One of the biggest influences on consumers’ decision-making is reviews. 93% of people now say that online reviews impact their buying decisions.
If your company reviews are positive, that’s good news. But how much damage do you think a single negative one can do to your company? Would it surprise you to know that 22% of potential customers will simply go elsewhere? Based on just one negative review. Times that by four… or more… negative reviews online, and your business could lose 70% of its potential future customers.
On top of this, one in seven companies have lost up to £50,000, due to negative online reviews and content. And one in 20 more than £500,000. Today’s online culture is ubiquitous, and so understanding how to deal with negative reviews is vital to your success. What’s the psychology behind consumer reviews? And what should your company be doing about them?
Negatives turn people off
Research shows that 40% of customers will not use a business if they see a negative review. That’s how much other people’s opinions affect decision-making. Of course, it works the other way too. Customers who see excellent online reviews are prepared to spend up to 31% more on products and services.
However, research from Harvard Business School shows that companies with a diverse range of reviews can help. A mix of excellent, good and moderate feedback can help customers to trust a business. Too many suspiciously gushing reviews can also turn people away as they can suspect fake and bought opinions.
Online reviews directly influence buying decisions
Almost two-thirds of consumers look at online reviews every week. And, as we know, a whopping 93% say that they directly influence their buying decisions. People want to hear about experiences from their peers. Numerous studies show that this is more important to many than the price they pay.
And it’s not just about the star-rating your business gets on TripAdvisor, TrustPilot, Google or any other review site. When making purchasing decisions, consumers will dig deeper into the online sentiment concerning your business to find out exactly what people think.
What about fake reviews?
The British Hospitality Association (BHA) says that 85% of hotels and restaurants in Britain have been hit with fake and malicious online reviews. This is up 20% on its survey from 2015. Three-quarters of consumers report reading what they think are fake reviews between 2017 and 2018.
And while Google constantly changes the way reviews are submitted to cut down on fraud, there are countless groups and companies looking to ‘play’ the system. By offering incentives to people for leaving fake positives, it’s easy to see why consumers mistrust ratings. Companies make deals to swap reviews and in other cases, mass reviews are left following newsworthy events with the specific intent to decimate a business.
Take the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. If this rings a bell, it’s because of a high-profile incident on 23 July 2018. US President Trump’s press secretary Sarah Sanders named and shamed the small, local business in a Tweet after she was allegedly refused service due to her political affiliations. As soon as she tweeted, The Red Hen Lex was quickly caught in a maelstrom of damaging reviews. The business suffered more than 1,700 fake Google reviews, and a similar number on Yelp and Facebook. When Google was alerted, the reviews were removed, and activity monitored. This is an extreme example of what can happen, but businesses must plan ahead.
How do I get the balance right?
Your best bet is to instigate a solid review strategy, and work with an expert on it so that it is honest, manageable and enables you to build a genuine bank of positive reviews that truly reflect your service, products and people. Part of this includes crisis management – being prepared for how to react in the immediate aftermath of negatives. While there are plenty of things you can do, there are also some you shouldn’t…
- Take negative reviews as a personal attack. While it’s natural to get angry, feel defensive and want to jump right in and respond, this approach could quickly spiral into an online viral nightmare. Don’t be the type of business owner who can’t handle any negativity. Even if the review is clearly a result of miscommunication and you have right on your side, don’t rub it in. Always respond while thinking about the wider perception of who sees your response.
- Ignore it. This can be just as damaging as ‘ranting’ in response. Ignoring a negative review will leave the customer feeling justified and could indicate to others that you don’t listen or care either way. The result of this is that they feel any feedback they might want to give you will also be brushed off. It could also make people think that you’re so used to negatives that it doesn’t even register.
- Hide the negative reviews by begging for positives. The best and most useful ones are natural responses from customers driven to tell the world how great your business is. It’s generally easy to spot the fake sounding super-positive reviews that have been ‘incentivised’.
- Get into an online debate or argument with the customer. Ever. Trolls complain a lot and if you engage they will not leave it alone. If any response you give online seems to be heading that way, back away and don’t get dragged into an online argument.
- Acknowledge it positive and negative reviews and if you need to you should apologise. Most people who complain, on or offline just want to be heard. Empathy goes a long way in dissolving negative feelings. You could even turn the negative into a positive. A third of negative reviews on Yelp, for example, switch to positive when the owner takes the time to respond.
- Include the positives about your company in the reply, but only in a natural way. This is a difficult balance but get it right, and you can transform a customer’s opinion.
- Be personal. Don’t copy and paste an obviously corporate mandated response. Sincerity is always better.
- Take it away from the online space. Always try to leave a sincere, empathetic, useful response to a negative review and then take it offline to discuss further.
Online review management – from strategy and crisis management to delivery – is becoming an increasingly important part of online reputation management in 2019.
The online reputation experts at Igniyte deliver online review management strategies for companies in a range of sectors. They can create a strategy for you to implement, deliver it for you and provide best practice training.
Igniyte can also work with you to challenge and remove defamatory or fake reviews (and advise where this can help or harm your business). We can also identify any breaches to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidelines and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance.
Find out more here.
Head of Content at Igniyte – The Reputation Experts
Fiona is our resident content expert and award-winning business writer. She’s passionate about creating content strategies that influence and change opinions and behaviours. She regularly blogs about the latest online reputation headlines and best practice online reputation management for businesses, brands and individuals.