Authority Marketing for professional service providers
 

The Vital Importance of Online Reviews

 

For Google Places (transitioning to Google + Local, with more updates to come) there are changes implemented that apply to customer reviews! Reviewers must now be personally  accountable for what they write about your business. They'll need to have a profile with Google + in order to submit a review. And, reviews are done through the Zagat system, with their 1-30 range system. Although, I recently read about that system mainly being applied to the hospitality industry with an alternative process being planned for other types of industries. Changes occur frequently; so if this is true, details will no doubt become apparent soon.

 

This is great news as it should eliminate most of the reviews that appear as though they may have been submitted by disgruntled or past employees, competitors, or just that tiny minority of folks who for whatever reason are motivated to write negative content while preferring to remain "anonymous". 

 

Reviews will most likely matter even more than before from a standpoint of how they'll position a business online. It appears that plenty of social interaction and large numbers of connections will be expected. Google + looks similar to Facebook in some ways and it does spark similar interaction. Discussion groups, Hangouts, and a growing number of features are being rolled out.

 

Other than Google, there are many other sources of reviews, though, and such accountability may not simultaneously apply to some of them. So, excellence in customer service, which has always been of paramount importance, may require additional focus, as well as a policy and reliable system for handling complaints and problems that can be passed down to all levels of employees.

 

Though it may seem unfair that damaging negative online reviews exist for all the world to see, people have been sharing their experiences with local businesses for years in the form of "word-of-mouth " advertising. Now, it's just a whole lot easier to "spread the word".

 

Concern about reviews is a lot of pressure to bear, especially piled onto all the other stress, like making a payroll and paying taxes. Chances are, most of your customers love and appreciate you ‑ if they understood how important reviews are, many would be happy to express their satisfaction to help you out.

 

Good customer service dictates that a business maintain a friendly, but professional, relationship with customers . . . today, with mobile and social it's possible to do that in an innovative, affordable manner. Building a list of customers for the purpose of beginning an email or text message marketing campaign can do wonders. This is just one facet of Internet Marketing that works just as well for local brick and mortar businesses as for strictly online businesses.

 

But, of course, all the marketing and interaction in the world isn’t going to make up for poor customer service. When a customer inadvertently feels ignored, mistreated, or unimportant to a business they often don'tcare about the reputation you have with other customer’s. They’re just determined never to step across your threshold again, and they will tell the story of how they were mis-treated. In many cases, they may not be constrained by having their name listed alongside their review, either!

 

The old saying “one bad apple spoils the whole bunch” applies, of course, because you wouldn’t still be in business if most of your customers weren’t being treated well and returning again and again.

 

In the cases where review systems are set up for you to respond to either type of review, you can elevate your business' reputation by adopting a measured, helpful tone. This  demonstrates that you’re working hard to make shopping in your business enjoyable for all. If potential customers observe that you’re sincere about improving customer service they’ll be more likely to ignore a couple of negative remarks and give you an opportunity to prove yourself to them personally.

 

Alternatively, since most authors of negative reviews seldom are willing to give you a second chance anyway, it may be more productive for you to put your efforts toward seeking out more reviews from customers who are your enthusiastic supporters. This helps ‘dilute’ or over shadow the few negative reviews with positive statements. Since it's virtually impossible not to disappoint a tiny fraction of  customers, having all positive reviews could actually appear "phony" to the search engines.

 

Online review systems are just a result of technology innovations and have to be acknowledged as such. We cannot:

·     Change the fact that they exist, and that they’re actively recruited on numerous sites

·     We aren’t able to control whether a customer goes online and leaves a review (good or bad)

 

We can:

·     Put forth the effort to get more reviews – as mentioned above. The basic system we recommend has been proven successful in other parts of the country, and it eliminates one of the most prevalent ‘excuses’ customers often give for not ‘getting around to’ going online to input reviews (even when they have the best of intentions). As time goes by, more and more consumers will likely take advantage of sharing their reason for preferring your business with online readers.

 

It’s safe to assume most of your customers are happy coming to your store on a regular basis, it's that small fraction of a percent that could destroy the reputation you've worked so hard to establish. 

 

One caution about reviews – the Federal Trade Commission requires that they never be made up, there’s a law against fabricating reviews or testimonials, and of course that makes perfect sense. To play it safe, even when a customer verbally gushes about your service, it should be put in writing (and approved for publication) if you intend to use it. Authentic video reviews are very effective, supplying a photo of the person and their name and city of residence.

 

According to research, well over 80% of consumers report that they are highly influenced by online reviews, so its not just our online ranking we need to be concerned with. Seeking reviews, as well as closely monitoring and making every effort to ensure great customer service, requires daily attention.

 

 

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