We know this to be true from our own experience. How often do you buy an unfamiliar product without looking at the reviews of both the product and probably of the seller as well.? Why wouldn’t we do this?
Reviews are the personal recommendations of the digital age.
Meaning that instead of placing our faith in an individual person whose opinion we trust, we are now being asked to place our trust in the integrity of a review by a person or persons likely unknown.
This moves the burden of trust from the individual, who we know, to the review provided by someone we don’t know. Our belief, therefore, in the value of that review will depend upon how genuine we believe it to be and this, in turn, will rest on a number of factors, all of which I suspect we subconsciously weigh in the decision making process.
We will be influenced by how the review is collected, whether there is any distance between the collector and the beneficiary and, to some extent, by the volume of reviews. Given the power of good reviews to increase the level of business, it is no surprise that the unscrupulous try to skew the system with paid for, and therefore partisan, reviews.
As small businesses we are less likely to fall foul of these types of review, and the expectation will be that reviews published on our websites and on our social media are genuine. There are ways of underlining this which we’ll come to later.
Do we just want good reviews?
Well it would be nice. But actually we must welcome all reviews and actively encourage reviews and feedback from all our customers.
You will learn a lot from reviews. You get to see your business through your customers’ eyes: what aspect of dealing with you did they value the most highly? Are your customers really price driven or are they more concerned about the quality of the interaction they can have with you? It’s such good market research. If a lot of people tell you they truly valued the personal service then that’s one of the things you can be telling people about. If they tell you that price was a key factor then that’s worth knowing too. Let your reviews speak for you, but listen carefully to what they say.
Bad reviews can be helpful too. Clearly we’d rather not get any, but here are two things to remember about them. Firstly they may be justified, in which case you really need to know what it is that has caused your customer to not think well of you. This could save you all sorts of grief going forward. Don’t forget that complaints are a bit like icebergs – for every one person who tells you truly what they think, there will be ten people just walking away from your business. So the first question is: Do they have a point?’ And if they do, then address it both with them and, more widely, straight away. Just put your hand up, put it right and put systems in place to stop it from coming up again.
Sometimes, of course, a complaint will simply be unfair. You failed to do something you never said you would do. They don’t like the content of the book and they blame you for selling it to them (I’ve known this happen). They wish you’d been able to read their mind and they’re fed up with you for failing to do so. Look, we all get in a pickle sometimes and things just don’t work out. Guess what the advice is? Be understanding, it’s where they are just now. You’ve probably been there too. Put it right if it’s possible. Treat your customer with concern and care and respect. And here’s a thing: 60% of buyers are pleased to see reviews where problems have been dealt with quickly and fairly, and it will support their intention to buy from you. It’s never about the poor review, it’s about how you respond.
If you want reviews you will nearly always have to ask
And there is nothing wrong with that at all. Devise a system that means you always ask for feedback from customers: not just those who you think might say something flattering, but all customers. As we saw when we looked at bad reviews, there is actually no such thing. Well, nearly no such thing. But, truly, a bad review amongst a bunch of happy reviews just demonstrates that you’re human. and frankly often says more about the reviewer than about you. So develop systems to ask for reviews. Always.
Occasionally you may get unsolicited reviews. Well these are going to be really, really good or really, really bad, because your customer is so enthused or incensed that they are determined to share, no matter what. And there are increasingly lots of places they can share that are not controlled by you. Any of the bigger review companies like Trustpilot or Google Reviews will take a review from anyone about any business. They have rules, of course, but you are still in a place where customers can find a way of getting their feelings published. Typically, although you may not be able to get a review removed, you can almost certainly exercise your right to reply, and you should.
So what’s next if you want to encourage reviews?
We’ve covered that, in the main, you’ll need to ask. You may get a complimentary email and it’s fine to ask the sender if you can use their comments on your website. Reviews are more believable if the reviewer is prepared to put their name to it, but sometimes it’s not possible so you will end up with a review by ‘An Amazon customer’ or a ‘Student’. You should still include these.
The next step is to encourage reviews on a third party site, and this forms part of my own strategy when it comes to reviews. I wanted to use a system that did not depend upon me collecting reviews and popping them on my own website, but involved a third party to create an ‘arms’ length’ feel to the review. And it is indeed fully arms’ length. I use Trustpilot and I am unable to change the reviews or get bad reviews removed (unless they break specific guidelines). So I guess there is some risk to it in terms of getting unwelcome reviews, but I felt it was the right way to go. You could equally suggest Google Reviews to your customers. Any of these third party methods of collecting and displaying reviews are also very good for Search Engine results.
My main purpose in actively seeking reviews is to build trust. For a small business like mine, particularly working in website building, there is little chance of someone searching nationally for a web designer and finding me. So most of my new business will come from recommendation, or at least from people who know me or who’ve heard of me. When potential clients arrive on my site I’m keen to let them know where I fit in the market place and what my offer is, but I’m also very keen to try and give them a feel for what it would be like to trust me with their work. There is no better way than references and testimonials but they must be real and transparent and believable.
What about Trustpilot?
Trustpilot is an independent platform for reviews and is available to anybody to review any website or business. A customer could do this without your knowledge, a bit like Google Reviews. As a website/business owner it is possible to ‘claim’ your listing and therefore to think about asking for reviews instead of waiting for reviews to arise organically. This also gives you the opportunity to respond to reviews and to get reviews removed if they are not in line with Trustpilot’s policies.
The basic package that I have with Trustpilot is free and is fine for my purposes. The reviews are available to be seen on the Trustpilot site and I use them directly on my own site as well. Add to this the Trustpilot branding on your own site, with links to the reviews on the Trustpilot site, and you have a virtuous circle.
Once you know where you are hoping to collect reviews simply set up an email to send to your customers and see if they will help you. In the main part they will! Turns out we are pretty much all decent folk and happy to help each other along. You’ll learn a lot about your business too!
If you host with Perthshire Websites and you decide to add reviews either individually or through an organisation like Trustpilot, then we can set this up for you at minimal cost. Trustpilot is free of charge for its basic offer and we can easily connect your Trustpilot account to your site.
I hope you’ll be convinced that you should be asking for and including reviews on your website. However you choose to do this, they are the personal recommendations of the digital age and you will likely benefit from embracing them. Good luck.