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Word of mouth (WOM) advertising is one of the most powerful tools in the digital marketing arsenal. Thanks to social media, blogs and free online customer review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and G2 Crowd, consumers and B2B customers can share their sentiment for your brand, product or service quickly and easily through customer reviews.
Soliciting and acknowledging consumer feedback is both an exercise to recruit new customers and to retain existing ones. They can strengthen sales and brand loyalty, provided they are integrated into your marketing strategy.
Recent statistics validate the power of customer reviews
According to the “Online Shopping and e-Commerce” survey conducted by Pew Research in 2015, consumer purchase decisions are heavily influenced by online reviews.
- Half of adults under the age of fifty routinely check online reviews before buying.
- 53% of 18-to-29-year-old consumers regularly read product or service reviews.
- 1 out of 10 Americans regularly share online reviews about a business or brand, but 4 out of 10 admit to sharing their opinion frequently via social media.
- 40% of consumers make a purchase decision after reading 1 – 3 online reviews.
Given the global trend towards mobile shopping and browsing, online reviews have become an influential sales and marketing tool.
Value authentic customer reviews (because fake ones don’t work)
Marketers know that comments and reviews can easily be falsified on a website to give the perception of satisfied customers and a high approval rating. A quick search on freelance sites will demonstrate off-shore services and independent writers that will provide hundreds of unique comments and glowing reviews of your brand.
In fact, the practice is so common, that several marketing teams question the value of online reviews at all. While economical and tempting for some, the shortcut is not only dishonest, it is also less effective than acquiring organic customer reviews.
Authentic reviews will vary by age, ethnicity, tone and language, and frequently contain grammatical or spelling errors if they are buyer-generated. They are not always a perfect rating either, and can contain suggestions and even negative feedback. However, all word of mouth advertising has value – good or bad – and it is important for brands to resist the urge to edit comments and reviews left by customers.
Still not convinced that buying fake reviews is a bad idea for your brand? Check out Fakespot, a free review analyzer for consumers that evaluates Amazon and Yelp reviews for authenticity.
Half a billion online users have visited this site alone to do an integrity check of business reviews.
How to share customer reviews with clients
Whether you own a big business or run a home-based venture, customer reviews play a vital role in shaping its reputation. Here’s how the best in the business did this.
Renowned car manufacturer Kia has got it right by creating a dedicated page on its website for sharing customer reviews and ratings for their car models.
You can consider taking a ‘leaf’ out of Nissan’s book as well. They built an exclusive Q&A page for the Nissan Leaf model, wherein existing customers talk about the advantages of owning this vehicle. This is a great way to market a product convincingly.
Moving on from popular car brands to a lesser-known business, All Pro Lawn Service has been using its testimonials page to its optimal advantage. This works well because when website visitors find encouraging reviews, it steers them towards availing their services as well.
Players in the hospitality industry can benefit greatly from customer reviews. Grand Hyatt Phoenix exemplifies this with their review page on TripAdvisor which displays individual as well as cumulative reviews.
The dos and don’ts of review, response and moderation
Should a business make it a priority to respond to as many comments and online reviews as possible? It makes a big impression if you do. This job falls on the community management or social media team, who should be using software that sends alerts whenever there is a new comment.
Enabling individuals to leave a review on your website without review and approval before publishing is both rewarding and risky.
For instance, if the comment is a positive one, consumers enjoy seeing their review immediately. They may even share that comment with family and friends. However, if the review is a negative one, or an outstanding service issue, customers may become irate if their comment ‘will be published after approval.’
Use social media best-practices and community management guidelines when responding to reviews:
- Never argue with a consumer online. Offer mediation through a telephone call to correct the product or service issue that the customer has reported. Show other customers that your business is proactive by addressing online complaints promptly.
- Keep responses polite, positive and helpful. You can also focus on building brand stories in an appealing manner to receive organic and positive reviews.
- Respond to each consumer with a unique statement (do not copy and paste a standard reply).
- Remove hate language, profanity, racial or religious inflammatory statements. Review sites do not allow businesses to edit comments, but they will delete a comment if a user has violated community terms of service and language guidelines.
Set up a few Google Alerts to notify you whenever your business name is mentioned online. Google will email to provide more information about how and when your brand was name-dropped, allowing you the opportunity to respond accordingly.
Another easy-to-use paid tool is Brandwatch or Mention, powerful platforms that allow your team to track brand chatter and reviews online.
Answering the million dollar question: how do I actually get customer reviews?
Asking your customers to leave you a product or service review should be part of your sales and customer retention flow.
After a purchase is complete, schedule an email to be sent approximately three to five days after the customer has used the product, asking for their feedback. Make it easy to provide the review by incorporating a link to Facebook, your online catalog or website review form. With one click, they should be able to share a comment. Make it fun by suggesting they share their review with a video or a snapshot to qualify.
Another way to gain reviews is to create an incentive. It takes time and effort for your customer to write a review, so find a way to reward them for that time, while creating a second positive brand impression by providing them with something valuable in return. This incentive can be a cash reward, a coupon, a discount or an entry into a monthly or quarterly contest giveaway. Consumers love free stuff and they’re even more likely to share positively about your brand.
Remember to integrate the ‘ask’ into the workflow for your social media and customer service teams.
At all stages in the sales and support process, employees should be making customers aware that their feedback and suggestions are welcome. Use insights from negative comments as an opportunity to improve processes and the overall buying experience. This is where intuitive businesses do some of their best learning.
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