The simple fact is that your business needs customer reviews to stay competitive.
Some executives would scoff at that statement; others would acknowledge its truthfulness but argue that customer reviews are not an urgent priority for their organization.
However, here are just a few of the key advantages that customer reviews offer:
- Enhanced brand image/reputation
- Increased customer conversion rate
- Deeper consumer trust in your company and product
Can you really afford not to pursue the above-mentioned benefits, especially in a highly saturated market?
With that question in mind, the following information will discuss why consumers place so much trust in reviews, how customer reviews can impact your business, and what you can do to gain a steady stream of positive reviews for your company.
The Trust Factor
Have you ever seen an advertisement for a certain product or service and thought to yourself: “Yeah, it’s probably not as good as they say it is?” Then, a few days later one of your friends recommends that exact same product to you; in fact, he says that he uses it on a regular basis and that it’s exceeded all of his expectations. Would you start reconsidering your first opinion?
That same scenario plays out on a macro scale across countless consumer bases today. The truth is the majority of customers no longer trust organizations anymore. A company can spend countless dollars on advertising, with some gains to show for it; however, most targeted consumers will approach the marketing message with more than a trace of skepticism.
On the other hand, customers do trust individuals, whether they are family members, friends, or even influencers on social media platforms. When such individuals make product recommendations, consumers are much more likely to listen.
A far-fetched claim? Not at all! In fact, there’s a mountain of supporting evidence that you can examine. For instance:
- Forbes reports on a Nielsen study that found 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family members over all other forms of advertising.
- Another survey found that 64%of marketing executives believe the word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is the most effective form of marketing there is.
- An estimated 77% of all Millennials have recommended a product or service to someone else in the past month.
- A Harvard Business School paper found that “online consumer reviews substitute for more traditional forms of reputation.” The paper found, among other things, that chain restaurants tended to lose market share as Yelp penetration increased. The logical conclusion: modern customers put more faith in online reviews than they do in name brand reputation.
That last point is particularly telling, because online reviews are the Internet’s version of word-of-mouth marketing. As such, these reviews can either be a powerful driver for business growth, or a missed opportunity.
The Business Impact of Customer Reviews
Imagine this scenario: you walk into a restaurant on a Saturday evening. You’ve never been to this restaurant before, but you are excited to sample their cuisine. As you enter, you notice that the signage is well-lit and inviting, the dining room(s) seem to be exceptionally clean, and the staff appears friendly. However, there’s one major problem that makes you feel uneasy: no other customer is eating at the restaurant.
Why do you feel uneasy? Because there is a glaring lack of social proof that this restaurant is a good choice for dining out. In other words, if no one else is here, there must be something wrong.
In a similar way, a lack of online reviews for your business can scare potential customers away as effectively as negative reviews. People care a lot about whether a business has online reviews to its name; one study found that 92% of customers will hesitate to buy from a company that has no customer reviews. Other research indicates that over half of US-based online shoppers (53%) view customer reviews as one of the most important attributes of their online experience, behind only ease of search/navigation (61%).
What story do such statistics tell? They indicate that businesses need customer reviews in order to build trust with prospects at the very onset of the relationship. Customers that are unsure about one company’s credentials can quickly move on to a competitor; a competitor that has the social proof to affirm its legitimacy.
The bottom line is, without a steady stream of customer reviews coming your way, your company will get left behind, and may not be able to catch up.
What You Can Do
Clearly, customer reviews are critical for your business’ long-term prospects. Now it’s time to discuss some practical ways to get those positive reviews. Of course, all of the following tactics come down to one basic element: you have to ask your customers for reviews. You can do so:
- Face to face. If your business model lends itself to in-person interactions, then by all means make it a practice to ask satisfied customers to leave a review on your website of choice (or train your sales associates to do so). A face-to-face request is generally the most effective way to get a customer review, especially if you or your employee established a rapport with the customer during the transactional process.
- Via email. If you can’t request a review face to face (or if you forgot to do so), then a follow up email may do the trick. Simply thank the customer for his business, and then ask for him to leave a brief review on a specific website. For maximum convenience, you may want to embed the link in the email.
- Via text. In many cases, text may be the preferred option for requesting reviews. Users open text messages at a 99% rate, and many of your customers may be more willing to leave a review on their smartphone than on their PC. You would use a similar outline to the email request.
Bottom line? If you encourage happy customers to leave their reviews for your business, then you’ll gain powerful social proof, enhance your reputation, and ultimately win over a greater share of new customers. What could be better than that?