"Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop." - Usman B. Asif
Local business owners often have a very common fear of reputation management. Some owners are so overwhelmed by the fear of negative reviews that they hesitate to embark on a review acquisition campaign and may even deliberately avoid looking at their reviews on Yelp, Google My Business and other major platforms. But taking a realistic, statistical portrait of reviewers' characteristics, businesses can significantly improve both client customer service and success.
This isn't difficult to do, and when it comes to review giant Yelp, the prospects are actually extremely bright.
Embracing Reviews Rather Than Fearing Them
On the surface review anxiety makes a lot of senses. From a business owner's vantage point, the concerns may be mounting:
- Entire livelihoods are at stake; it's right to fear failure when reviews have the ability to impact a business as well as its employees and families
- Many business owners may have personal issues with handling criticism
- Dubious information around the Web about negative reviews can amplify review fear
Like any fear, however, it's important to acknowledge it as such and move on. Many owners feel some fear of reviews, but in 2017, the time has come to embrace them. Review management is one of the most powerful vehicles available for guaranteeing business success.
Google Paints the Big Picture
In defining the past year in search, Google states:
"Marketers must find ways to reassure consumers and position their brands as trustworthy. And in order to succeed, they'll need to be relevant during the moments that, together, will add up to another big year in search."
In other words, reviews and their associated owner responses are one of the best ways to demonstrate trustworthiness at crucial micro-moments in which consumers are researching local businesses.
Reviews have become a cornerstone of virtually all local search marketing campaigns because of their direct impact on:
1) Rankings - the number of reviews a business earns can influence visibility both in Google's local search results and in the internal rankings of a platform like Yelp
2) Reputation - the positive sentiment in reviews can convert new customers, and if handled properly, the negative sentiment a business receives can often be improved via a deft owner response that resolves complaints
3) Revenue - a steady flow of legitimate, positive reviews on a variety of platforms increases the likelihood of a continuous stream of transactions from consumers who have been influenced to try out a business, based on third-party reviews
Now that you've presented the client with a factual depiction of the importance of reviews, he may feel somewhat more nervous understanding the specifics of what is hanging in the balance. It's time to deliver some heartening news.
Yelp Statistics Paint the Positive Picture
According to Yelp, 68 percent of the reviews on their platform are either 4 star or 5 star reviews. Only 15 percent are 1 star reviews. That is, the majority of Yelpers are there to reward great businesses rather than call out struggling ones.
Yelp depicts its dominant user base as:
- Between the ages of 18-34 (42.2 percent)
- College educated (61 percent)
- Earning $100,000+ a year (46.1 percent)
No well-run local business should feel intimidated by a platform that is favored by young, educated or financially solvent reviewers. Yelp is frequented by a nice crowd - nothing to be afraid of. These are, in fact, customers almost any local business would love to serve.
If that data wasn't enough, one survey found that:
- 33 percent of consumers only bother to write reviews if their experience at a business was really good or really bad. In other words, eating the best pizza ever is likely to prompt a consumer to positively review a restaurant, but something small like a missing silverware at a place setting is unlikely to result in a dreaded 1-star review.
- 25 percent of consumers only review businesses when they've had a very good experience. The rest of the time, they forego the effort. Small mistakes are seldom disasters, provided they get corrected by the business.
Figures like these make it absolutely clear that business owners must strive for the excellence at the time of service which results in positive reviews. An estimated 57 percent of complaints revolve around poor customer service. Meaningful time must be devoted to creating a detailed customer service policy and training all staff in its implementation to reduce the occurrence of 1-star reviews.
Finally, there is an art to responding to negative reviews in a way that can often both save the customer and improve the reputation of the business. Powerful owner responses do the following things:
- Accept responsibility for mistakes or consumer disappointment.
- Explain what the business has done to remedy problems.
- Where possible, make an offer to the consumer that convinces them to give the business a second chance.
All over Yelp, you will see examples of adept owner responses leading to consumers updating their reviews after feeling cared for, and often raising their low-star rating to a higher one.
See the Complete Picture with Research
The final step that completes the picture is customer research. Embarking on research to discover a business's actual user base can pay dividends. A simple survey would be an ideal way to poll a business' patrons to discover their ages and habits, in addition to the owner supplying his own observations regarding his typical customers.
- If a business discovers their user base is mainly millennial, the owner needs to emphasize constant communication and sharing rather than the hard sell if they wants to earn good reviews
- If the user base is mature (20.5 percent of Yelp users are 55-plus years of age), the company may find that brand loyalty or trust are chief motivators
Equipped with facts instead of vague worries, the business owner can begin to manage the tasks of earning and responding to Yelp reviews with a customized approach that matches his or her user base and casts out needless fear.
About the Author
Miriam Ellis is part of the Moz Local team. When she's not writing the monthly Moz Local newsletter and answering questions in the Q&A forum, she's helping her clients master their Local SEO strategies at her own firm Solas Web Design.