No tweet or mailing influences customer purchase behaviour more than a customer review. Your credibility as a brand, your visibility and your sales can grow quite a bit with a positive stream of customer reviews. Even a few negative reviews are not a tragedy if you respond well as a company. Plenty of reasons to include customer review management in your marketing plan! We'll give you some tips...
You do it too, don't you? Browsing a comparison site first before making an important purchase? Or read reviews about a restaurant or hotel before booking?
Some figures about customer reviews
Online recommendations and customer reviews (=social proof) are now an important "credibility factor" for your brand. Consumers read reviews to save costs, because trust in a review is greater than trust in an advertisement, and to reduce financial and emotional risks. Not surprisingly, by 2021, 77% of people read the opinions of others "always" or "regularly" before making (or not making) a purchase.
Organisations which actively collect recommendations themselves see a sharp increase in sales. If a business has more than nine recent reviews, they can count on 52% more sales compared to the average. If more than 25 recent reviews are mentioned, this percentage increases by 108%! Customers also spend 31% more when a business has positive reviews. In fact, reviews are now seen as a more important element than price, the factor which still topped the list in 2018.
Customer reviews also weigh about 15% on the algorithm used to rank locally targeted businesses in Google search results. Stars can appear with both Google AdWords ads, and organic listings. As a result these advertisements stand out more and generate more clicks on the website.
We could list numerous other figures which show how essential customer reviews can be for a company. You can read an overview of interesting figures on this site ...
Showing reviews: doing it or not?
The previous paragraph with figures makes this question superfluous, doesn't it? Yet some business owners prefer not to show reviews because they are afraid of losing control of their public image.
Even if you are nervous when thinking about the possible negative reviews (or simply don't care what customers think), you will not be able to prevent customers from expressing their opinions on the Internet or social media anyway. Therefore, it is better to embrace customer reviews and deal with them appropriately.
The benefits of customer reviews are many
- Customer reviews give you insight into what customers care about, what their real needs, expectations and irritations are, etc. Essential information which is now more or less provided to you free of charge, where otherwise expensive market research is often required!
- You get immediate feedback about your product or service. With this, many things can be improved: the product presentation and information, the user-friendliness of the web shop and the purchasing process, customer service, the quality of products and services, etc. In short, you are tapping into an invaluable source of valuable feedback!
- You increase conversion and therefore your sales. Good reviews lead to more purchases, thus higher sales, and consumers are willing to pay more for products and services with (the most) positive reviews.
- Online recommendations strengthen your brand and you build a trustworthy online reputation.
- With online reviews, you prove that you communicate transparently. By allowing online reviews and interacting, you are open to the truth.
- Your website or web shop will become easier to find. After all, reviews are part of the "user-generated content" which is always valued by search engines when indexing sites.
- Last but not least, the interaction and certainly the positive feedback also increase internally the engagement of your employees.
No drawbacks then?
- If something is not right or does not work properly or is disappointing, customers are much more likely to fill in a review to air their complaints. You don't hear about the satisfied customers as often, which can create a distorted picture. But fortunately you can do something specific about that (please see later in this article).
- Most external review platforms will charge you to use their services. It's up to you to determine if the benefits outweigh the costs.
- Reviews have a short shelf life. Make sure your online reviews are up-to-date, otherwise they are irrelevant anyway and that doesn't exactly inspire confidence.
- Following up on reviews often takes a lot of time.
What types of reviews are there?
One of the best things which you can do as a business owner to protect your online reputation is to diversify your approach to collecting customer reviews.
Customer experiences can then be used in a variety of ways. Via:
- Social media reviews: with every advert or post nowadays you can read the comments, the questions asked. On Facebook, you also have a separate Reviews/Recommendations tab. Also, hashtags with your company name can be used on all social media to find mentions.
- Testimonials: authentic and well-written customer stories on a website can have a more positive effect than dozens of online reviews They also have the advantage of giving you complete control over them.
- Quotes or customer endorsements (by name): it is best to pick out a sentence which indicates the added value of the product/service and not a general statement.
- Case studies: unlike the testimonial, the case study goes into great detail about the customer's problem, and then how your product or service ultimately solved it.
- Photos / Videos reviews: few things are more personal and compelling than a video in which a customer speaks candidly about a product or service which they have used. Of course, you can also get ambassadors to speak for your brand or attract influencers.
Posting customer reviews: some tips
- Decide whether to place the comments on your own website or web shop (like Booking or Bol do) and manage them yourself via review management software or reputation management software or outsource them to external comparison sites or review sites like Google My Business, Trustpilot, Yelp, Tripadvisor, Zoover etc. which are relevant to your activity/sector. Of course, you can also combine both or provide a link/widget between the external site and yours.
In many cases, it is advisable to have a presence on external sites, as a comment on an independent website can come across as a lot more authentic and professional than a few overly positive recommendations which you have pasted on your own website. After all, it is then impossible to verify whether the comments are yours or were really left by customers.
- The best known variant of the customer review is a scale of 5 stars supplemented by the total number of reviews and an option to justify the score. Studies show that the angle (positive/negative), the language used and the length of the review play an important role: the more positive and longer the review, the more helpful consumers find it and the greater the chance of positively influencing attitudes and purchasing conduct. Therefore, do not expect the consumer to express their opinion in 2 lines.
Also offer the possibility to rate the reviews themselves (was this review helpful to you?). Research already shows that consumers often rank reviews based on how helpful they are.
Make writing a review as easy as possible for the customer. Put links to your feedback form in as many places as possible and make sure to follow up (thank you email, follow up emails etc.). Also, try to see how you can use customer reviews in other places. In addition to product pages online, you can apply testimonials and product ratings in adverts, on packaging, coupons and make them available via smartphone to reach customers in-store. You can also share customer reviews on social media.
Internal follow-up of the reviews is extremely important. Check with your employees how you will organise everything in practical terms and teach them how you want them to handle criticism or comments. Be aware that not only can the product or service be evaluated but also the team or employee. So discuss with them how to turn low scores around. In any case, it's important to always respond!
Continuously report internally on customer satisfaction so that it becomes a starting point of every employee's daily work.
Do not hesitate to ask customers for feedback in an active way (via email, in person, via social media, etc.). Ask about their experiences, satisfaction and intention to share a recommendation. Do that as soon as possible after they have made a purchase or learned about your company because that is when the customer's experience is still fresh in their minds. Therefore, the response rate will be relatively high. You could possibly encourage them to do so by offering a small incentive such as a discount on their next purchase or give them extra points in the company's loyalty programme. If you think that's too commercial (or smells too much like a bribe in your opinion), then offer that incentive, as a surprise, after they post a review.
Best to let the client know right away where you will post their review: on your website, on Instagram or Facebook? Not every customer wants to find his or her review on any channel or wants to find their personal data on the net.
Don't ignore or hide the bad comments! In fact, research shows that 68% of customers feel more confident when both positive and negative reviews are mentioned. When customers consult the negative feedback, it is even good that they find critical comments and reviews with which you have dealt.
If you receive a less than positive or bad review, respond quickly online. Do not defend yourself but show understanding. Thank the person for the review, apologise if necessary, suggest a solution. Always put your name and job title below the message. This makes it personal, and possibly invites the customer to discuss matters further. So engage in dialogue with the customer if you wish avoid a negative review taking on a life of its own entirely.
- Because even a few positive reviews can have a big impact on sales, some companies pay for "fake" positive reviews. Very tempting but there are risks involved! If fake reviews are discovered by site administrators or your customers, it can have disastrous consequences for your reputation.
Conclusion: turn your customer into a fan
Eventually, the basic rules are simple. If you do it right, you'll get great reviews, high marks, lots of recommendations and ultimately growth, continuity and profit. If you don't do it right, well, at least you'll hear what you need to work on. The knowledge about your performance is no longer behind closed doors, but customers share it everywhere: so take advantage of it!
On these sites you will find some more interesting examples