Reviews and reputation: the risks and rewards for your business

Mar 11, 2024 10:54:48 AM

In the digital age, online reviews have emerged as a double-edged sword for small businesses in New Zealand. On one hand, they can help you attract new customers without marketing costs. On the other hand, they bring the risk of reputational damage should something go wrong. Here, we explore the benefits of reviews and how to manage if you attract poor ones.

Major search engines and social media sites generally enable public reviews when you set up your business profile. For example, if you want to show up on maps apps with branding, opening hours and more, you’ll probably need to accept customer reviews too. And there are some great benefits.

Reviews can help grow revenue

Building trust is one of the biggest benefits of public customer reviews. When considering buying a product or service, a review is the next best thing to asking for a friend’s recommendation. The higher the price or risk of a purchase, the more likely people are to turn to reviews. In fact, some research has found that 77% of consumers look at online reviews regularly or always when checking out local businesses. In other words, good reviews can help you win valuable new customers.   

Search engine optimisation ­– SEO – is improved when happy customers engage through reviews. Reviews affect the ranking of results when people search for something online. The number of reviews, the ratings people give, and the general sentiment all contribute to how you’ll show up in results. Because reviews are ‘user-generated’, they carry extra weight.

Your glowing reviews can help you gain more visitors without spending money on advertising. For many services, from hotels to yoga classes, specialised apps allow people to filter by average review rating. In this way, having ‘4 stars’ or 8/10 scores will mean more people include you in their options when shopping. The marketing value is built in. 

Furthermore, a well-worded testimonial may be a more credible way to ‘show’ your digital followers what your service feels like than telling them in your own words. You could even use it for social media material.

Reviews can result in improvement

Reviews can give you great content and ideas to capitalise on. They’re also a way to see what phrases and keywords your customers associate with your brand, which can help you refine your marketing. Importantly, reviews let you know what you’re doing well. Along with giving you a mental boost, you can double down on the aspects of your business that your customers love.

Reviews can have disadvantages

Before welcoming public reviews, it’s worth considering the risks for your business. Reviews mean difficult customers, and unexpected events can permanently scar your online reputation. In fact, on most platforms, anyone can leave a review, even if they’ve never dealt with you.

Ninety-two per cent of consumers said negative reviews make them less likely to use a business. And, one nasty review can affect a history of great ones. Business owners put so much into their companies and their work. A bad online review can not only impact your livelihood but also take a mental toll. 

Rotten reviews can be redeemed

If you do face a negative review, you can minimise its impact. Firstly, take a deep breath before responding with emotion. Most platforms will allow you to remove malicious or fake reviews. Consider if your bad review is inauthentic or from a genuinely disappointed customer. 

A considerate and prompt response shows your professionalism and brand values. You should aim to solve the situation in the customer’s mind or at least give clarity. A refund or other amendment may be appropriate.

Recognise that a bad review can be distressing for you and your team. Talking with someone who understands the pressure of keeping customers happy can make all the difference. A volunteer Business Mentor can be invaluable.

Your Mentor is a sounding board, and they always have your best interests at heart. When you’re flustered, they can help you find the right path forward for the best outcome. You can find your match easily here

Once the initial sting of a bad review has passed, it’s time to turn things around. How can you change your processes to avoid other customers having the same experience? Staff training or support, clear messaging or updated policies may help.

Don’t be shy about sharing your improvements. If you’ve made changes to fix things, then let people know with a follow-up response. 

You can raise the number of good reviews

Once your business is collecting online reviews, you can lessen the effect of poor reviews by growing the favourable ones. To do this, create a programme that makes it easy and rewarding for customers to share their praise.

You can gather more positive reviews by asking for them – especially as part of your normal sales process. Many businesses send a note of thanks and a link to their reviews with invoices. Happy customers will often be pleased to add a review if you explain how important it is to your business. Incentives, such as a discount or other rewards, can also encourage more reviews.

Although reviews can carry some risks, there are also great rewards. Potential customers can get a feel for the way you work without you needing to court them through a long sales process. People who read reviews for buying decisions usually have the smarts to see through mean-spirited ones. And ultimately, reviews are an opportunity to let your good work speak for you.