In 2024 everyone has a voice, and that can mean a lot of different things for SMBs. We have already discussed the importance of reputation management, but it is a serious topic with more layers than are at first apparent.
It is no longer enough to promote positive reviews online. Of course, it is great to have them. Your merchants will absolutely want to keep them coming since 77% of consumers consider reviews older than 3 months to be irrelevant.
However, it is imperative that negative reviews not be ignored or swept under the rug. They must be addressed as soon as possible in order to minimize the damaging effects. Forty-One Percent of consumers believe a company really cares about their customers if that brand replies to reviews. Additionally, 53% of customers expect businesses to reply to online reviews within seven days. That is a quick turn-around when considering the amount of work already facing business owners.
With countless rating platforms in existence, searching for and addressing reviews in a personalized and relevant manner could practically be a full-time job. There are also a number of factors that should be considered when taking on this task.
- First, SMBs must refrain from the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to eliminate all reviews that aren’t glowing. Too many positive reviews and too few negative reviews can actually generate a sentiment of skepticism in shoppers.According to findings published by the Spiegel Research Center, 82% of shoppers are specifically seeking out negative reviews as a means of determining the authenticity of a business or product, and surprisingly, the likelihood of purchase actually starts to decrease as star ratings reach between 4.7 and 5.0.
This means finding a balance between the promotion of positive reviews and the acceptance of the negative.
- Merchants can use bad reviews as a spring board for an authentic conversation. While some negative reviews do result from a one-off negative experience that is not likely to be replicated (and yes, these should absolutely also be addressed), many times, these comments can reveal a topic of interest or potential for growth and improvement for the business.
How a business responds will ultimately contribute to a consumer’s overall impression of the company.
- Negative reviews can still cause harm though. About 80% of internet users in the US report changing their purchasing decisions based on negative information found online. Again, this just emphasizes the importance of balance. Using negative reviews as a point of learning can help prevent the same complaint from appearing over and over again. Additionally, continuing to obtain feedback from genuinely satisfied customers will help counteract the occasional dissatisfied shopper.
Worse even than the negative review, is the fake review. These come in two forms.
The false positive review:
No matter how a merchant goes about managing ratings, they should be strongly advised against accumulating false positive reviews. A huge number of consumers (95%) are suspicious when there are no bad reviews at all. This echoes the message in point about the value of a few negative comments here and there. Real is always better in the realm of reputation.
And the false negative review:
These are often malicious, and if enough are accumulated then they can have a significant impact. Merchants should keep a careful eye out for suspicious negative reviews and should attempt to have these removed as quickly as possible. While authentic negative reviews can create a conversation and room for growth, fake reviews really only cause harm, and sadly consumers can’t always tell the difference.
As merchants continue to navigate the dangerous waters of reputation management and online business in general, they will need guidance. The key take-away here, and the principle that the POS should help promote is this: Authenticity reigns. Whether positive or negative, new or old, reviews should be real, and responses should be genuine.
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