How often do you check online reviews before buying from a business?
Chances are, you do it a lot. In fact, a Fan and Fuel survey found that reviews from other buyers factor into 97% of consumer purchase decisions.
Reviews are a great aid to word-of-mouth marketing—something that’s crucial for attracting new customers, cultivating a loyal audience, and building a solid reputation. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so if they can’t find helpful insights about a business or brand from a friend or colleague, online reviews are the next best thing.
Because of this, a total lack of customer reviews is a risky move for a brand. Without any peer testimonials to go on:
- 35% of customers will be less likely to buy
- 23% will find choosing difficult
- 2% won’t make the purchase at all
Let’s explore the buyer psychology surrounding online reviews, how they affect businesses, and how to improve your customer experience to guarantee the right reviews.
The indisputable power of customer reviews (and why too many five-star reviews can cost you sales)
This might surprise you, but online reviews are shown to increase a company’s conversions—irrespective of the ratings. When it comes to social proof, it’s simply the presence of the feedback that counts.
In fact, the Spiegel Research Center found that a product is 270% more likely to be purchased if it has five or more reviews—and they don’t all have to be positive, either (more on this later).
Pricing affects this phenomena, too. When reviews were made available for a high-cost product, conversion rates increased by 380%, with conversion rates for lower-priced goods increasing by just 190%.
Why? Look at it this way, the more a consumer is expected to pay for a product or service, the greater the risk. Having access to information written by fellow consumers helps to mitigate the risk and reassure a buyer that they’re making the right decision.
So, the aim is to gather as many five-star reviews as possible, right?
A handful of genuine five-star reviews indicates a business is doing something right. But too many can—believe it or not—make customers less willing to buy.
Again, according to Spiegel Research Center, the likelihood of purchasing peaked for products with review ratings between 4.0 and 4.7—and it actually decreased from 4.8 onward.
What’s the reason behind this seemingly quirky buyer behavior? It’s likely that consumers consider such high ratings as simply too good to be true. That’s why 85% of buyers actively look for negative reviews before committing to a purchase—in search of what they perceive as “the truth.”
If a product appears to have elicited nothing but perfect feedback, customers are more likely to be skeptical. In this way, negative reviews can actually increase credibility and build trust in a brand’s authenticity. As long as you answer all reviews with empathy and professionalism.
Both good and bad online reviews are essential for commercial success. And a lack of reviews will do more harm than good. So, what can businesses do to encourage feedback from buyers, nurture positive relationships, iron out the kinks, and increase their sales—all at the same time?
It all comes down to prioritizing the customer experience.
Working closely with customers, it’s much easier to secure the reviews you need—and resolve any issues before they damage your reputation.
5 ways to cultivate a great customer experience and encourage online reviews
Delivering a superior customer experience is an on-going process. So, too, is online review management.
Think of the two as symbiotic—with one constantly contributing to the other—and you’ll set yourself up to thrive in the online review ecosystem.
1. Audit existing online reviews to identify issues and opportunities—then make a plan for change
Take a close look at all of your reviews. The aim is to:
- Identify where and how your business is going wrong
- Expose the elements of your products or service causing the highest number of complaints
- Recognize the elements of your products or service earning the most praise
- Pinpoint opportunities for improvement
This can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth the effort. Your company could be delivering quality products at unparalleled prices, but if your customer service is subpar, none of this matters.
Businesses that take a hands-off approach to their online reviews (i.e. never checking them), will be unaware of issues that leave buyers out in the cold. They could miss out on potential opportunities to address complaints, resolve problems, and improve their overall customer experience.
The best online review audits encompass all feedback channels. For example: source reviews on Google, your Facebook page, Trustpilot, and any other review sites specific to your industry. Plus, take into account customer feedback in the form of surveys and, finally, talk to your agents to back your findings up.
It’s important to explore the way consumers talk about your company, too—while unofficial, this content can still influence potential buyers. As Jeff Bezos says, “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Social media is a fantastic resource here. Prospective and existing customers may informally post about your products or service on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. These public conversations could influence other buyers’ purchasing decisions—and this is particularly harmful if what they’re saying is inaccurate or heavily swayed by a negative experience.
Do as much research as you can to understand the status of your reviews and reputation. This will empower you with the insights necessary to form an effective improvement plan.
2. Respond to customers quickly and accurately
How annoyed do you feel when a friend doesn’t respond to a text for hours? Or worse, days?
You find yourself wondering why they don’t take just one minute to get back to you. You wait… and wait… and wait…
A fast response time matters to customers, too. While a slow response is unlikely to end a relationship years in the making, it can annoy buyers enough to make them reconsider purchasing from you in the future.
More than 80% of consumers consider an immediate (10 minutes or less) response to questions important. But don’t let that stress you out! Businesses have more ways than ever to communicate with their audience: social media, live chat, voice calls, and email.
Delivering a fast response:
- Shows that your business values its customers
- Provides buyers with the information they need when they’re at the purchase-ready stage of their journey
- Either helps to make a solid first impression, or improves/reinforces an existing customer’s perception of your business—increasing the chance of a positive review
However, your customer service team needs to be equipped to handle fast responses. You can’t blame your agents for cherry picking the easier queries over more difficult ones, but this isn’t a habit to encourage.
Working this way, customers who need the most attention fall to the bottom of the pile—and stay there. They’ll become annoyed and probably contact your support department again. And if your response is continually delayed, they might become frustrated enough to try out a competitor.
Luckily, with the right customer service software, customer questions will be automatically delivered to agents based on level of need, so the most important queries won’t get pushed to the bottom of the pile. Quite the opposite, actually.
This reduces the risk of responses becoming delayed, gives customers less reason to feel alienated, and increases the chances of earning positive online reviews.
3. Promise that customers never need to repeat themselves
How often are your customers forced to repeat themselves when they contact your company for help?
Asking a customer to explain their problem, provide their address, or describe the product they want to complain about multiple times, signals that their issue hasn’t been taken seriously by your company.
First and foremost, it suggests that your business lacks professionalism and is poorly organized. Secondly, a customer could end up feeling as if you don’t value them.
Both are likely to create a negative impression of your business.
Customers should never need to repeat themselves, regardless of which, or how many different, channels they use to contact your support team. But this can be difficult without an effective system in place.
The right software enables your team to connect every channel and get a full overview of a customer’s information and purchase history, giving your agents the context to deliver personalized support to every customer.
4. Respond to all customer reviews—especially the bad ones
Remember when we covered why customer reviews are so important and how they can help your business grow? And when we recommended auditing them to identify common issues and improvement opportunities?
Well, it’s not enough to simply read reviews. You need to respond to them—negative comments included.
Yes, it can be difficult to remain objective and see a situation through the eyes of a disgruntled customer. But this is vital in order to repair relationships and encourage sales.
Responding to reviews demonstrates that you care about the level of customer experience you deliver, that you value customers’ opinions, and that you’re willing to learn from your mistakes.
Burying your head in the sand and pretending negative reviews don’t exist won’t do you any good. They’re not going away. And other customers will read them when researching your business. What’s worse? a potential customer learning of a negative customer experience—and seeing your fast response and resolution—or a negative review that’s gone entirely unanswered? The latter speaks far louder about your business.
More than 50% of consumers believe that companies should respond to negative reviews within seven days. Personalization in responses is also important, with generic responses sometimes being viewed as worse than no response at all.
5. Be proactive in earning reviews
Last but not least: ask your customers for reviews.
Prioritize customers that will advocate for your business, rather than those who are likely to write scathing complaints. While you should allow all customers to share their feedback, encouraging your most valued consumers to create reviews will help to show your business in the most positive light.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys are a fantastic way to identify those customers most likely to write a positive review. These are quick and easy to complete, and invite users to rate how likely they are to recommend your business to other consumers on a scale of one to five or 10.
You can prompt customers to write reviews as part of your “thank you” emails following a purchase or registration. Alternatively, you can send highly personalized emails to repeat customers specifically asking for a review. This should be friendly and polite, without any attempt to pressure the recipient.
Avoid the temptation to offer a discount or freebie in exchange for a good review. Yes, it may win you more impressive feedback, but it’s still unethical.
Take a proactive approach, but keep track of which customers have reviewed your company. You don’t want to badger those who have already taken the time to write a review.
At the end of the day, you can try to boost your online reputation in a number of ways. But if you’re not delivering an outstanding customer experience, your efforts will likely fall flat.
There’s little point in accumulating reviews if you skip the part where you engage with customers and actually improve the quality of your service.
Our new Guide to eCommerce Customer Service can help you map out focus areas to invest in, so you can start collecting those positive reviews today.