, flashy deals and blatant promotions in social media feeds is stale and pretty off-putting. That said, when someone visits your brand page, showcasing simple and honest opinions from customers is one of the best ways to provide assurance to potential buyers.
4. Increase Search Traffic
It’s not just the business world that has noticed the sheer power that customer reviews hold. The search engines are well aware of this and incorporate them into their algorithms, both organic and PPC. In terms of search rankings, there are several major ways customer reviews can benefit you:
- Improves long-tail keyword traffic – When people review businesses, they tend to write in the language that your target audience connects with. As you get more and more reviews, you will start to notice patterns within the phrasing. This can help you target the most valuable traffic through the most used terms and phrases.
- Gives you fresh content – If there’s one thing the search engines love, it’s valuable, updated content. Customer reviews exemplify this perfectly in the form of user-generated content.
- Boosts credibility – If you are receiving a high volume of good reviews, the search engines see this social proof and improve your authority on the web. This will in turn push your site up the SERPS and help you get into local packs and carousels, especially if you are a business with a strong region-specific presence.
- Increases visibility with star ratings – When people search for your business on the web and see good star ratings directly on the SERPS, it doubles up as a visual stamp of approval of sorts. Not only does this encourage click-throughs, it creates an instant positive perception of your brand before anyone even visits the site.
While search engine algorithms change all the time, their constant goal is to provide users with most useful content, accurate information, and assistance in instant decision-making. Incorporating your customer reviews into your SEO as well as PPC strategies is one of the best ways to play to this concept.
The Bottom Line
Getting the most out of your customers’ opinions requires quite a bit more effort than retweeting them or listing your business on a few web platforms.
Keep in mind, every review can be used to your advantage – good or bad. When you receive a favourable, in-depth review, you should always try to get it in front of as many eyes as possible. With a bad review, you should take the opportunity to show the world that you are committed to making it right and providing the best customer experience possible. Reviews are going to be a huge success factor as long as the internet is around. The longer you take to figure out a consistent strategy for dealing with them, the further behind you’ll be left.
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