Customer reviews can and will keep business owners up at night. Just ask the owner of Union Street Guest House in Hudson, New York. A quaint hotel located in the archetype of small town America--Union Street Guest House was one of those places where, if you were going to get married, you just assumed this was going to be where you held your wedding reception.
Was being the key word.
Union Street Guest House was so terrified by the thought of a bad customer review; they took, what they believed, was a proactive, novel approach—fining those who left any negative review $500 per said review until it was taken down. This didn’t lead to fewer negative reviews, however. It led to 3,000 more! And, ultimately, they had to close up shop.
All because a fear of a negative customer review.
Customer reviews should not be feared, they should be embraced as an opportunity.
An opportunity to provide authenticity. An opportunity for the potential consumer to experience the business through the eyes of an existing customer.
This piece is why they (customer reviews) are so critical to a business, how to obtain positive reviews, and finally, how to take a negative review and transform the reviewer into a customer for life.
Lets’ begin with…
Why Would I Want A Customer Review?
“So, how was it?” “What did you think?” “Would you use them again?”
Before the worldwide interweb was created, we typically asked these questions of friend and/or family member who:
- Ate at the hot, new Italian restaurant in town.
- Brought their kid to that trampoline park everyone keeps getting hurt at.
- Used that auto repair garage on the corner of Main Street.
There’s a marketing term for this type of advertising: Word of Mouth.
And without question, it’s the single most effective form of advertising in the history of marketing.
Why? Because it’s brutal honesty. It’s a person – just like you – who went, consumed, judged, and then shared their experience.
Couple this with the fact that marketers are just above politicians on the “ladder of trust”—It’s not hard to see why buyers will read an average of seven customer reviews before making a purchase.
As marketers it's important to note that reviews and word of mouth are amazing tools but only reach people actively searching for you, meaning, if you want to attract more prospects, more customers then it's wise to develop a strategy on how to promote your reviews but that's a discussion for another time.
People Want Real
Christopher Ryan, CEO of SIX Marketing was recently interviewed in the Saratoga Business Journal’s article entitled: “Business Marketing Plans Should Include Strong Website Content and Social Media.”
In the article, Ryan stated when asked about what he would recommend:
We want it to be as real as possible. Authenticity is probably the biggest trend moving into 2019. People want to see real…They (consumers) want testimonials. They want reviews. Reviews are probably the biggest thing that any small business could start to work on and make a dramatic impact on their growth. We are in the review generation.
Think about your own shopping experience online. There is a buyer’s process/journey: We determine the product/service we want/need. We shop, scouring everywhere for the best price. Then, we will seek the opinion of the masses. Are we justified in our purchase? We seek validation. Then, we make our decision.
Customer reviews provide comfort to the buyer assuring them they are not only purchasing the right product/service, they are also purchasing it from the right people.
But a major reason why many business owners are terrified by the thought of customer reviews is because they cannot control what someone is going to say about them.
Oh, this couldn’t be farther from the truth because…
Positive Customer Reviews Are Up To You
Coming from the world of radio, I remember how horrified the Program Directors (those in-charge of the station) were every 6 months. The reason being, this is when they received their “report cards” in the form of Nielsen Ratings. These ratings revealed how many people were listening, how long they were listening, and what they were listening to.
These ratings were their customer reviews.
Customer reviews are nothing more than a report card. If the business owner does their job, which is putting the customer first, they will receive glowing reviews.
The easiest way to gain a review is to ask for one. It seems simple yet horrifying, we know. But if you are going above and beyond serving your customers, they will notice and more than likely oblige your review request. You just need to ask.
If they say yes, be grateful and ask them to submit a review on whatever platform you have. (Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.) Keep in mind, the more reviews your business has, the better it will be for your SEO.
Knowing this, entice reviews by providing discounts on future purchases. For example, I recently came across an auto dealer who would provide a free oil change for a positive review on Google.
Requesting a customer review also presents the first opportunity you have in addressing a potentially negative one.
When asking the customer directly if they’ve had a pleasant experience, you may be told that they have not. This is “nipping it in the bud”. However, some people can and will flat-out lie. They will tell you things were just swell, possibly fearing confrontation. Then turn around and absolutely eviscerate you on the aforementioned review sites.
We’re here to tell you, embrace this!
And here is why.
A Negative Review May Be The Best Thing To Happen To Your Business
Years ago, I was trying to make money while in college, like so many others, by waiting tables. One night, we (the restaurant) were caught off-guard by a huge amount of people coming at an hour when we were typically dead. I was the only waiter in the entire restaurant. Scrambling, running around trying to handle more tables than I ever had in my life—I was, as they say, “in the weeds”.
My tables couldn’t have been more empathetic.. They weren’t blind. They all had a front row seat to the circus I was the ringmaster of. Well, except for one table.. He absolutely lit me up. And he did so in a manner in which every other table heard, of course.
I apologized profusely. Not only on my own behalf for not living up to his expectations/standards, but on behalf of the restaurant. Offering all I could to make this dining experience better for him. I killed him with kindness. Instead, he brooded, stayed and ate his deliciously delinquent meal.
Meanwhile, all the other tables took notice. Complimented me on how hard I was working and how well I handled the upset diner. Loud enough for him to hear, of course. And then left me a massive tip. All of them.
If someone leaves you a negative review, for the love of everything pure and holy, respond. Respond directly but respond openly, honestly. Kill them with kindness.
Ryan of SIX mentions later in the interview with the Saratoga Business Journal:
I believe the statistic is that a 4.3 to a 4.7-star review produces more buyers significantly more than a 5-star review…Every business gets a bad review. You can’t be perfect all of the time. And if you get a bad review and you just respond to them in a professional manner, other people will see that conversation.
Furthermore, if you address this review-which may be justified in their negative opinion-in a courteous, professional manner, you may have just created a salesperson. Meaning, they may very well turn around and start telling people how amazing your business took care of them. How yes, they had an issue, but you busted your hump to assure they were happy.
Until they were happy!
Plus, if you do this all on a thread which everyone, including those who read an average of seven reviews can see—This is when people learn they are about to do business with people who care about the person who is their customer. That they are not just another sale, a number.
Side note: The guy who chewed me out that one night not only left me a massive tip, tomato red-faced with embarrassment-- he came back multiple times, addressed me by my name, and was always gracious with his gratuity.
In a town of 7,200 people, Union Street Guest House thought they were above reproach. They believed the fear of receiving a $500 fine would be significantly greater than their own fear of receiving a negative customer review. That people needed them more than they needed the people.
They misjudged the value of the customer.
They were obtuse in understanding the importance of the customers voice. They did not fully comprehend that those who had yet to do business with them now, more than ever, pay attention to what people have to say.
Don’t tell people why they must do business with you. Nobody likes being told what to do. Especially people you’re trying to sell.
Let them (the customers) speak for you. And if you encourage customer reviews, if you effectively promote positive response, and if you embrace negative reviews as an opportunity…
Customers won’t stay customers…
They’ll become your fanbase.
P.S. like this blog? Write us a review on Google, you know we had to ask 😆