When was the last time we visited a new restaurant or brought a product from an online retailer without checking out the customer reviews? Chances are, almost never. According to Trustpilot, 9 out of 10 customers read online reviews before making a purchasing decision. The trouble is, fake reviews are alarmingly on the rise.
The World Economic Forum estimates that the direct influence of false online reviews on global online spending is $152 billion. A 2021 investigation by Which? revealed that manipulated online reviews are a thriving global business, with companies set up with the sole purpose of offering millions of false reviews to Amazon sellers.
Now governments around the world are cracking down on the offenders. In a bid to protect consumer rights, the Dutch Senate has recently announced a new legislation banning fake reviews and misleading search results and similar iron-fist rules are under consideration for roll out throughout the European Union. In this current climate, it is more urgent than ever before for businesses to bring their review management under scrutiny. Martine Niermans, Director at Zendesk Netherlands, weighed in on the recent turn of events:
“The fact that legislation will be introduced in this area also means that the reliability and thus the authority of assessments will increase."
Martine Niermans, Director at Zendesk Netherlands
“The fact that legislation will be introduced in this area also means that the reliability and thus the authority of assessments will increase. Enough reason for platforms to see the power of reviews as an opportunity and to work with them even more actively. That starts with giving consumers an experience worth reviewing, then encouraging them to share the experience.”
Why reviews matter
Customer reviews are a pretty powerful element of your brand image. And here’s why:
1. Reviews come directly from consumers, and often feel more unbiased and authentic to buyers than traditional marketing. According to research, 63% of buyers trust influencers' opinions more than brand advertising. 83% of customers say they would trust friends and family for recommendations. And interestingly, 79% say they trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.
2. Reviews from customers can unlock valuable actionable insights for your business. It can help you understand what aspects of your product or service are landing well with your customers and what needs improving. Instead of being wary of the power of reviews, businesses can leverage this power to enhance the quality of products, the customer service and the overall customer experience.
3. Reviews are also a gold mine of information for your customers where they can gather details from other customers about the product’s uses, effectiveness, and more. It is akin to an active forum, a knowledge repository, and a self-help portal for customers. Reviews can enable customers to get many of their questions answered without having to reach out to your support team.
So how can businesses ensure that they garner genuine reviews, deal with them effectively and use them as an opportunity to serve customers even better?
Making reviews count
Coveted five-star reviews can be well within the reach for businesses if they keep the below strategies in mind:
1. Give your customers a rewarding experience worth reviewing and leaving a five-star review for. You don’t need to spend a lot of dollars, a little thoughtfulness, care and proactivity goes a long way with customers. It's often the little things that stay with customers, like solving a problem quickly or getting in touch before an issue escalates.
2. One way to encourage customers to leave reviews is to provide them with different options. You can link to the review page on your social media pages, share links in newsletters, create a review window in your chatbot communications, or provide them the opportunity to write a review in the body text of emails. The possibilities are endless.
3. Tracking transactions or purchases are also a great way to promote reviewing. Customer service software can be used to send a satisfaction survey after recent interactions. You can also train the service team to recognise when the moment is right to ask for a review, for example, when a customer expresses appreciation for your service. If these don't work, offer incentives.
4. More than half of consumers who don’t feel inclined to leave reviews need more motivation to do so. Incentives such as discounts or gifts can give customers just the right nudge they need to leave valuable written reviews on not only your own platforms but via credible sites such as Trustpilot, Google My Business, Facebook, Tripadvisor or OpenTable.
5. Remember: Ask customers politely, and nudge them gently but never push your customers to write a 'good review'. You don't want to unduly influence their response - or turn them off. Instead, focus on getting authentic, honest feedback.
How to take ‘negative’ reviews in your stride
In a perfect world, there would be no negative reviews. But even for the best brands, an occasional negative review is inevitable. When reviews seem too good to be true, consumers lose confidence. According to research, the most trusted star rating is 4.0/5. Buyers looking for reviews want real feedback, and only perfect reviews can give the impression that they were written by bots.
Research indicates 96% of consumers read the reactions of businesses to customer complaints.
When opening the door to reviews, your business must be prepared to face the good, the bad, and the occasional ugly with grace and style. Here’s how:
1. When customers write negative reviews, they do so to be heard. The key is to respond swiftly, ideally within 24 hours. Research indicates 96% of consumers read the reactions of businesses to customer complaints. Acknowledging the review politely and showing that you’re listening can go a long way in positively impacting a customer’s experience with your brand.
2. Once you’ve acknowledged the complaint, deploy your finest customer service agents to resolve the issue, and do so publicly. Only swap over to private messaging if the troubleshooting becomes too specific for a wider audience. Make it easy for the customer to reach out for a one-to-one conversation by including contact details of your support team or ask for a DM in the public response. Remember, other consumers are watching.
3. Give it your all to resolve the issue but remain realistic. It’s not possible to satisfy 100% of customers all the time. Negative reviews can often be a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to enhance brand loyalty. A Harvard Business Review article discovered that those customers who left a negative feedback and received a response, were more loyal than those who never complained.
The digital world has opened a lot of doors for consumers and businesses alike, but, with the endless possibilities of technology and the deluge of data available on online platforms, comes the challenge of recognising the fake from the real and the useful from the misleading. That is why it is imperative for businesses to fortify their review management processes to give their products a fair shot at success in the crowded online marketplace. So, take action today.