How to Use Online Reviews for SEO and Customer Service

Online reviews now play a very important part of a customer’s journey, with around 87% of consumers reading reviews for local businesses. On top of that , only 48% would consider using a business with fewer than 4 stars.

In fact, reviews are so important to customer decisions that Google and other search engines use them as a ranking factor. So, aside from providing proof of good customer service, they’re important for your search engine optimisation and visibility on the web.

Charlotte Davies rating on Google My Business

So how do you go about collecting reviews? And what should you do once you have them? Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of online reviews.

1. Implement a Strategy

Before you even start collecting reviews, you should create a strategy detailing the how, where and what.

How will you encourage your customers to leave reviews?

Where will you collect them?

What will you do once you have them?

For the sake of consistency and clarity, it’s important to have a good strategy in place. Not only does it keep you focused on the task, but it helps your staff know what to do and when. A good strategy also allows you to set up timelines and engage with your customers so that they’re more likely to leave positive reviews.

2. Train Your Staff

Every employee you hire should be someone who has the ability and willingness to represent your company in the way you want. In order to do that, they need to know what’s expected of them.

The effect of staff training on your review procedure starts very early on. After all, if an employee is poorly trained, they could be the reason that someone leaves a negative review. By starting early on and giving your employees the tools they need to provide exceptional customer service, you’re already on the way to better reviews.

When it comes to handling complaints and reviews, too, staff members should be fully competent. When do they ask for the review? How do they respond? Do they need to pass any information on to a more senior member of staff?

By creating clear guidelines, you’re more likely to have able and confident staff who can appropriately deal with both good and bad reviews.

3. Claim Your Review Profiles

Claim business option on Yell.com

There are numerous review platforms out there, with Google, Facebook, Yell, and Trustpilot being some of the best known. It’s a good idea to claim your profile on as many of these sites as possible because, by doing so, you’ll get the ability to respond to your customers, as well as manage your brand across the internet.

If you’re an existing business, type your name into Google alongside the word ‘reviews’ and see what results come up. This is a good way of finding which profiles are already out there so that you can claim them. Once you’ve done that – or if you’re a brand new business – do a bit of research to find popular review platforms in your industry and create or claim your presence on them.

Remember that, alongside general review sites, there are also industry-specific sites such as TripAdvisor for travel, and OpenTable for restaurants.

There are a lot of review sites out there, and it may not be appropriate for you to have a presence on every single one. If that’s the case, do a bit of research into those that are best for your business (look at where people leave reviews for your competitors), and those that will help you rank on search engines such as Google and Bing.

Remember that your website, too, can be a review platform in its own right. You can create your own independent system for reviews or integrate with one of the existing platforms.

4. Ensure it’s Easy to Make a Complaint

Once a review has gone public online, it can be very difficult to remove, particularly if it’s from a genuine customer. It’s therefore important to try and catch any complaints before they end up on a review platform.

To do this, make sure that your company is welcoming of complaints and feedback, and ensure it’s easy for customers to get in touch. If you allow someone to voice their complaints to you in private, then there’s a good chance you can help them resolve it without them resorting to a public stage.

This, again, comes back to the importance of a good strategy, appropriate staff training, and a clear complaints procedure.

5. Ask Customers for Reviews

Now we get down to the actual reviews themselves.

As the old adage goes, if you don’t ask, you don’t get, and it’s the same for reviews. Customers are unlikely to leave a review – unless they are very annoyed and have a grievance – without being prompted. So you need to find a way to encourage customers to log on and share their experience.

There are many ways to do this, and different methods will work for different businesses. Some to try include:

  • Asking in person after they have purchased a product
  • Sending a follow-up email requesting a review
  • Adding a review request on a purchase receipt
  • Printing cards that include an ask
  • Doing a shout-out on social media
  • Including a page on your website that asks for reviews

You may want to consider offering an incentive for leaving a review, but be aware that there are some legal elements surrounding this. You should do your research before offering goods or money in exchange for a review.

Don’t leave it at one request, either. If you’ve collected emails – and can legally use them for this purpose – send a reminder a few days later to anyone who hasn’t responded to your first request. Following up is important, though it’s best not to do so more than a couple of times.

6. Make a Review Easy to Complete

In a world of short attention spans and busy people, it’s important to make the process as straightforward as possible. Your customers are often happy to leave a review if asked, but that doesn’t mean they want to spend an hour going through a 10-page document of questions. Consider what is most useful to your business and balance that against how much effort it takes for the reviewer to complete, and find a happy middle.

Often, the simplest way is the best way. A rating – usually out of 5 or 10 – and some free text where the customer can include their thoughts, is generally all you need.

In the same vein, make sure customers know how to complete a review. It’s no good sending an email that says ‘Please consider leaving us a review’ if you don’t give a link or directions for doing so!

7. Respond to all Reviews

Owner response to a review on Google My Business

This is very important and gets missed by a lot of small businesses. Whether negative or positive, reviews are a way that your customers are engaging with you, so it’s vital that you show you’re paying attention. Keep an eye on your review sites and add a response as soon as possible after a new review has been received.

Seeing a business listen, engage, and respond to customer reviews shows other potential customers that you care, and that you’re involved. It also gives you the opportunity to address, and hopefully turn around, any negative feelings.

Responding to Positive Reviews

It’s always good to thank your customer, both for choosing to do business with you, and for taking time out of their day to leave you a glowing review. Add a bit of personalisation where you can, and encourage them to return to you again in the future.

Responding to Negative Reviews

No matter how excellent your customer service, every business will, eventually, get a bad review. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world if you manage your response correctly.

Get back to the reviewer quickly – ideally the same day – but give yourself time to cool off if you’re feeling emotional. Approach their grievance objectively, empathise with them, apologise and be sincere. A negative review doesn’t have to be taken as a personal attack, it can be something that helps you grow and improve as a business.

With negative reviews it’s always best, where possible, to take the conversation offline. Invite the reviewer to get in touch to discuss ways in which you could make amends for their bad experience and ensure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

If you manage to turn the situation round, ask if the customer would consider updating their review to reflect the happier outcome.

Most importantly, don’t loose your cool and start bad mouthing the reviewer. You’ll only make yourself look bad.

8.Make Use of Your Reviews

Both positive and negative reviews can be hugely beneficial to your business. When responded to appropriately, they build trust amongst your customers and potential customers.

Positive reviews can be shared to encourage loyalty and future business, while negative reviews pose an excellent opportunity to improve your service or product. If an issue is raised repeatedly, address it to make way for better reviews going forward. This can be anything as in-depth as reviewing how you train your staff, to smaller considerations such as whether you should serve a new drink at your bar.

Conclusion

Online reviews are helpful in a number of ways: they build trust in your brand, you can use them to improve your business, and they help with search engine optimisation. In today’s online world, you’re much more likely to win a new customer – or retain an existing customer – if you have positive public reviews, so it’s worth putting time into a review strategy, and to ongoing management of your reviews.

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