If you own a business in the service industry, you likely know all about the importance of online customer review websites like Yelp. In some industries, online reviews can make or break a business, especially a new small business.
According to a 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by Bright Local, 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses. In addition, 85% of consumers trust those reviews as much as they trust the recommendations of people they know.
Those are statistics you can’t ignore.
So, what can a small business do to help generate more positive reviews on sites like Yelp? Here are three suggestions that any small business can implement.
Offer Amazing Service
It should go without saying that your company should offer great customer service. It’s one of the main advantages small businesses can have over their larger competitors—especially when they aren’t able to compete on price. Great customer service keeps customers loyal, and when it comes to Yelp, it also makes customers more likely to leave a five-star review. According to this study done by Yelp, a customer is five times more likely to leave a business a five-star rating if they had a good customer service experience.
It’s not enough just to do “good” work. It’s also imperative that you provide a good customer service “experience” for your customers. This can encompass a lot of aspects, some of which will be specific to your industry or line of work, but in general, good customer service includes things like being helpful without being pushy, respecting your customers’ time, making your customers feel valued and appreciated, and making things right, should anything go wrong.
Michal Bohm, owner of BM Windows, a San Diego replacement window company with an average rating of five stars on Yelp, says, “Offering good customer service is crucial, especially when you are in a competitive industry. People remember the type of service you provide, and how you made them feel. In my industry, it’s common for companies to use high-pressure sales tactics. Our company makes a conscious effort to not do that. Our customers appreciate that, and reward us with great reviews. We also show up to appointments on time, clean up after ourselves, and don’t leave a job site until we know the customer is completely satisfied with our work. More often than not, it’s the ‘little things’ that customers appreciate the most.”
Ask for Reviews
Some customers will take it upon themselves to leave reviews online, but most won’t think to do so on their own. That’s why you have to ask them to do it! If you sense a customer was especially satisfied with the service you provided them, ask them if they would be willing to leave your company a review on Yelp (and/or Google, Facebook, or Angie’s List). Most customers are happy to oblige. According to the Bright Local survey mentioned above, 68% of consumers have reviewed a local business when asked.
In a recent personal experience, I needed a cavity filled at the dentist. My dental insurance only covered silver amalgam fillings, and I would have had to pay several hundreds of dollars more for a white composite filling. However, my dentist offered to upgrade my filling from amalgam to composite for no extra charge, since it would require less drilling. When I thanked him, he responded with, “No problem, just leave me a good review on Yelp.” Guess what I did as soon as I got home?
Another way you can ask for reviews is through email. If your business sends out regular email updates, use them as opportunities to ask for reviews. By asking in this way, you can even include a link to the site or sites on which you would prefer they leave a review. You can utilize your company’s Facebook page in the same way.
Don’t Get Discouraged by Unreasonable People
This suggestion is more about responding to negative reviews than it is about getting more five-star reviews, but it’s equally important when it comes to your company’s reputation on online review sites.
Even if you are at the top of the pack when it comes to customer service and you’re the best in your area at what you do, there are some customers that you won’t be able to please. The worst thing you can do is get into an online “shouting match” with them. Don’t try to argue or discredit your customers’ claims. Doing so only makes your company look unprofessional and can damage your company’s reputation much more than the occasional negative review.
On this subject, Bohm says, “There will always be people whose expectations aren’t fully met, who will then leave you negative reviews online. Sometimes they have unreasonable expectations, and other times they will have legitimate complaints. In either circumstance, respond in a calm, reasonable manner to the issue at hand. If their issue is valid, offer to make things right. If it isn’t, simply apologize that your company was unable to meet their expectations and move on.”
Online review sites are here to stay, whether you like it or not. They are just part of doing business in the digital age. While there is no way to guarantee that you will always maintain a flawless reputation on the various sites, following the suggestions above can certainly help improve your chances.