Are Online Reviews Really Important?

As a business owner, you already know how important your reputation is in your industry. For many of us, we’re as good as the last job we worked on.

What people say about your business matters, and it’s especially true of what customers are saying online. Instead of one happy customer telling five of their friends how amazing your business is, they write a review online and hundreds, if not thousands, of potential customers see it.

Does that sound good? It is. There is also a downside to online reviews. If you leave a customer on bad terms, they can seriously damage your reputation with a negative review.

But how important are online review? What is their influence on potential customers? Is there a way for you to control what is said about you online?

You might think that online reviews don’t really matter to your customers, especially if they can see your gear in their neighborhood, visit your website featuring photos taken by a professional photographer, while still offering the services at the best value for money. But if you have a reputation for bad service, all of that isn’t worth much.

The market has changed. When people are looking for a specific piece of equipment or an equipment rental company, they go online.

If you’ve invested in your website, it might show up as the number one result on Google. If you’ve claimed and optimized your Google My Business listing, this may be the highlighted option to the right of the search results.

But what if Google and social media are riddled with one-star reviews about your business? All that hard work you’ve invested in online has to fight a bad review six months ago to persuade a potential customer to part with their hard-earned cash and visit your store instead.

While online reviews may seem like a small part of your overall online presence, people are increasingly relying on reviews to decide which companies to hire.

How Customers Use Online Reviews

In the digital age, 93 percent of clients say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. These reviews have major implications for many different things, including:

  • The ranking of your website on the search engines
  • Your business’s performance in local search engines
  • What search results are displayed (and clicked on)
  • Consumer purchasing decisions

By the time someone reviews your business reviews, they’ve already decided they need someone to provide your services. If they don’t use Google to find their next rental business, they’ll use a reviews website (Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc.)

Chili Design, LLCHalf the battle is already won! They know they need the services you provide; they just need to be convinced that you are the best company. The buying decision by reading your reviews and hiring yourself is blazingly fast. Customers usually decide yes or no almost immediately.

For many people, looking for reviews online is the last hurdle for a business to overcome before hiring them. A recent study found that 68% of people form an opinion about a business after reading between one and six reviews online. An overwhelming 84 percent of buyers said they trust online business reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations from friends and family. This is a serious power of persuasion.

Overall, as a small business, your online reputation can directly influence your bottom line.

A powerful tactic for gaining confidence

Every small business owner should welcome and actively encourage reviews online. Did you have a great interaction with a client? Ask them to leave a review online.

If you don’t ask your customers to write online reviews for your business, you’re missing out on a powerful tactic for gaining the trust of potential customers and persuading them to visit and hire your business.

You also run the risk of letting the few customers who write reviews have a huge effect on how everyone else thinks about your business. If hardly anyone writes reviews, a bad review has a much bigger effect than it otherwise would.

Before you start asking customers to leave reviews for you, you need to claim your business on major review sites. There is probably already an entry for your business on Google My Business, Yelp, etc. – all you have to do is follow the instructions set by each site and claim it.

A recent study found that 68% of people form an opinion about a business after reading between one and six reviews online.

Once you’ve optimized your profiles (like adding high-quality photos, hours of operation, and directions to your main office), you can start asking customers to leave you reviews.

The secret to happy customers leaving great reviews? Make it simple and make it easy. If something is too hard to do or takes too long, they won’t care. Give them easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions and link to the profile you want them to leave a review for.

Here are some simple, tried and tested ways to encourage customers to write online reviews for your business:

  • Add important links to your website where customers can rate you (like a link to your social media accounts or your entries on Yelp and local directories)
  • Put signage in your store, such as Yelp decals, to let customers know what review sites you are on and where they can find you
  • Add a special note on your receipts, contracts or invoices indicating where to see you again

A golden rule for online reviews: always respond. Always. Let your customers know you hear them. People love to be heard and feel like the only customer you care about.

If someone leaves you a negative review, respond positively. Don’t take a bad review as a personal insult. Ask them how you can improve their experience in the future. If necessary, apologize for their bad experience, let them know that this will not happen again and that you have fixed the problem personally.

Whether the person who left the bad review will change their mind about your business is up for debate, but anyone who reads the review will see how professional and responsible your business is. Keeping a cool head and being polite will help turn a bad PR event into positive publicity for your business.

Get maximum exposure for your business

Once you’ve managed to get a positive review from a customer, you want to use it to gain maximum exposure for your business.

  • Promote your latest positive reviews on your social media profiles
  • Display positive reviews on your website homepage
  • Create a case study to highlight the work done and use the right review as a testimonial
  • Approach the customer to be featured in a testimonial video
  • Send your latest reviews as a feature in your next newsletter

Getting a positive review from a customer is an incredible achievement and a boost for you and your team. So be sure to take advantage of this boost!

Online reviews are not something to be avoided; they should be adopted. Getting reviews online is an opportunity to promote your business on many levels, so get started today.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the July / August 2019 issue of GIP, and was written by Pam Haskell, owner of the website design and development company, Chilli design. It was edited for Rent by editor Alexis Sheprak.