Nearly 88% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase, and this holds even more weight among the millennial generation. This may be partly due to the tech-driven society in which they were raised. With instantaneous access to information at any given moment, they’ve become cautious buyers focused on intricate comparisons.
While reviews can be your greatest strength (not to mention a great boost for organic search rankings), they don’t come without certain challenges. Namely, how do we handle negative reviews? The truth is, there are elements of reviews that remain out of a business's control. Here are three things you can do:
1. Address reviews believed to be falsified:
The intent of consumer reviews, regardless of platform, is to unbiasedly present an individual’s perception of an event, interaction, or experience. The ultimate goal here is to protect consumers by accurately informing future buyers. That said, a reviews platform must allow all opinions and views to be freely expressed. Although, the degree to which these reviews are verified and by what process varies quite a bit.
For the larger, well-known consumer review sites like Yelp or Google, it’s difficult to ensure a personalized verification for every review, simply because of sheer volume. This may result in an influx of falsified reviews, although Yelp and Google both have processes set in place to request removal. It’s also worth mentioning that a request may not be granted based on a site’s individual policies.
2. Respond appropriately to both positive and negative reviews:
As a business owner, it can be terrifying to have negative sentiments displayed publicly. Before you panic, take comfort in this: research shows that consumers are influenced more by the quality and quantity of reviews rather than the sentiment.
Be timely and thoughtful in your review responses, especially when addressing negative sentiments. Think about your own personal experiences. If you are disgruntled with a product or service, what kind of response makes you feel valued and heard? Probably ones that don’t resemble a canned, automated response.
People don’t want to hear from a brand or a logo, they want to hear from a person. Regardless of who is “right” or “wrong,” make sure the response acknowledges the feelings and/or thoughts of others and addresses how you have or are working to make enhancements. Here’s an example of a great response to a concern about poor food quality:
“Thanks for taking the time to provide us with your feedback. We are sorry to hear that the food was disappointing. Our kitchen staff is working to improve our meals to include fresh and nutritious ingredients. Wishing you the best!”
Believe it or not, positive review responses are just as important. While negative reviews can easily become a focal area—especially for facilities that don’t have a dedicated staff member for this—make sure to carve out time for the positive reviews as well. This will play to your advantage when you are answering negative reviews. If there is a track record of responses across the board, it helps to validate the authenticity of your replies.
Always be mindful of HIPAA compliance. Learn from these lessons here, before making the same mistakes.
3. Establish a simple system to collect more reviews:
The math is simple. More reviews equal more positive reviews. This is especially true when you’re requesting immediate feedback (positive and constructive) from your clients and directing them to a platform of your choosing.
The best way that I’ve seen this implemented is when facilities incorporate a review request (this should always protect their privacy and anonymity) into the discharge process. Again, you may not be able to control the review—and you shouldn’t—but this is the best time to capture positive feedback. At the time of leaving treatment, individuals often present the strongest signs of happiness. These are immediate reactions you want to capture. Not to mention that consumers with a negative experience are more likely to leave a review on their own than those with a positive experience.
As discussed above, each platform has its own unique verification processes and criteria for reviews. Some may be more stringent than others, helping you, as a business owner, to feel more confident in the use of that platform. If you develop a preference, use this to your advantage by specifically directing your clients to that site rather than others. Keep in mind that some sites, such as Yelp, discourage businesses from sending customers to their profile to leave reviews. Familiarize yourself with ways of getting reviews that do not violate their policies.
At the end of the day, you cannot avoid online reviews; they are part of the digital universe. Consumers will share their opinions no matter what. Yes, there will be aspects that are out of your control as a business owner. But don’t let this squander your efforts. Focus your energy and resources on what you can control, and I can assure you that you will see success.
Ruchi Dhami is director of research at Recovery Brands.