How Online Reviews Impact Business Development
By Gina Rubel
If you don’t think online reviews impact business development, think again. Online reviews have the power to make or break a business.
According to recent statistics:
- 94% of consumers interviewed say that a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business. (Review Trackers)
- 89% of consumers say they make the effort to read reviews before buying products online. (Trustpilot)
- 56% of customers say a company’s response to a review changed their perspective on the business
- 53% of consumers expect a business to respond to a negative review within a week. (Review Trackers)
- 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews. (Review Trackers)
It’s important to understand what consumers are looking for and that they’re likely to visit your business if you respond to reviews – both positive and negative.
Most companies want to shoot for a 5-star rating, but five stars is not necessarily the gold standard. It is considered more credible to have ratings between 4.5 and 4.9 than 5.0. If you have a 5.0 rating, it’s hard to say to a reviewer, “4-stars would be better….”
Benefits of Online Reviews
There are many benefits to having positive online reviews. They include:
- Reputation management
- Increased brand trust
- Higher local Google ranking
- Better search engine optimization
- Increased website traffic and qualified customer leads
- Talent recruitment
Six Steps in Creating a Plan for Managing Online Reviews
Six things you need to do to have an effective online review program:
- Own your digital real estate.
- Monitor reviews.
- Know the rules of the road.
- Follow a review response policy.
- Respond when appropriate.
- Ask for reviews.
Step 1: Own Your Digital Real Estate
There’s a lot of digital, real estate out there. The first thing is to own it. And when I say “own,” I’m using that in a loose context, because we don’t pay for or own most of the content on places like Facebook profiles since Facebook has ultimate control of its digital platform.
Focus Better Business Bureau (BBB), Facebook, Google Business Profile, and Yelp.
To take control of digital real estate that you have not claimed for your law firm, check out the links below:
Once you’ve taken control on the content on your digital listings, add a calendar reminder to check and update your online profiles at least twice a year, if not quarterly.
When we talk about claiming your digital real estate, it means that if there’s a profile for you or your company, you should claim the profile even if you don’t like and/or don’t use the site for anything. For example, just because you may not use Yelp doesn’t mean that consumers don’t use it to find the types of goods or services that you provide. They do and they will. Forget about what you do and focus on what your audience does.
Step 2: Monitor Your Reviews
If you don’t want to spend money, just go on the review sites regularly. If you claim the profiles, you should get an email every time there is a new review submitted. However, if you want to take it to another level, if you’re with a bigger firm and you want to get serious about managing law firm and lawyer reviews, some of many resources include:
Picture this: you go to Yelp and you look up your name and you find reviews that say, “In my opinion, worst company on the planet. They’re overpriced, nonresponsive and don’t care about the customer. I do not recommend ever.” The next one says, “One star. Save your money and a headache.”
This is a real example of two one-star reviews on Yelp. The company never responded, never took ownership of their profile, and may not even know these reviews exist. This is a real opportunity for them to stake ownership.
Step 3: Know the rules of the road
Many industries are limited by what they can say about clients or customers. This includes any compliance-facing industries like accounting, legal, financial services, health care and others. Be sure to know what the rules of the road are for your industry before posting comments to reviewers online.
Step 4: Include Review Response in Your Social Media Policy
Step four is to have a review response section in your social media policy, even for those small businesses which should draft a policy for internal use. If your company operates in multiple locations, chances are more than one person will be assigned to respond directly to online reviews. This makes it essential to maintain a companywide review response policy that guides your employees on how to respond to positive and negative reviews. Your policy should cover things like:
- Who should respond?
- Permissible language and tone.
- Timeline for responding to reviews.
- With whom reviews are shared internally.
- When escalations become necessary because of a negative review.
- Applicable rules of professional responsibility.
Even if you only have one person who works with you, have a policy so that you use it all the time. It’s crucial to have a policy that you can fall back on at any time or, when you’re questioning whether you should or should not respond as a policy should address who should respond.
Here’s a sample policy language.
Responding to Online Reviews
Online professional reviews in public forums such as Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews, or any other online platform are a common way for corporate and individual clients to provide feedback to others. As a company, we monitor for online reviews of our company and its professionals. However, if you see a negative review about a member of our team or yourself, please bring it to the attention of [insert authority here]. Together, a determination will be made if the individual can/should respond. We will:
- Determine the nature of the review.
- Determine who, if anyone, should respond.
- If responding, draft a response for approval within 24 to 72 hours that has a neutral tone.
- Consider and rules of professional conduct.
- Not disclose confidential information (if responding).
- If it is factually false, misleading, threatening, etc., we will request that the platform host remove the information and/or seek other legal action.
Step 5: Respond When Appropriate
It’s almost always appropriate to respond and thank people for their positive reviews. I cannot tell you how many times I see positive reviews that have never gotten a thumbs up from the person who received them. That’s lazy. And if you have a review, you need to stop using the excuse that you didn’t know it was there. Look for them. If someone has given you a positive review, say, thank you. It’s as simple as that. And negative reviews can have a useful response too
Sample Response To Negative Online Reviews
“Thank you for your review. We take pride in working to ensure that our clients are well represented. Please contact our office at XXX so we may address your concerns.”
“We are sorry to hear about your negative experience. We pride ourselves in providing top-level customer support. We welcome the opportunity to speak with you directly. Please contact customer service at XXX so we may properly handle this matter.”
The only time it’s not appropriate to respond is when the review is such that it needs to immediately be reported to the entity where it posted. Examples include threatened someone’s life, threatening violence, use of profanities. Don’t respond to those reviews. Report them immediately and the sites will likely take those down.
If you do get a negative online review, there can be recourse if it’s “demonstrable, false factual allegations.”
If the review is false, fake or malicious, you can request that it be taken down by the site owner. There are specific steps you must follow and things you must prove. As a PR agency, we’ve worked with clients where this has been done successfully, and we’ve worked with clients where it has not been done successfully. It often feels like the luck of the draw but stick with it. If you think something is malicious, or someone’s trying to bring your company down, or you have some way to prove that it is false, don’t only ask once if you get a “no.” Wait a month the request removal a second time.
Links to resources that will help you request removal of negative online reviews:
- BBB: https://www.bbb.org/dispute-handling-and-resolution
- Facebook: https://reputationstacker.com/how-to-get-a-fake-facebook-review-removed/
- Glassdoor: https://help.glassdoor.com/s/article/Reporting-inappropriate-content?language=en_US
- Google Business Profile: https://www.reviewtrackers.com/blog/how-to-delete-google-review/
- Yelp: https://www.yelp-support.com/article/How-do-I-report-a-review?
Step 6: Ask for Positive Reviews
It is perfectly fine to request reviews from customers and clients proactively so that you don’t have to do it when you get a negative review. In fact, 72% of people asked to leave a review will do so according to BrightLocal.
Because Google Reviews are so important, one of the things we do at Furia Rubel is to ask for reviews at the end of our client engagements. In addition, when a client sends us a nice testimonial, we’ll email them with a thank you and request to post it on Google Reviews. “We really appreciate this feedback. Would you consider posting it on Google Reviews? Here’s how ….”
The more positive reviews you get proactively, the less one negative review will hurt.
Sample Request for an Online Review
<Insert small talk or personal outreach here.>
Thank you for relying on <business name>. We appreciate the trust you placed in us. I am reaching out today to ask if you would submit a star rating and review on our firm’s Google business listing.
As I’m sure you know, reviews are an important part of a business’ online reputation. Others who need the same type of counsel that you received are trying to decide whom to trust. Sharing your positive experience through a Google review could be the deciding factor in leading that client to choose <business name>.
Here is a link to our < Google Business Profile> where you may leave a review.
Thank you again for trusting in our firm.
Don’t draft a review for them and don’t ask for incentives if you’ve received a testimonial in the past.
To make it easier for clients to post a testimonial that you were sent previously, you might consider sending an email asking,
“Since we’ve worked together in the past and you provided the following review, would you consider posting this on Google Reviews? It would really help our business and mean a lot to me. And if not, I completely understand. Here’s what you said: [INCLUDE ORIGINAL TESTIMONIAL].”
Many customers don’t think to post a positive review, but if unhappy, they think about posting negative reviews immediately. It’s important to ask for positive reviews whenever feasible. If they say no, it’s okay. Some people don’t want to give reviews. Some people’s companies prohibit them from giving reviews. It’s fine. Don’t take it personally, just move on.
In addition, don’t try to get a ton of Google Reviews all at once. Put a recurring reminder on your calendar to request one Google Review a month. Overtime, you will reap all the benefits.