I just returned from a week's trip to California, part business and part family. While I was there I had lunch with a family member who happens to be married to a successful chiropractor. He's been in business for 20+ years in an affluent area of Southern California and every year I've known him, his practice has grown. He's a pretty terrific guy, is a well-known figure in his town and I know for a fact that most of his patients adore him.
So I was surprised to hear the lunch conversation going something like this:
Relative "Do you know what Yelp is?"
Relative "Well I just discovered that there are three terrible reviews on Yelp about Bob (not his real name). They're HORRIBLE and they're not true."
Me"What do they say?" I asked.
Relative "One calls him a crook. What a lie! We had the office manager investigate and the guy who wrote the review was someone who was not paying his bill. We had to turn him over to collections and he turned around and wrote this about Bob. It makes me sick!"
Me"And the other two? Who are they from?"
Relative "We don't even know who they are. The office manager looked and couldn't find anyone who matched the names of these other two. We think they're from a competitor."
"We have over a thousand testimonials in our office, and we have them in photo albums in our waiting area for people to look at. So when we discovered these reviews Angela, the office manager, tried to find out who wrote them and she tried to fix it on Yelp. We even had some of our patients go to Yelp and post good reviews, but Yelp isn't even showing them and we don't know why! What should we do?"
I assured her that there were things that could be done to handle bad reviews, and I promised to check into her husband's situation when I got back to my computer. When I did, I could see why she was upset. I Googled my relative's business key words and his practice name, and the results that came up did have his office showing as the first organic result, but two spaces down were the reviews on Yelp, and the excerpt showing in the search results screamed 'What a CROOK!"
It was pretty bad.
And those were the only reviews that were showing for his practice.
Here are some quick facts about the influence of online reviews that you should be aware of:
- In a survey done by Opinion Research in 2009 84% of Americans say online customer evaluations have an influence on their decision to purchase a product or service.
- Just 28% of those who rely on reviews say they post their own feedback online.
- A small but vocal minority......“Our findings suggest that a very vocal minority may have an oversized influence on buyer behavior,” said Linda Shea, SVP and Global Managing Director of Opinion Research Corporation’s Customer Strategies Practice. “Nevertheless, when negative customer feedback is served up in a very public forum, it has great potential to tarnish the reputation of a brand and therefore any future revenue stream.”
- And from another study from 2010, Online reviews are second only to word of mouth in purchase influence.
- Google feels reviews are pretty important too. In fact as Google has shifted search results to include local results first in Google Places (formerly known as Google Maps) they felt that reviews were so important to search relevance, that they includ reviews from other authority review sites like Yelp, Insider Pages and reviews left on their own Places listings.
So yes, reviews are very important and should be part of your marketing strategy.
The problem is it is often difficult and sometimes next to impossible to get good reviews posted. It can take a customer up to 15 steps just to leave a good review. Many will give up in frustration. Those that are motivated will persist, and they are often people who are upset and angry and want to do some harm to the business or product reputation. They'll keep going no matter what it takes.
Rest assured that I put 'Bob' together with a Local Search expert that works with us at VetLocator, and he set up a program for 'Bob' - some of it getting his 1000 good reviews distributed to Google, Yahoo and Bing and to high authority review sites so people can see the good things his many customers are saying about him, part of it is getting his local Places listing whipped into shape so he starts showing up on the first page of local results, and part of it is reputation management, making the bad stuff disappear off the first page of Google's search results and onto pages 2, 3 and ultimately get buried somewhere around page 10. And, I'm educating their office on what to do when in inevitable bad review does show up somewhere...steps to take and what NOT to do.
Bob will be fine and I'm certain the business he generates from the internet will be significantly higher this year than it has been in the past.
Local reviews need to be part of your marketing strategy...however, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about executing this strategy to make it work. As you can tell from the story I just told Bob's office manager was not familiar with the right way to go about doing this.
We're going to have an upcoming webinar featuring one of our online review specialists and Linda ( she has a lot to share on this subject) in the near future. I'll keep you posted as to the exact date and and if you have questions you'd like answered about reviews and testimonials, we have a place for you to ask ahead of time.