The days of relying solely on reviews in print publications are over. These days, many people turn to the Internet when they want to find out what others think about entertainment, dining, and other types of options. Even local trades professionals like plumbers and air conditioning experts are subject to review at one site or another.
The question is not whether online reviews do impact consumer decisions. They certainly do. What many wonder is if companies in specific industries are more likely to gain or suffer because of online consumer feedback. The answer is yes.
Why Online Reviews are So Effective
To understand the impact online reviews has on how consumers view different businesses, it's helpful to grasp why they work so well in the first place. Online reviews eliminate one of the inherent problems with more traditional methods. With word or mouth or even a review by someone who is considered an industry expert, the reader only gets one point of view. When the reader is able to look at multiple reviews online, it's easier to get a broader idea of how well a company satisfies clients.
Online reviews are considered more accessible and more permanent. They remain online for as long as the review site is intact. The consumer can go back and read them any time the need arises. Between the broader range of reviews and the fact they are always there, is it any wonder that consumers like them so much?
Savvy Consumers and Interpreting Reviews
Many consumers have become adept at spotting what are sometimes called planted reviews. These are usually written to make the business and the product line look more appealing. They may be short on details and long on superlatives.
Others are classed as joke reviews. They provide little in the way of detail and may provide a quick laugh at best. Those are also not helpful in terms of deciding whether the company or product is a good choice.
Savvy readers have learned that spotting objective reviews means considering the elements of the review proper. Is it relatively free of typos, hyperbole, and overly profuse marketing language? Has the reviewer used all capital letters to convey emotion rather than let the words do the talking? Does it give the reader a clear idea of what the reviewer specifically gained or lost by using the products? Answers to these questions help readers decide if a review is of any value or if it should be overlooked.
If ratings come along with the actual review, most consumers know to be on guard if the business has consistent scores of one out of five. The same holds true if all the reviews come with perfect scores. That tends to demonstrate somebody has an axe to grind or the reviews may be written by those who have a stake in making sure people buy the goods or services.
Why Business Owners Should Care
Legitimate reviews help your business reputation. The value of other kinds is questionable. What you hope to do is encourage actual customers to write reviews and be frank about their experiences. Feedback that is real tends to invite discussion, both on the review site and among your management team. It helps identify strong points and could point the way toward ideas that help improve your business model.
Legitimate reviews are free marketing for your products and your brand. Acknowledge the praise by thanking the reviewer. When the critique is less than glowing, it's also important to respond in a professional manner. In industries where the competition is stiff, ignoring a negative review that happens to be detailed and concise in the criticism is poison. Treat it as a chance to improve the way things are done. The company reputation is enhanced when other readers see the company refrains from attacking and instead is willing to learn from negative reviews.
You'll make a better impression on future readers if you:
- Balance your response. Thank consumers for positive reviews and invite them to come back whenever they need something you offer.
- Stay cool and collected when responding to a negative review. No matter how outrageous or inflammatory the review happens to be, avoid responding with insults or arguing. Provide an apology and some way for the consumer to contact the company directly. The goal is to show others your company takes negative experiences seriously and genuinely wants to resolve whatever issue occurred.
So Which Industries are Impacted Most?
There are indications that some industries are impacted to a greater degree by online reviews. Hospitality is a good example. This industry tends to include hotels, motels, eateries of all types, and some venues like bars.
You will find marketing reports that indicate the hospitality industry is more impacted by online reviews than any other single group. As many as 60% of consumers will look for restaurant reviews before they try a place for the first time. If the rating is below four stars, many of those consumers won't bother to read the reviews. Around 40% read the reviews before booking a reservation at a hotel and also tend to stay away when most of the reviews are less than three stars.
Healthcare and tradespeople like plumbers, electricians, and home contractors also come in for their fair share of scrutiny. Parents review pediatricians at a rate of 30% before taking their kids for treatment. Over half of adults will check out general practitioner reviews before they settle on a new family doctor. Plumbers and other tradespeople can rest assured that over half of their prospective customers read online reviews before giving them a call.
Whether you are operating a multi-national company or own a local business, take those online reviews seriously. Pay attention to all the legitimate reviews, including the ones that offer less than glowing comments. There is much you can learn from a negative review that is constructive and provides details about what happened. The way you respond to all legitimate reviews will either help you defuse an unfortunate situation or allow it to stand as a testament that you don't care much about what the customers think.