Any entrepreneur launching a startup or new small business will want to beef up their digital presence as much as they can, and as quickly as possible, in order to start “getting the word out” about their new venture – and Yelp reviews are a big part of that process.When creating digital marketing plans for our clients, LLD often recommends signing up for Yelp for Business Owners so that potential customers who use this popular review and recommendation site can find and contact them easily. Yelp and other online review sites have successfully translated word-of-mouth marketing to the digital realm, and, in the marketing world, it’s a veritable truism that word-of-mouth is the most valuable type of promotion. Not only are review sites a great way of promoting your business, but they are also useful for monitoring your competition and seeing exactly what types of things their customers are responding to, where their weakness is, and how you can do better.
Regardless of the value, it may have for their business, our clients sometimes balk when we recommend joining Yelp, usually out of fear of bad reviews that could hurt them before they even get started. This is an understandable concern—the fact is that if people are reviewing your business regularly on Yelp or other review sites, sooner or later you’ll get a bad one, it’s just a fact of life. Bad Yelp reviews do happen, despite your best intentions. However, by adhering to a few best practices, it’s possible to minimize these bad mentions and the impact they can have, and we always advise that the benefit to be gained far outweighs the risk of the occasional bad review here and there.
In this article, we will provide five of these best practices. We’ll focus on Yelp, but keep in mind that these practices can be applied to any site that features customer reviews of businesses such as Google My Business, TripAdvisor, GrubHub, Foursquare, and many others.
Manage customer satisfaction before a review is posted.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The absolute best way to prevent a bad Yelp review is to nip it in the bud before it’s even posted. After all, bad Yelp reviews are usually a way for customers to vent about how their concerns weren’t heard by the business, or how a problem wasn’t resolved to their satisfaction. One effective tactic to prevent this is to make sure your customers are heard, and that their issues are resolved. If yours is a service business, consider implementing a customer satisfaction survey to ensure that your client is leaving happy with the service you’ve provided. Then, it’s on you to actually read these surveys and to reach out to unhappy customers in a timely manner to see if the issue can be resolved. This follow up is particularly important because when an unhappy customer provides feedback which is then ignored, it only adds gasoline to an already smoldering fire. Customer surveys can also be applied to retail businesses by emailing a quick survey or note to people who have purchased your product and then reaching out to those who may be dissatisfied.
Be Proactive: Ask your customers for a review.
Another method to consider is to actually ask your customers to review you. This tactic works for a couple of reasons. First, it establishes a personal connection between you and the client, and opens the door to a conversation about your product or service in the event that they were not completely satisfied. Like the customer survey, this practice will also allow you to address any issues or negative feelings customers may have, and allow you to address them before they resort to venting on Yelp. The other benefit of this tactic is that you’re likely to wind up with more positive reviews than you might have if you hadn’t asked, and the best way to minimize the impact of a bad review is to have it surrounded by good reviews. Think about it—if you’re looking at a business on Yelp with 19 positive reviews and one bad review, your reaction will likely be something like “Wow, 95% of their customers love them!” When you flip that, and only one out of 20 reviews is positive, you’re more than likely to keep looking for a better alternative. An abundance of good reviews are the bad review’s Kryptonite. One of the services LLD provides as a part of our digital marketing packages, is the inclusion of review links in our clients’ email newsletters, making it easy for customers to provide a review with a single click. We can also set up a reviews page to act as a portal to all the client’s reviews on multiple sites, so customers have a choice of where they’d like their reviews to be published.
Monitor your reviews on a regular basis.
Knowing what people are actually saying about you is perhaps the best way to see how you’re actually doing in the real world, with real customers, and can inform how you move forward with your business practices (see item #5 below.) Beyond this, however, as with many review sites on the web, reviews can pop up on Yelp that just should not be there to begin with. Set a schedule (once a week is probably good) to check in on your Yelp reviews to make sure they are both legitimate and conform to Yelp’s guidelines. For example, Yelp prohibits reviews that:
- Contain false information
- Are posted by a competitor, ex-employee, or someone else associated with your business
- Contain threats, lewdness, or hate speech
- Don’t describe a customer’s personal experience with your business
- Contain promotional materials
- Are a review for the wrong business
If you receive a bad review, be sure to check on all of these points. Look at the profile of the reviewer—if they have posted similar reviews for other similar types of business, this is a big red flag that they might be working for a competitor. Another one is if they are disparaging your business but recommending another. It’s important that you do your homework on all bad Yelp reviews, as you may find cause to have them removed. If you believe a review may be illegitimate, you can report the review to the Yelp team by clicking on “Report Review,” but bear in mind that you must be logged in to do so.
Handle negative reviews professionally and publicly.
Ok, so the worst case scenario is that you’ve received a bad review, and it cannot be removed since it’s from a legitimate customer with a legitimate complaint (even if you may not see it as “legitimate,” they certainly do.) What then? This is when you need to shift into damage control mode. Whatever you do, do NOT hit them back with insults and abuse, publicly or privately, even though they may have done so to you. In this situation, the best course of action is to craft a polite, professional response, and post it as a public reply to the review. In this way, you’re letting everyone know that your business takes customer satisfaction seriously and that you’re willing to take steps to remedy the matter. Perhaps you can offer some sort of “make good” to the customer such as a discount on their next purchase. A sincere apology plus an offer of this type will demonstrate to other readers that you are willing to bend over backward and go the extra mile to make sure your customers are happy. Fortunately, many review sites allow reviewers to update their reviews with new information, and taking positive action may turn a bad review into a good one.
Use reviews to inform your business practices.
At the end of the day, Yelp reviews of your business are a great way to ascertain how real customers are responding to your business. For this reason, you should consider customer Yelp reviews, good or bad, as a gift that provides insight on how you can make changes in order to move forward in a positive direction. If a review states that the bicycles you sell have cheap pedals that break frequently, perhaps you should consider looking into finding a new vendor for your pedals. Only by plugging into a continual feedback loop like customer reviews can you make the changes necessary to make sure your business is a success.
Whether or not you decide to list your business on Yelp or other review sites, you’ll need a way to measure how your brand is perceived in the eyes of your customers or clients. In the digital world, reputation is everything and should be taken very seriously. Additionally, having positive reviews can help bolster your search engine rankings, particularly for local SEO and, according to Search Engine Land, 90% of consumers consider user-generated reviews to be influential in their decision making process when it comes to choosing products and services online. In short, user reviews can be a tremendous boon to your business as long as you have a strategy for managing and monitoring them. When you do, they can not only bring new customers to your doorstep but help you make your business bigger and better than ever.
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