Prior to the Internet, people chose their service providers from local papers or through word of mouth. And while referrals are timeless, the proliferation of online review sites (eg Yelp, CitySearch, Google Places, etc) have minimized the influence of traditional print based media on people’s buying decisions.
Online review sites utilize first hand accounts and make them universal to an expanded audience, taking the word of mouth model and making it viral.
A recent study reported that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
So, this is obviously a VERY strong selling tool when reviews are in your favor… but what if they’re not?
Is that really so bad for your business?
The truth of the matter is that negative reviews cost businesses lots of money. Online reviews are now the go-to source for vetting businesses prior to making a buying decision. This is because we live in a world that requires information five minutes ago. With smart phones and high speed wireless, we get our information on the move. This model doesn’t leave much time to hear back from own limited circle of friends.
A few scenarios of how this potentially affects your day to day at this time:
If you are looking for a restaurant on a Friday night before seeing a movie, where do you look? It’s likely that you’d look at any one of the online sites and read through a few reviews.
You need a doctor in your area? Many people’s health plans now require that they choose a doctor in their network. Since no one wants to make the wrong choice, they reference a site like Yelp, which has reviews, ratings, and more.
So how does this tie back to your business?
Well, from the food you put into your mouth to the doctor who does your blood work, don’t underestimate the deterring power of a negative review.
As a business today, the following questions need to be asked:
1) Are we currently monitoring our online reputation?
2) Are we receiving notifications when bad reviews are posted?
3) Are we replying to them?
4) Are we seeking ways to address our customers negative experiences before it ever hits a review site?
If you’ve got your bases covered, you’re on the right track. First and foremost is delivering top quality service. Next is making sure that your online reputation accurately represents and conveys the right message about your brand. And finally, you want to know all that is being said about you online (good and bad)
Because as we’ve seen, if you don’t get that positive viral message, you’re likely to find yourself lighter in the pocket book.