Reposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.
When you shop online, how do you get reassurance that you will receive what you pay for?
When you peruse business directories or yellow pages, how do you narrow down your choices? Do you read any customer reviews before deciding to do business with someone?
Chances are that you do, which means your potential customers are also looking up your company’s reviews before choosing you.
I am borderline obsessive about researching a company before forking over my money. Better Business Bureau, Yelp, Facebook, Google — I examine the reviews on every site I can think of.
Nobody is perfect, and running a business can be tricky, so I’m not immediately deterred if I find a complaint or an unhappy review. Rather, I consider whether the company responded, and if they politely resolved the issue. I scan through the positive reviews and ask myself if they sound legitimate, keeping in mind that there may be unscrupulous companies who pay for compliments to boost their reputation. I put a lot of effort into finding a company I can trust.
While I admit that my methods could be a bit excessive, studies show that most people do read reviews. According to a 2013 survey by BrightLocal, 85 percent of consumers say they read online reviews for local businesses; this is up from 76 percent in 2012. The same survey also found that 73 percent of consumers say positive reviews make them trust a business more, which is up from 58 percent just one year prior.
I have no doubt that these numbers will continue to increase in the coming years. As a business, it is important to learn how to use customer reviews to your advantage.
First, understand why reviews are significant. Consumers can learn the basics about your services by looking at your website or advertisement, but reading testimonials and good reviews can compel consumers to actually consider doing business with you.
“Customer reviews provide credibility to my business,” says life coach Dave Shepp, owner of Beaverton-based Potential in Everyone. “People can read the information on my website describing my coaching methods and how I help people who are stuck, but only when they see my customer reviews do they know that I can talk the talk and walk the walk.”
“We get into many doors other competitors do not, simply because of our public review,” says Joseph Taylor, member of PDX Renovations LLC in Beavercreek.
Next, don’t be afraid to actively invite your satisfied customers to post a review. For example, a dentist’s office could include a notecard that says, “Please rate us at BBB.org,” along with the complimentary toothbrush and dental floss they give to patients. A hotel could have business cards at its front desk listing a few sites where guests could leave reviews. An online retailer could offer a discount on a future purchase to customers who post a positive review.
“Make sure you ask for the customer review from your client,” Shepp says. “They are generally more than willing to go on your site to leave a review about your service or product.”
Finally, display your reviews prominently on your website or even in your office. Because there are a multitude of review sites on the Internet, it could be nearly impossible for a potential customer to find every single one of your positive reviews. Make it easier for them by compiling a list of all the sites where you are reviewed and featuring it on your website; this will allow visitors to check out your complete online reputation with just one or two clicks. Consider printing out your favorite reviews to display on a bulletin board in your lobby or next to your register.
“We’re pretty confident in our reviews, so we are always happy a client or potential client does their homework,” Taylor says. “We feel with our reputation, it gives us a leg up on the competition.”
Customer reviews can drive your business to success. Are you making the most of them?
Remember to encourage your customers to submit a review at BBB.org about their positive experience with your company. And you can trust that BBB verifies each review before it is published.